UK weather misery: when will it stop raining?
A jet stream of fast-flowing air is keeping the warm air out and letting Atlantic weather in
JUNE and July have been woefully wet with torrential downpours causing flooding chaos across the UK. Three times the average amount of rain has fallen in the first eight days of July and some of the worst hit areas of Britain are expecting up to 60mm of rain today. But after a bout of record-breaking bad weather, is there a ray of sunshine at the end of the summer?
WHEN WILL IT STOP RAINING?
Don't expect to see much sunshine in the next 10 days, says Matt Dobson, a senior forecaster with MeteoGroup. While the forecast for today looked mildly promising in some areas, Dobson predicts a "very unsettled week with no respite from the wet weather". Jonathan Powell, a forecaster for Vantage Weather Services, says August looks as bad as July. "It is a bitterly disappointing summer and already set to be in the top five wettest on record," he told the Daily Express, which cheerfully concludes that "summer is effectively over".
IS THIS NORMAL?
It might feel wetter than usual because we have experienced a run of drier summers over the past 25 years, says The Daily Telegraph. But we have nothing to moan about compared to sun worshippers 100 years ago. The summer of 1912 was "one of the wettest in the meteorological annals" according to the late Robin Stirling's The Weather of Britain. On the night of August 25 1912, more than eight inches of rain fell on Norwich – over a quarter of the annual average – and parts of the county were under water until the following spring.
WHAT IS CAUSING THE RAIN?
This summer's poor weather is being caused by a 'jet stream' – a current of fast flowing air travelling from west to east about seven miles above the earth's surface. The jet stream, which measures about three miles in height and is a few hundred miles wide, usually protects us from the cool weather coming from the Atlantic, but this year it has drifted south. This means that warm air coming up from the continent is bouncing off it, effectively blocking the summer heat from reaching the UK. Its new position means we are open to the unsettled weather coming in off the Atlantic Ocean instead.
WILL SUMMERS BE LIKE THIS FOREVER?
Apparently not. Some models suggest that Britain will see drier, hotter summers and milder, wetter winters in the future. However, this might result in shorter, heavier rainfalls during the summer.
CAN THE RAIN BE STOPPED?
There is a remedy, according to Ross Clark, who writes in The Times today that spraying clouds with silver iodide can make the rain fall in drought afflicted areas and divert it from flooded areas. The method was used by China for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to prevent rain falling on the opening ceremony and by the French to stop hail damaging crops. In the meantime, if you want a warm summer, you'll need to get on the right side of the jet stream - ideally somewhere like Italy or Spain.