Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Thursday, 6 September 2007 11:52 UK

Soggy summer in stats

Just a year after recording one of the country's driest summers, the UK has suffered its wettest ever.

All parts of the country had above-average rainfall, with the Midlands and north-east England soaked by nearly double their regional averages.

Bar chart showing how monthly UK rainfall has varied from the long-term average since 2004

While many blame climate change for the dramatic contrasts, weather forecasters are less inclined to leap to such conclusions.

"It is difficult to directly link the climate change angle into the past UK summer," Met Office weather forecaster John Hammond says.

"Last summer [2006] saw the UK weather often dominated by areas of high pressure and winds blowing in from the south or south-east, bringing very warm and dry air.

"This summer has been completely different, with low pressure dominating the weather scene, thanks in part to the jet stream being that much further south than we would normally expect at this time of the year."

But a cold water current in the eastern Pacific - La Nina - also played a part, according to Mr Hammond.

"There is statistical evidence that when La Nina occurs, here in the UK we can have more in the way of westerly winds, and therefore more unsettled conditions, like this summer."


Bar chart showing UK and England and Wales rainfall in each summer since 2002
2007 - 362.1mm
1956 - 358.4mm
1985 - 342.7mm
1927 - 336.3mm
1931 - 327.0mm
Source: Met Office

June was the wettest on record in the UK and July the fourth-wettest. And while August rainfall was little more than average, the combined effect of so many days of seemingly endless rain was to make 2007 the UK's wettest summer on record.

A total of 362.1mm fell on the UK during the three months regarded by meteorologists as forming the summer - beating the previous high of 358.4mm, set more than 50 years ago.

Records were also created in several parts of England and in England as a whole.

And while last month largely provided respite from the rain, temperatures dropped, giving most areas their coldest August for at least a decade.

Map showing levels of rainfall around the UK this summer


See river flows in more detail

Rivers all over the country were unusually high this summer.

Most of the principal rivers in England and Wales recorded flows in July even higher than those of June, when floods plagued much of the north-east.

Many of those monitored by the Environment Agency had flows more than four times the long-term average for July, when it was the Midlands' and West Country's turn to endure severe flooding.

All but four sites in the south-east were considered exceptionally high for the time of year.

While last summer there were hosepipe bans and drought orders to try to conserve water, there was no such problem anywhere in the UK this time.

Reservoirs all over England and Wales were close to full in July - a highly unusual situation.

Map showing reservoir levels around England and Wales in July 2007

In July, only two reservoirs were below their norms for the time of year, and three-quarters were more than 90% full.

However, that does not necessarily mean there won't be a problem again next summer.

Most summer rain fails to replenish stocks - much of it is used up by extra consumption, evaporation and natural loss.

"If reservoirs are full, groundwater aquifers will still absorb water, but most rain that falls goes into rivers, which go out to sea," explains the Environment Agency's Adrian Westwood.

"Normally groundwater gets recharged during the winter."

So whether it's wellies or water rationing next summer may depend more on what happens in the next few months than the past few.

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