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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 11:06 GMT
Autumn breaks wet weather records
Londons famous umbrella shop Smith & Sons
Wetter autumns are on the cards
England and Wales have suffered the wettest autumn since records began 234 years ago.

Weekend downpours in Wales and southern England have pushed the total autumn rainfall figure up to 457mm (17.99 inches), beating the previous record of 456mm (17.95 inches) set in 1852.

Autumn rainfall
1766: 201mm
1852: 456mm
1998: 322mm
1999: 258mm
2000: at least 457mm

But with three days to go until the end of the "autumn" period between September and November, forecasters are expecting rainfall to exceed all record-breaking predictions.

The long-term forecast of changeable wet weather means the UK is unlikely to escape further flooding which has already wrecked 6,500 homes.

Flood warnings remain on 12 rivers and much of the countryside is still waterlogged, preventing farmers harvesting or planting winter crops.

Wetter forecast

Meteorological Office spokesman Sean Clarke said it was officially the wettest autumn since records began in 1766.

He said wet autumns were likely to become a regular feature of British weather.

This is now the wettest autumn since records began in 1766

Sean Clarke, Met Office
"Wetter autumns are on the cards," he said.

"The rainfall per annum will be around the same but the distribution will be different, with autumns 10% wetter.

"Flooding is going to become more the rule rather than the exception, but summers are going to become drier, particularly in the south."

Weather experts in autumn 1766 recorded only 201mm of rainfall, well below the average of 252mm.

Mr Clarke said 1852 had a particularly wet autumn season but this year would break all records.

'Wake up call'

The figures are released days after Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the country's recent floods were a warning of further climate change.

Mr Prescott told the UN climate conference in The Hague that the worst floods in 50 years had been "a wake-up call".

Mr Clarke said it was impossible to blame one event on global warming but it was an indication of weather to come.

"It could be natural variability," he said.

Rainclouds 'anchored'

"But it has probably been helped by the fact that we have had an awful lot of slow moving low pressure from the Atlantic."

He said the weather system kept the rainclouds "anchored" over the country in September.

Fields and underground water labels became saturated and the excess water swelled rivers, causing them to burst their banks.

Mr Clarke said England and Wales were in for more changeable weather of wet and dry periods over the next few days and months.

"More flooding is definitely on the cards, there doesn't seem to be any respite," he said.

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See also:

22 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Prescott skips climate talks
21 Nov 00 | UK Politics
UK floods 'a climate alarm call'
08 Nov 00 | UK
Floods cause rail chaos
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