2012: from droughts to floods

Monday 14th Jan 2013 by theWeather Club

Across parts of the UK, the year began with ongoing concerns over long-term drought heightened by a relatively dry January to March but the situation was then transformed by the wettest April to June on record. There was been no modern day precedent for the extraordinary switch in rainfall amounts; the nearest comparison was in 1903.

January started off with a major winter storm on 3rd affecting southern Scotland with winds gusting to 102mph at Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. It was a relatively warm and dry start to the year. January was the 4th sunniest in UK history and March was the sunniest across England and 3rd warmest in the UK. March also experienced only 39% of the long term average rainfall and after an extended period of dry weather, across parts of England and Wales, water levels were at their lowest for 100 years with many water companies applying for drought orders.

April saw an abrupt shift in weather patterns bringing an exceptionally wet period for most of the country lasting through much of the remainder of the year. England had its wettest year in the series and the UK as a whole had its second highest since1910. Rainfall records tumbled with the wettest April and June in the England and Wales series from 1766, and the UK had its wettest summer for 100 years. In the 24 hours up to 0900 on the 23rd June, 208.4mm of rain fell at Honister Pass, Cumbria and between 20th and 26th November saw the wettest 7-day period in 50 years.

Temperature

The only months which were warmer than the long-term average were January, February, March, May and August; in fact March was the 3rd warmest since 1910 and set a new maximum temperature record anomaly being 3.2°C above the long term average. March also saw many daily station temperature records being set; and the March and May temperature records for Scotland were broken on 27th March with 23.6°C at Aboyne, Aberdeenshire and 25th May with 29.3°C at Achnagart, Highlands.

The remaining months were colder than average and, despite the mild spring, the UK mean temperature was 0.1 °C below the 1981-2010 average. It is worth noting that only 2 years (2010 and 2012) of the last 16 have had annual temperatures below this average.

The highest temperature during the year was 32.4°C recorded at Cavendish, Suffolk on 18th August and the lowest recorded was -15.6°C at Holbeach, Lincolnshire on the 11th February.

Rainfall

The UK annual rainfall total was 1331mm, the second highest in the series since 1910 and only 6mm short of the record set in 2000. England had its wettest year in the series.

The driest spring for over a century gave way to the wettest April and June in the England and Wales series from 1766, and the wettest summer (June, July and August) since 1912. Rainfall totals from September to December remained above average, leading to widespread flooding in late November and late December.

There were some significant snowfall amounts recorded during February, April and December with the greatest amount being 22cm measured at Whitehillocks, Angus on 3rd April.

Sunshine

The UK sunshine duration for the year was near average. January was the 4th sunniest across the UK and March the sunniest across England March since 1929, whereas April and the summer months were mostly dull.

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