Drought 2017, S Central and SE England

Posted: January 9, 2017 by tchannon in Analysis, Natural Variation, weather

Tim writes,

This drought is largely about the area where I live except this is a water feeder area for large connurbations, Reading, London, Swindon. How severe this will be is open, and is a forewarning. Late rains might arrive, I hope so although regular minor droughts are part of weather, what makes climate, always has, always will.

I’m unable to go and take a photograph of the wier status quo (using crutches and a wheelchair), been eyeballed from the road, so you’ll have to take my word for the situation. (council have obstructed the footway, inaccessible to wheelchairs, no warning signs, typical England)


Image: Google dated 08/2016. River Kennet, navigable river at Newbury. Sluices highlighted.

The usual autumn and winter rains have failed this year. I’d noticed but now the Met Office figures are in and processed, river flow is low so I see trouble brewing for next summer.


Enlargement of highlighted, summer sluice position, one partially open and three fully shut. As of January 2017, after the autumn rains all sluices are closed instead of the expected spilling for normal autumn flood conditions.

The river level according to Environment Agency is 1.01m where the normal range is stated at 0.94 to 5.5m, the latter is a ridiculous figure.

Flooding is possible over 5.50m

The Environment Agency is demonstrating incompetence. Flooding will occur over 2m, over 1.8m I expect.

The level is in detail arbitrary since the river level is sluice controlled. Such an extreme level would take massive flooding over a large area. I’ve seen cloudbursts, local mayheim nothing on a wider scale.

See image/link at end.

Flooding was present in Newbury at 1.94m, the same kind of level as I recall during the 1960s and have seen photographs from 18xx also showing the same level. My benchmark is just above the town bridge.

or a private site gives better information

51.401874° -1.319766°

I’ve noticed the lack of autumn storms sweeping in from the Atlantic, frontal systems. This goes with the unusually prevalent blocking conditions, easterly winds and so on we have experienced for a long time now.


Based upon Met Office areal data. The natural annual variation has been processed out so the >2SD figure is fairly significant without being a major extreme. Two things to notice

  1. The figures I produce take into account normal annual variation (rainy season etc)
  2. In drought context duration matters



December 2016 the 8th driest month since 1910 according to my results. Notably the extremes all seem to occur during late autumn and early winter, annual randomness is strongest then.

Overall the UK was dry, slightly warm and with slightly above average sunshine duration. Only northern Scotland was notable, 20th warmest according to my figures.

Plots done for December download of PDFs here

Drought problem

The UK and England especially is a water poor part of the world, strange given how we are seen as always raining. Damp yes, amount of rain tends to small. We are ill set up for high rainfall when it occurs.

18.8mm of rain would not cover your feet; that’s for a month. We have had repeated drought in the south, always to claims something will be done to fix it. Nothing happens. We need more reservoirs or water piped in from a wetter area as was done for Manchester (lake district) and Birmingham (Wales).

2017, we shall see.


(c)1976 Thomas M N Clifford Old Town Bridge, Newbury, looking west. This is 200m upsteam from the river height gauge. You can see the Kennet and Avon canal lock gates through the arch. To get a level of 5.5m over flat land through the arch is impossible and even with spilling via the streets, the obstruction is major, it would take a massive level at the bridge. Nothing in the long written history mentions such extremes.
Upstream side of bridge http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4807715

Today I read in a newspaper there is wailing in the Alps over a lack of snow cover because of a lack of rain, combined with a drought ban on the use of mains water for snow making machines.

This implies southern England and the Alps are seeing similar weather patterns, I would though expect the land in between to be very dry too. I’ve not seen that in print.

Post by Tim

  1. Paul says:

    Sorry this can not be true we are always being told that Climate change is going to cause flooding all over the country. Of cause when we had global warming then we were in danger of droughts and news story after news story was about how the south was going to run out of water, that is until it started to rain and didn’t stop.

