It's official: 2012 was the second wettest on record for the UK

Wimbledon fans sheltered from the rain on Murray Mount in June.
Wimbledon fans sheltered from the rain on Murray Mount in June. Photo: Press Association

It’s official 2012 was very wet! Provisional stats from the Met Office show the UK narrowly missed out on top spot by 6.6mm! Making it the second wettest year since record began, back in 1910.

What a difference a year makes.

We started 2012 dry and in drought, then ended it wet with floods.

This time last year large parts of the country were in drought after 2 dry winters!

Bewl Water Reservoir in Kent
Bewl Water Reservoir in Kent, was one of many that were at less than capacity at the start of 2012 Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

We were told that unless we had continuous rain for 6 months we would stay in drought and hosepipe bans would be issued - careful what you wish for!

Right on cue in April the heavens opened and it seems like it hasn’t stopped since.

Two ladies shelter from the rain at the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April
Two ladies shelter from the rain at the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

How wet has it been?

The wettest year on record in the UK was set in 2000, where we had 1337.3mm of rain. The total for 2012 was 1330.7 mm, just 6.6 mm short of the record!

The rainfall wasn’t evenly spread, it was most concentrated in England where 2012 was the wettest year on record having 131%of the long term average.

Wales had their third wettest with 118%. While Scotland and Northern Ireland were around average with 102% of their average rainfall making them 17th and 40th wettest respectively.

The frequency we are having wet years has increased, amazingly four of the top five wettest years have occurred since 2000.

Flood waters come close to covering houses in St. Asaph, Denbighshire, North Wales
Flood waters come close to covering houses in St. Asaph, Denbighshire, North Wales Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Top five wettest years in the UK

  • 1st- 2000, 1337.3mm
  • 2nd-2012, 1330.7mm
  • 3rd-1954, 1309.1mm
  • 4th-2008, 1295.0mm
  • 5th-2002, 1283.7mm

How did we get here when last year started so dry?

Lets break it down….

March was the 5th Driest and 3rd warmest on record, then the big flip came.

The jet stream slipped south and the barrage of rain arrived.

April, we started breaking records, it was the wettest on record.

June was the wettest on record.

Then the period from April-June became the wettest on record.

Royal revellers watch from the banks of the River Thames, during the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant.
The rain did not deter revellers from watching the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant in June Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

We then had the wettest summer for 100 years.

It seems ironic as we had the Jubilee Celebrations, the Olympics and Paralympics but the rain still didn’t dampen our spirits, I guess it just comes with being British!

By then end of summer the river and ground levels had recovered after the drought.

The ground then became saturated.

It was from October onwards that the amount of rain we had tipped the balance and the floods began.

From 11-12th October, large parts of SW and NE England started to be impacted by floods.

19-27th November, floods returned and some areas had a months worth of rainfall in a week!

A women and her children are rescued from their house in Gloucester in November.
A women and her children are rescued from their house in Gloucester in November. Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

December had a brief cold snap, which we hoped would last until Christmas. Unfortunately then the rain and flooding returned in the run up to Christmas.

The jet stream has a lot to answer for, what is it?

It’s a fast moving ribbon or air, high up in the atmosphere that meanders and drives weather systems across the Atlantic to our shores.

Through the year it should move north of us in the Summer and south of us in the Winter, this year more often that not is has been anchored over the UK or just to our south, which has driven wet and windy weather across UK, leading to flooding.

Some scientists say space weather could be linked to our wet weather.

It's not just on earth where we have been experiencing extreme weather. Scientists say the activity of the sun is at a solar maximum.

In recent months we have seen an increase in solar explosions from the sun, they are known as a coronal mass ejection.

They send solar radiation out from the sun at 900 miles per second.

The corona is a thin layer of atmosphere 1 million km above the surface of the sun. The temperature has been measured about one million degrees Celsius.

A solar explosion
Solar explosion is the coronal mass ejection Credit: National Geographic

These sudden bursts of radiation didn't collide with Earth but the charged particles, known as solar wind slammed into the oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the Earths atmosphere (ionosphere) above the planet's magnetic North and South Poles.

The energy released by these collisions creates glowing colours which we know as the Aurora some 60 to 620 miles (97 to 1,000km) aloft.

During November and December there were sighting of the Aurora in Scotland and unusually far south into Northern England.

Some scientists think that the increased solar activity could affect the jet steam. If there more energy, this gives a more powerful jet stream and therefore severe weather!

The Aurora sighted in Norway
The Aurora sighted in Norway Credit: National Geographic

Enough of last year, what does the weather have in store this weekend?

Thankfully the forecast until next week remains relatively settled but not the gorgeous sunshine we started the year with, more of the cloud we have been used to over the last few days.

High pressure is building from the south and trying to push our weather fronts with wind and rain to our north.

The outlook is a stark contrast to the weather we had towards the end of last year, it will be drier but cloudy, at least it will be very mild.

Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Through the weekend weather fronts will try to push in from the northwest. This will bring more cloud and also outbreaks of rain, especially in the west. It will be breezy, this will help to break the cloud up to the lee of high ground, so eastern areas will see sunny spells developing. Another positive is it will be frost free.

England and Wales.

More of the same, cloudy with a mild southwesterly breeze. Western areas will have the dullest conditions with hill fog and outbreaks of drizzle. Eastern areas have the best chance of bright or sunny spells developing, especially Saturday.

Next week, we are likely to see the return of rain, especially in the north. Plus cooler (more typical) conditions filtering back in.