Somerset Floods – February Update

By Paul Homewood

I have been waiting to update the situation with regard to the flooding of the Somerset Levels. I had hoped to include the rainfall data for the local station at Yeovilton, but the Met Office still have not issued them yet. I have chased, but they say, understandably, they are too busy at the moment.

However, we can look at the numbers for the region, SW England & S Wales.


Let’s just recap the background. The problems started with heavy rainfall in the 2nd week of December, after a much drier than normal November. (The Levels are marked on the map below in red – to the best that my limited artistic talents allow!)

At the local station of Yeovilton, about 20 miles south, Met Office figures show that rainfall in November was 23% lower than normal. Given this, and the dry summer, river levels should have pretty low as December started.


During December and January, rainfall over the region amounted to 450mm, which is 165mm above the 1981-2010 average.

At Yeovilton, in December, rainfall was 43mm above normal. Although, as I say, January data is not yet available, rainfall maps don’t suggest that Somerset has been wetter than the rest of the region and indicate between 150mm and 200mm, against a normal of 67mm.

This would imply that December and January’s rainfall combined was probably about 120mm and 170mm above normal. This is all a long way round way of saying that the regional pattern looks pretty representative of Somerset.

January 2014 Rainfall Actual

If we look at 2-month precipitation numbers during autumn and winter in the region, we find that this latest period of December/January has been exceeded on eight occasions since 1910. (There are multiple events in two years, 1929/30 and 2001/01, which means that these eight occasions are spread over five years).

In other words, it is, on average, an event that happens pretty much every decade or so.

The graphs below show the three combinations – Oct/Nov, Nov/Dec and Dec/Jan. These are typically the wettest months of the year. Note that on all three graphs, I have shown the latest Dec/Jan plots in red, for comparison purposes. I would also point out that the year shown on the X-Axis is the “January year”. So, Dec 2013 to January 2014 is shown as 2014. This also applies to October to December – October 2013 to November 2013 is labelled as 2014. (A bit confusing, I know,but it keeps things consistent).

A couple of points stand out:

  • 1929/30 stands well above the rest, and on all three graphs. More on this later.
  • There is no evidence that recent years have been unusually wet, compared to earlier decades.




Comparisons with 1929/30

It already looks as if February will end up being another very wet month in the South West, so we may very well find that the 3-month total, for Dec-Feb, exceeds most other years since 1910.

Whatever the outcome, though, it does not look likely that the latest Dec-Feb figures will come any where close to the Nov-Jan period in 1929/30. If current trends remain, my guess would be for another 200mm this month, which would leave a total for the three months of about 650mm. This is well below the 812mm recorded from Nov 1929 to Jan 1930.

It would also come in lower than Oct – Dec 2000.


Summing up

So what should we learn from all of this?

1) While it has been an exceptionally wet winter in the South West of England, it is far too early to be talking about it being unprecedented, or to be looking for links to “climate change”.

2) As the graph below shows, precipitation during the “six winter months” has actually been at historically normal levels in recent years, and the trend looks to be a declining one. If nothing else, this rather makes a nonsense of the theory that global warming is leading to wetter winters.


3) Whilst the continuing wet weather is prolonging the agony for the Levels, the situation in December and January was not an unusual one. I will leave others to judge what effect the lack of dredging and other maintenance work has had on the floods.

4) If any year was “unprecedented”, it was 1929/30. (And as I have shown previously, the wet winter of that year affected the whole country.) I find it incredible that the Met Office have not carried out a detailed analysis of that winter, and indeed some of the other wet years, to see what they have in common with this winter.

There is little doubt that scientists such as HH Lamb would have done precisely that. Instead, we see a desperate attempt to find a link to “climate change”.

Surely, to do science properly, you should first look for natural causes for events such as these. And to do that, you have to learn from the past. Only then can we hope to understand the present and the future.

5) We have been bombarded with claims of record rainfall months, and forecasts of record winters. Meanwhile, David Cameron describes the Somerset floods as “biblical”. Am I the only one that cannot remember being told that 1929/30, or other years, were much wetter?

At least the media have an excuse – they are trying to sell newspapers. The Met Office have no excuse at all.

We deserve better.


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So what is the “wettest winter in 250 years” mantra we hear on the news every day based on?


