Weather: Britain suffers wettest winter ever

BRITAIN has suffered its wettest winter since records began more than a century ago, according to official statistics.

Tourists take cover from the rain and wind in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
Tourists take cover from the rain and wind in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
Tourists take cover from the rain and wind in Edinburgh. Picture: PA

New figures from the Met Office show that from 1 December to 19 February the country has had 486.8mm (19.2 inches) of rain, making it the wettest winter since 1910, beating the previous record set in 1995 of 485.1mm (19.1 inches).

Scotland saw its wettest December ever, while the east coast was hit with 514.5mm of rain – beating the previous record of 482.2mm set in 1915.

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The amount of rainfall recorded in Wales also set a new record for the winter, as did total levels seen in south-west England and south Wales.

Although the figures show total rainfall in Scotland for the three-month season is 634.3mm, slightly lower than 1995’s 649.5mm, a Met Office spokesman said the national record was likely to be broken by the end of the month.

Despite the high rainfall, Scotland’s geography and the direction of the weather fronts mean it escaped the sort of flood chaos being experienced in other parts of the UK.

“There has been a noticeable dry zone in the Moray Firth area,” a spokesman for the Met Office weather centre in Aberdeen said.

“On the plus side, because all the weather’s been coming from much the same direction, the Moray Firth has been sheltered from much of the winds throughout this winter. In places like Elgin and Forres, they might wonder what all the fuss is about because it has been a drier than average winter there.

“The Cairngorms and the Grampians have sheltered them from much of the weather.”

Environmental campaigners say the record rainfall levels show more action is needed to tackle climate change, which is thought to be behind the increasing weather extremes.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “We haven’t had months of almost continuous rain like the south of England, but last December’s record rainfall added to a very wet winter.

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“We have been lucky that the rains eased in time to make sure the flooding incidents around Christmas didn’t develop into the sort of wide-scale disaster seen in parts of England.

“The scenes from Somerset are a warning of the kind of extreme flooding that climate change will bring to Scotland if the world doesn’t get serious about reducing emissions.”

Around 6,500 homes have been affected by flooding south of the Border since December.

Two severe flood warnings remain in place in the Somerset Levels, which has been one of the worst-hit areas, with prolonged flooding in the face of repeated storms and heavy rain.

Across the rest of southern and central England, the risk of flooding is receding as river levels fall, including along the Thames and Severn, the Environment Agency said.

But properties in areas including Windsor and Maidenhead, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Wokingham and West Berkshire could remain flooded for some time.

And with more unsettled weather on the way, the risk of flooding will be slow to disappear, the Environment Agency warned.