Flooding in the UK

Over the past week, heavy rain has lead to flooding across many parts of the UK causing millions of pounds worth of damage to homes and businesses, even taking a couple of lives. The most significantly affected area has been south-west England, closely followed by the Midlands, north-east England and Wales. With this in mind, we asked Sally Webb, our resident meteorologist, to walk us through exactly why this is happening?


The recent flooding is due to a succession of deep pressure systems moving across the UK. Each one has had a large frontal system associated with it and often a wrap-around occlusion (where a cold front catches up with a warm front) that becomes slow-moving. The depth of the system leads to the strong winds that have also battered many areas, knocking down trees and causing damage to buildings. Although the weather is not so unusual for autumn, it is unfortunate than the systems all seem to have come at once.

Heavy rain last week lead to many areas becoming water logged and saturated. This has increased the likelihood of flooding because the rainwater has had nowhere to run. The latest figures from the Environmental Agency suggest that 900 properties have flooded since Wednesday, but flood defenses have protected over 40,000 properties in England and Wales. Warnings are still being issued for many parts as heavy showers move into southern areas while heavy rain – currently falling across northern England – moves back into the south-west.


The average precipitation level for south-west England in November is roughly 100mm. On Saturday, however, 60mm fell in some parts followed by an additional 20mm on Sunday and Monday. In Plymouth 72mm of rain was recorded in a 12 hour period. In addition to the heavy rain, south-west England was affected by strong winds with gusts of 49mph in Plymouth and 62mph at Berry Head.


Although it is too early to say “yes this is climate change”; there are strong hints that it is related. Climatologists predict that more extreme weather events will occur as the global temperature warms, with Sandy hitting the USA and the severe flooding in the UK this week; it is hard to argue that climate change is no longer affecting us.


The last of the rain is set to clear southern England this afternoon. Temperatures will then drop significantly as a northerly air mass starts to affect the UK, causing temperatures to drop below zero in many areas overnight. There will be plenty of sunshine towards the weekend, but also a few scattered showers, particularly along North Sea coasts. There is also the chance that some of the showers will turn to sleet or snow, especially over high ground, so make sure you wrap up warm!

(The comments on this site are her own and do not necessarily represent MeteoGroup’s opinions or strategies.)

Sally Webb

Sally Webb is a meteorologist living in Essex and working in London at MeteoGroup UK. She tweets @WeatherWebb and forecasts at www.weatherwebb.co.uk (The comments on this site are her own and do not necessarily represent MeteoGroup’s opinions or strategies)

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