    So maybe we are moving from climate change to global warming again…

  2. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    I mentioned the lack of rainfall to someone earlier. Wet periods are often followed by dry ones . We can but hope this is not the case.

  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘The UK and England especially is a water poor part of the world, strange given how we are seen as always raining.’

    A few more reservoirs in the south-east might not be a bad idea. Relying too much on the water table is obviously risky.

    PS the drains were overflowing here in Cheshire today after hours of heavy rain.

    Plan B: desalination £££

  4. A C Osborn says:

    The whole UK is not a poor rain area, try living in Wales if you think so.
    Try convincing those areas up north that flooded last year that we lack rainfall.

  5. tchannon says:

    Indeed so ACO, most of the west coast is wet, that said the volume of rain in tropical areas is mind blowing. My error.

  6. tchannon says:

    This idea of weather being either global warming or climate change… very old idea…

  7. Stephen Richards says:

    Very dry in western france. We are receiving our first frontal rain since end of may2016. We have had 2 thunderstorms in between. One dropped 50mm the second 15mm? Lakes are down even though there are springs under all of them.

  8. tchannon says:

    That is interesting news, implying there is a large dry region. Western France I’m assuming gets regular deluges from Atlantic systems through most of the year. Further south the rain drops on the mountains.

    I’ve been theorising but barely mentioned that we have/are experiencing a regime change. What an alternate regime looks like isn’t in modern weather data. This is manifesting in a high degree of blocking, many east winds, no Atlantic rains. A point here is that automatic weather stations able to continuously record wind direction and strength have only been common after the advent of computers and wire comms, post dating the last regime change. Aeronautical records might exist on paper, most I imagine are long lost. That leaves deduction from synoptic pressure as was done by Lamb and Jones etc. Iceland / Azores highs and so on.

  9. tom0mason says:

    And just to help, UK’s Forestry Commission, back in 2010, put out FCRN201 ‘Climate change: impacts and adaptation in England’s woodlands’ by Duncan Ray, James Morison and Mark Broadmeadow (do people’s names have to reflect their jobs now?) dated September 2010. It advises forestry management to plant trees that survive warm wet winters and hot dry summers.
    See —

  10. oldbrew says:

    California’s ‘permanent drought’ seems to have ground to a halt.

    California singing in the rain
    January 13, 2017
    – – –

  11. craigm350 says:

    Tim – MetO on dry start to Jan, mentioning below av. Oct-Dec


  12. caroline everett says:

    Hallo….all my small ponds are at least a foot down on normal Feb/March levels. O woe.
    Caroline everett

  13. craigm350 says:

    I couldn’t help but think of Tim when I saw this story earlier. His words, analysis and intuition on these climactic patterns will be really missed. If we do indeed see the regime change he alluded to above I know will always remember this and the anomalies he picked up. I wonder if we are looking at an echo of the Dry Late Victorian period (c. 1884-1902).


    Mild February marks the end of a dry Winter

    It has also been a dry winter, with the UK receiving 76% of its average seasonal rainfall, 251.9mm in total. Northern Ireland has been the driest with 66% of its average (206.4mm), making the 2016/17 winter its third driest winter on record.

    Climate Scientist Dr Mark McCarthy from the National Climate Information Centre said:
    “This winter has been dry for most of the UK. What is unusual is the combination of mild and dry conditions, as these factors do not usually go hand in hand in a typical UK winter. This is due to spells of high pressure bringing settled calm conditions being mixed in with depressions that have pulled warm air up from the south.”


  14. oldbrew says:

    Craig – did anything similar happen after the 1997/8 El Niño?

    Perhaps not…
    ‘El Niño has no obvious or strong effect on UK winter weather. Historically, El Niño years have coincided with both mild/wet and cold/dry winters in the UK. By itself, El Niño does not directly drive our winters in any single, simple direction.’


  15. […] shortage, after a dry winter 2016-2017 and low rainfall in April 2017, citizen scientists through blogs and discussion postings are creating their own platforms for debate, mobilising social media tools […]