The flooding was a consequence of an EU directive that ‘non human’ environments must be given precedence over people. It is part of a much larger aim of the EU namely the EU Coudenhove Kalergi Plan see 2013 – 043.
Mick G

Good post Paul, the UKMO have a ‘News’ blog that rapidly responds to News articles that are conflicting to ‘known’ science but it seems that selective data can be used to back or oppose a message.
‘Looking at the England and Wales Precipitation series, which dates back to 1766, it has been the wettest December to January since 1876/1877 and the 2nd wettest overall in the series.’
No wonder that the general public get confused.


I was househunting in Somerset in the very wet autumn of 2000. The neglect of drainage by the Environmental Agency had not yet reached its present critical point so that all roads were navigable, no villages were flooded and wet fields were not lakes. Somerset’s problems are entirely due to lack of maintenance of the centuries old drainage system.

M Courtney

Espen says at February 14, 2014 at 12:11 am

So what is the “wettest winter in 250 years” mantra we hear on the news every day based on?

Good question. Is it down to rainfall inland (away from the levels) that is flowing down the River Parrett?


This does not change the fact that now a few days in February will be dangerous.

Dr Marohasy’s new peer reviewed paper is out covering forecasts of rainfall inaccuracies:


Unprecedented is a powerful word. A word that has lots of implications. Unfortunately the media use it at every chance they get and completely dilutes its meaning. It is also nearly impossible to prove but that does not keep the warmists and their acolytes in the MSM from using it in their propaganda wars.


Thanks Paul Homewood for this excellent and sympathic update. From the UK political spectrum, so far we only appear to have Lord Nigel Lawson and UKIP’s Nigel Farage on our side – both stressing that the current flooding has absolutely nothing whatsover to do with warming or climate change. Perhaps you could post your helpful update to them. Meanwhile, every other politician (especially Labour’s Ed Milliband) are convinced CAGW/CC is to blame.

M Courtney

GeeJam says at February 14, 2014 at 1:25 am

Meanwhile, every other politician (especially Labour’s Ed Milliband) are convinced CAGW/CC is to blame.

Every other politician is convinced that taking the blalme off climate change at this moment is detrimental to their career.
After all, if it isn’t cliamte change people might ask the politician “Why didn’t you do something about this?”.


I see David Cameron is asking the EU for financial assistance (BFMTV France). He’ll have to hope that the EU doesn’t do what insurance companies do and take off a percentage of the pay out if you haven’t maintained the property to a reasonable level. If they do he’ll be lucky to get 10%.


I provisionally make Yeovilton Somerset rainfall in January 2014 to be 164mm. (I have lost track of the source: I think it was . At twice the monthly average for Jan the highest “on record” since 1965 but given the usual month-on-month variablity not exactly way down the tail of the distribution: perhaps 3-sigma by eye-ball.


M Courtney
Hopefully more perceptive members of the press will ask the question, if you’ve known about climate change doing this for 20 years you’ve had time to prepare.
I think that if that happens then politicians and the MO will be caught on a Knight Fork.

Greg Goodman

A very informative article Paul. It definitely helps put things in perspective.
One, possibly important, criticism is the adoption of the word “normal” for the average over some arbitrary period.
“This would imply that December and January’s rainfall combined was probably about 120mm and 170mm above normal.”
There is nothing “normal” about the period 1981-2010. In a longer perspective it may have been drier that “normal”. There is no such thing as normal in a constantly changing system like climate and to use such a term (whatever period is taken) just implies that anything different to that arbitrary reference value is , by definition, ABNORMAL.
This just plays to current propaganda that presents every notable meteorological event as “extreme weather”.
If you need shorthand term to refer to “then average of the period 1981-2010” , I would suggest “recent average” rather than “normal”.
Well researched article. Thanks for the effort.


As you state the rainfall is not – at least for the available records – unprecedented. We get periods like this. I think what is unprecedented is the flooding, which I’m sure as you know is a function of land use as well as weather (as does any school kid). In the case of the Levels Michael Portillo, a politician summed it up pretty well. On the subject of draining he said (paraphrasing):
…it is hardly surprising that a region that is only farmable and habitable because of human intervention, becomes unmanageable when that human interaction stops.


