The winter of 2013-14 has been exceptionally wet, by any standard. Comparing the year to previous ones it is seemingly a bit wetter! Each wave after wave of storm driven rain, has kept the weather in the headlines and this contributes to the ‘worst ever’ impression. But the statistics also reinforce that feeling
Take the rainfall numbers for instance. They make for miserable reading. January had the most precipitation in England since climate data was first recorded way back in 1766. February saw little change and so the winter months as a whole, set new record highs for this most miserable of experiences.
However, the good news is in the number of homes flooded and lives blighted when compared to other floods. There has been a significant reduction over past winter periods. The experts who study these trends at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology report that flood defences seem to have stayed intact and performed well.
Back in 2007, the previous record wet period (what a summer that was), almost 48,500 homes and nearly 6900 businesses were inundated. It is around 6500 homes this time around. For all those homeowners and their families the effects are unimaginably cruel but the fact remains; there are so many fewer flood victims this year. It was the autumn of the millennium year that saw another record breaking rainfall, and in that time 10,000 properties in 700 neighbourhoods were flooded.
Comparison of millimetres of rainfall is somewhat confused because of the different seasons in which they occurred. Comparing the averages for the locations most affected gives a clearer picture. In the Midlands in June of ’07 they received two point seven, their mean average in rainfall, while south-east, central southern counties saw 2.6 times its average rainfall this January.
Meteorologists out of Reading university have measured in excess of 5mm of rainfall 24 days out of the 59 days of January and February. They report this as unique in over a century and say that the rain usually would only continue for a few days, and it had quite literally been none stop downfall, slowly, but steadily filling up, of course a huge factor in the devastation. Again, back in 2007 most of the devastation came about in one exceptionally heavy storm. These figures of course hide significant contributory factors in flood causation, such as existing groundwater levels and ambient temperatures (water expands in the warm and contracts in cold weather).
During the year 1947, in winter time, the ground was frozen. The UK had 4 days with just over 1 centimetre of rain. But all that water just ran off and none was absorbed. The flood damage is legendary and the extent of it, is the stuff of urban myth, despite there being only 5 centimetres of rain
It is said that this year alone has had a long string of rainy events that have been noted, and the rain that has gathered up as a result has been beyond belief. It is actually 2 times the amount of rain that has been seen in the past one hundred and thirty years.