Hot on the heels of a pretty lousy 2012, weather-wise, this year is ending up in a very stormy, flood-ridden state indeed – and sadly has created misery for many here in the UK. A few days ago, just as I was about to travel for an event with one of the choirs with which I sing, the Environment Agency’s flood alert map looked like this:

Photo: The EA's rather alarming-looking flood alert map for England and Wales on 27 December 2013
Photo: The EA’s rather alarming flood alert map for England and Wales on 27 December 2013

I can’t say I’ve ever seen it look that bad before. The build up had been storms driven by a very energetic jet stream that drove extreme weather just before Christmas Day leaving thousands of homes without power over Christmas and energy companies struggling to reconnect them for several days afterwards. Today storms have been hitting again, in Wales and in Scotland.

This winter-time rain comes hot-on-the-heels of last year’s incredibly wet year, the peak of which the Met Office summarised last year like this (for the summer/July):

Photo: The Met Office's data showing how much wetter than average the summer was last year (2012).
Photo: The Met Office’s data showing how much wetter than average the summer was last year (2012).

Last December was wetter than the 1961-1990 average (by 200% in places) but with all the recent storms I wonder how December 2013 is going to look in the upcoming Met Office summary? The data is not yet there, but we should know shortly. My bet is it won’t look good.

The interdependency between water and energy infrastructure, and the role of UK energy companies in particular, is likely to be a focus point in the coming months, with compensation demands and a general feeling that companies ‘let customers down‘ pervading much of the recent news coverage. Hopefully there will be some integrated thinking about resilience to extreme weather in all of this – particularly as there are apparently more storms still on the way and a risk of more damage and disruption.

Duncan Thomas

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