I think what should be welcomed is that people are now talking about adaptation rather than emission targets anymore. At least, even when the shrill predictions don’t happen, we’ll have constructed defences that serve a purpose.


maccassar says:
Unprecedented is a powerful word. A word that has lots of implications. Unfortunately the media use it at every chance they get and completely dilutes its meaning. It is also nearly impossible to prove but that does not keep the warmists and their acolytes in the MSM from using it in their propaganda wars.
Is sufficient tell the truth. The reason is the shift of the polar vortex as a result of solar activity in the zone of the ozone.
Jetsream is formed on edge of the polar vortex, which is strongest in the of 20 -25 km in winter.

John Moore

Writing from SW England — I am intrigued by the rainfall figures of 1930 which was the year when there was a similar breach of the sea wall carrying the railway line at Dawlish in South Devon. This is not reported in our news reports except when I have published it on newspaper websites. That stretch of railway connects the city of Plymouth, the seaside town of Torquay and the county of Cornwall with the rest of England. In 1930 there were two other lines which have since been lifted.


I agree, although for the UK this will have to cover everything from floods to drought with exceptional cold and heat thrown in. For the UK this is a no change situation as we’ve seen them all in the past. Unfortunately in normal politicians regard this sort of work as not winning enough votes.

Sean OConnor

On the “Precipitation 2-month totals graph Dec & Jan” is the final red bar drawn slightly too far to the right? It looks like a whole bar is missed out for the year before the way it is. I’d love to use this image to show my friends (who have convinced themselves the floods are all proof of climate change) but the way the graph looks at the moment makes it look a bit like the graph might be hiding something, or the red bar has been drawn on by hand.

Pete Smith

Interesting URL I came across yesterday.
I can’t remember where I got it from, but I found it interesting.
“I can give you the evidence you need showing senior managers in the South West conspiring with Labour MPs to discredit this government over the past two to three years, which I believe have made the floods far worse than they otherwise would have been. The MPs involved are: xxxxx (edited out for legal reasons – Labour MPs based in South West towns and cities)”
Our Environment Agency is a huge monolithic organisation chock-full of left wingers who have spent more on PR than they have on dredging rivers.
The guys on the ground/in the field are working their backsides off while the managers sit in their comfy offices, ticking boxes.
From memory, our EA is as big as the EA equivalents in most of the rest of Europe combined, and is only 2nd to the US EPA, despite the US being 80x larger than the UK with 5x the population.


Huge snow fall in Scottish mountains attributed by Met office to global warming 🙂
Ski Scotland: another global warming paradox


Lock polar vortex over eastern Siberia began in October as a result of temperature anomalies in the zone ozone and continues today. It is the cause of the severe winter in the U.S. and rainy, but warm in Europe.

George Lawson

It’s clear that all the stats. show that the current run of wet and windy weather is not ‘unprecedented’ as the gloom mongers from prime ministers to royal princes and the once reliable Met. Office try to imply.


Paul, thanks a lot for summing this up. Another important variable that may need factored in is anomalous lunar tides that may have impacted Somerset for a while at least. A large storm accompanied by an anomalous tide may dump a pile of sediment in the wrong place thus impacting subsequent drainage. I suspect anomalous tides had something to do with the wrecked railway etc.

Bob F

OT: can you get some coverage of this.
NOAA reporting US average temperatures as ‘average’, rather than one of coldest since records began


M Courtney says:
February 14, 2014 at 1:36 am
” . . . . if it isn’t climate change people might ask the politician “Why didn’t you do something about this?”.
Yes, I agree with you M Courtney. But, come on, in fairness to our UK government, we all know they have been “doing something about it” ever since 2003. However, with over a decade of expensive green initiatives, paid for by money (we do not have), to reduce CO2 emissions by 5.2% in order to avert a global warming crisis (that never existed in the first place) – it cannot excuse them from ‘protecting’ their decisions’ or ‘justifying’ the reasons why they continue to waste the billions (again, we don’t have) to solve a problem (again, that does not exist).
In a nutshell, no amount of government revenue generated from my car’s UK annual road tax (based on the amount of CO2 spewing from the 2.5L V6 twin exhaust) will prevent the Somerset Levels and Thames from flooding. Only when they stop spending that revenue on worse than useless wind turbines and redirect it to useful projects – such as dredging rivers – will they win more election votes. I trust you agree.


Maybe the best tip for the good english farmers to cope with this “bblical, unprecedented flood” (sarc) would be to stop raising sheep and cattle and switch to raising seals and elephant seals, instead.

