Statistics for December and 2012 – is the UK getting wetter?

Provisional statistics from the Met Office show 2012 was the second wettest year in the UK national record dating back to 1910, and just a few millimetres short of the record set in 2000.

The exceptionally wet year was characterised by a dry start which quickly gave way to very wet weather, with April and June both being the wettest on record.

Unsettled weather continued through to the end of the year, with December being the 8th wettest on record for the UK.

Throughout the year, accurate forecasts and warnings from the Met Office have helped everyone across the UK plan and prepare for the worst impacts of the extremely wet weather we have seen.

The persistent wet weather resulted in total 2012 rainfall for the UK of 1330.7 mm, which is just 6.6 mm short of the record set in 2000.

Looking at individual countries, 2012 was the wettest year on record for England, third wettest for Wales, 17th wettest for Scotland and 40th wettest for Northern Ireland.

This adds to a high frequency of wet years since 2000 in the UK – with four of the top five wettest years occurring since then.

Top five wettest years in the UK
1. 2000 – 1337.3mm
2. 2012 – 1330.7mm
3. 1954 – 1309.1 mm
4. 2008 – 1295.0mm
5. 2002 – 1283.7mm

We have always seen a great deal of variability in UK rainfall because our weather patterns are constantly changing. However, preliminary evidence suggests we are getting slightly more rain in total and it may be falling in more intense bursts.

Looking at annual rainfall for the UK, we can see the country as a whole getting wetter in recent decades.

Long-term averages of 30-year periods show an increase in annual rainfall of about 5% from 1961-1990 to 1981-2010:

Annual average UK rainfall according to 30-year averages
1961-1990: 1100.6mm
1971-2000: 1126.1mm
1981-2010: 1154.0mm

Preliminary research from the Met Office also suggests we may have seen a change in the nature of the rain we get, with ‘extreme’ rainfall becoming more frequent.

An analysis of 1 in 100 day rainfall events since 1960 indicates these ‘extreme’ days of rainfall may have become more frequent over time.

The above graphic shows the frequency of what climate averages tell us should be roughly 1 in 100 day heavy rainfall events in each year. Over time, this gives a view of the frequency of ‘extreme’ rainfall.

The above graphic shows the frequency of what climate averages tell us should be roughly 1 in 100 day heavy rainfall events in each year. Over time, this gives a view of the frequency of ‘extreme’ rainfall.


2012 Provisional stats
Mean temperature ( °C) Sunshine duration (Hours) Precipitation (mm)
Actual Difference from 1981-2010 average Actual % of 1981-2010 average Actual % of 1981-2010 average
UK 8.8 -0.1 1356.4 99 1330.7 115
England 9.6 -0.1 1470.2 98 1123.2 131
Wales 9.1 0 1355.7 97 1716.2 118
Scotland 7.3 -0.1 1187.6 100 1602.6 102
N Ireland 8.9 0 1239.1 99 1153.7 102
England & Wales 9.5 -0.1 1454.4 98 1205 128
England N 8.8 -0.1 1360 99 1288.1 133
England S 10 -0.1 1528.5 98 1036 130
Scotland N 6.9 -0.2 1124.9 104 1599.5 93
Scotland E 7.1 -0.1 1217.1 96 1313.2 111
Scotland W 8.1 0 1239.1 99 1917.1 107
Eng E & NE 8.8 -0.1 1420.3 100 1064 137
Eng NW & Wales N 8.8 -0.1 1305 97 1614.1 122
Midlands 9.4 -0.1 1439.2 100 1074.6 135
East Anglia 10.1 -0.1 1538.1 98 804.1 129
Eng SW & Wales S 9.8 -0.1 1457.3 96 1574 125
Eng SE & Central S 10.3 -0.1 1601.5 98 999.7 127
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14 Responses to Statistics for December and 2012 – is the UK getting wetter?

  1. stalinvlad says:

    Is that graph upside down on the y-axis?
    Would a 1 in 175 be less frequent than a 1 in 50?

  2. Hi- Can you tell me if possible please how the rainfall figure is calculated ?, perhaps this has been discussed before ( apologies) Which rainfall sites are used. Do you use any of the data from the Climate Station network or the hundreds of rain gauges where manual readings are taken and perhaps havent filtered through to the Met Office yet. Many thanks

  3. clivebest says:

    Well the UK certainly doesn’t seem to be getting any warmer !

    see here

  4. jdey123 says:

    Man the lifeboats, ‘extreme’ rainfall events became more frequent between 1960 and 1980, since when they haven’t become more frequent. How can the Met Office paint a dramatic picture around nothing much happening?

  5. jdey123 says:

    The MetOffice already publishes an ‘extreme’ weather page. On there, you’ll find that they view ‘extreme’ rainfall as record rainfall that falls in a 24 hour period. Unfortunately, there was nothing of note for 2012, so they’ve had to produce some different ‘extreme’ statistics.

  6. clivebest says:

    Sorry – correct link to UK long term temperature trends is this one based on HADCET and area averaged of all HADCRUT4 stations located in in UK and Ireland.

  7. clivebest says:

    The Met Office seems to be getting desperate to pin something(anything) on rising CO2 levels. Global temperatures have not changed in 17 years, and UK temperatures have not changed in 72 years. The only thing left from model predictions is extreme weather, so I suspect we may hear more scare stories about storms, drought, floods, snow, heat-waves, even infestations in the coming months.

  8. Clive – what drives you to be quite so economical with the truth?

    • clivebest says:

      John, I am very much interested in the truth. If you fit the HadCrut3(4) global temperature data from 1850 to 2011 to a logarithmic dependence on CO2 levels, you observe a clear 60 year oscillation and a smaller 11 year oscillation present in the data. see here. The 60 year cycle was responsible for 2 cooling periods 1880 – 1910 and 1940-1970. This indeed seems to be superimposed on a gradual warming due to increasing CO2. AGW is “true”.

      The rapid warming from 1970-2000 was mostly caused by the upturn in this oscillation. We have now entered a downturn (natural cooling) period which will last until 2030. The net result will be that globally temperatures will remain static until 2030. Assuming CO2 levels continue rising until the end of the century, we can expect a further rise of ~0.5 C between 2030 and 2060, followed by another stalling on temperatures until 2100.

      What is the cause of this oscillation? One theory is that a resonance of Jupiter and Saturn’s orbit around the sun induces both tidal effects and a shift in the solar barycentre (Scaffetti). Another proposal is that its casue is the AMD oscillation in the Atlantic.

      The fact is that all IPCC GCM models were tuned to the observed rapid rise between 1950 to 2000 on the assumption that the only driver of climate was CO2 enhanced by positive water feedback. Temperatures have now stalled for about 17 years, and as a result the predictions are over-exaggerated.

      Hats off to the MET office for admitting this and down-grading their predictions ! So their science is good.

  9. Reblogged this on Gra Machree – Heather Brach & John Samuel and commented:
    A question to which the answer is “yes”.

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