By ALAN CRAY
Britain is getting wetter. For many unfortunate souls located in Cornwall, Devon, York and across the UK this statement seem a little pointless. Over 8,000 homes have been heavily damaged by the intense and unexpected flooding that hit the UK on the tail end of 2012, alongside hundreds of evacuations and the announcement of nine fatalities.
In September we suffered more than a month's rainfall occurring within a single 24-hour period, and for many families it wasn't enough to simply don their wellies and umbrellas as canals and rivers overflowed nationwide. In the aftermath of the flood season we can look back on the year's weather, and it becomes clear that these flash floods aren't just random, shocking events. They tie into a larger pattern of climate change that becomes increasingly evident and worrying when hindsight is applied.
Much has been made of the relation between 2012 and 2000, the wettest year in recorded history to strike the UK. Across the UK rainfall was only 6.6mm below the levels of 2000, making 2012 the second wettest in recorded history by a tiny degree. This is particularly shocking considering the hosepipe ban brought in to combat the early year drought, and 2012 remained the wettest recorded year for England alone hands down.
In context the closeness of these two dates becomes less surprising. Government research released information on the five wettest years to ever strike the UK demonstrated that four of them occurred since the year 2000. Ranging from 1283.7 mm to 1337.3 mm of rainfall, 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2012 were four of the wettest years ever seen in the UK. The only exception was 1954, coming in at third place.
Of course, these years are outliers, and don't necessarily indicate wider patterns. The Met Office broke their research data into thirty year averages to try and discern more general trends. From 1961-1990 the average amount of annual rainfall was 1100.6 mm. Including the data from 1971-2000 this increased to 1126.1 mm, and from 1981-2010 the UK suffered an average of 1154.00 mm each year. There seems to be a substantial increase in rainfall, steadily rising from the first period to reach heights of 5% higher from 1981-2000.
Particularly worrying is that the pattern doesn't appear to be directly tied in to a general increase in rainfall, rather an increase in extreme instances of weather is responsible. Instances of 99th percentile rainfall, intended to occur once every hundred days, have been occurring with considerably more regularity in the last decade. Since 1995 these instances have occurred with consistently increased frequency, with relatively smooth growth taking place from 1960 to the present day.
All the evidence works to explain the extreme rainfall experienced across the UK this year, and demonstrates that we can't hope for the floods to be a contained event. Instead, 2012 appears to be part of the pattern of increased rainfall, one that shows no sign of slowing.
Writing about climate change and how it's affecting the world is a more serious subject than mens wellingtons and ponds, which Alan Cray has written about in the past. He used GardenCentreOnline.co.uk to help improve his writing and better the knowledge he has of the subject.
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