Dizzy Ringo

The lack of dredging and maintenance of rivers appears to stem back to the wilful adoption by DEFRA, and hence the Environment Agency, of Directives issued by the EU. The EU Referendum blog by Dr Richard North has chapter and verse on this. It was exacerbated by the fact that the first head of the EA was a Baroness Young whose previous occupation had been head of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Under her direction the EA spent £31 Mn on a new wetlands sanctuary and stopped dredging the rivers. But Dr North is much more knowledgeable about this.


During the 1929/30 winter were the levels as flooded? My guess is no because they dredged then on an annual basis with teams local to the area who know the river systems. The present problem springs from the no-dredge policy that has been used for 20 years. The November river levels were not as low as they should have been because of this crap policy that kept the rivers running full and water tables remaining too high for the oncoming winter rains.
This can all be blamed on ”Climate Change” that the EA think a stupid British Public will swallow instead of blaming the policy failure.


The England and Wales Precipitation (EWP) record is a meteorological dataset which was originally published in the journal British Rainfall in 1931 and updated in a greatly revised form by a number of climatologists including Janice Lough, Tom Wigley and Phil Jones during the 1970s and 1980s.

Amos McLean

It’s been a real Climate change/warming fest on the BBC and Sky News feeds this morning.
Sky News in the UK had a long interview about the UK weather with a “Meterologist” from Reading University. He spent most of the interview saying that “models show for every 1 degree rise in temperature … more moisture, more rain” and that models and simulations show temperatures will rise … He also kept saying that science shows… models … simulations … climate change … Basically pinning everything on climate change with hints of science supporting the fact. Only near the end did he say that you can’t really blame one weather event on Climate change … but …
This was followed by an interview with the Prime Mininster who also repeated the science theme and climate change.
Only the UKIP leader in an interview on BBC said we should be looking to mitigate the effects.
But don’t worry, by July/August the UK will be in the grip of an unprecedented, biblical drought – or is that a plaque of frogs due to climate change.

G. Karst

I have chased, but they say, understandably, they are too busy at the moment.

I am trying to make sense of this statement. How exactly does a rain event with flooding increase the work load of the met? They must prepare their forecast from collated data just like any other day. They obviously are not busy dealing with the public as they are “too busy” to service your public request. So just exactly… what are they so busy doing? Does it really bog down the whole department in order to arbitrarily blame climate change for the rain weather event? Just trying to figure – where the service is?! GK


Dizzy Ringo says:
February 14, 2014 at 2:51 am
” . . . . was exacerbated by the fact that the first head of the EA was a Baroness Young whose previous occupation had been head of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Under her direction the EA spent £31 Mn on a new wetlands sanctuary and stopped dredging the rivers.”
An excellent point Dizzy. Note to Baroness Young: watch where the water level reaches when you pour 6 x pints of water into a washing-up bowl. Now tip the water out and half-fill the same washing up bowl with mud. Repeat exercise with 6 x pints of water. There you have it. Conclusive proof that a £31M bird sanctuary is essential to avert flooding.

Dizzy Ringo

GeeJam- no the whole point about the Directive was “making space for water” – I.,e. flooding! There is a splendid report by the Environment Agency which explains the proposed management of flooding in the Levels called the Parrett Catchment Flood Management Plan Consultation Draft (v5) (March 2008) which I understand derives from the DIRECTIVE 2007/60/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 October 2007 on the assessment and management of flood risks.
However, I recommend to get a much more erudite but also highly entertaining commentary on the flooding.

Dizzy Ringo has some jolly good points too – as well as Josh’s latest.


And what does the policy makers have to say about this?

More droughts, erosion if no progress at Cancun

I remember the chants played on spanish radio stations weeks before the conference in Cancún predicting more droughts also in Spain if there was no progress in Cancún. I wonder if the same chant was sung in England too.
It seem that we made too much progress in Cancún since in 2013, three years later, we broke the yearly rainfall record. Actually, the record was broken months before the end of the year.
Anyway, no news agency who reported last year´s rainfall record recalled Cancun´s drought predictions. Nobody talks about “the pause” either. We live in an Orwellian state.

M Courtney

GeeJam says at February 14, 2014 at 2:48 am

Only when they stop spending that revenue on worse than useless wind turbines and redirect it to useful projects – such as dredging rivers – will they win more election votes. I trust you agree.

Partially, I agree.
Only when they do that will they be worthy of winning more election votes.
But so long as they can keep people scared of the Big Bad Climate Change Wolf then they can keep creaming of the voters fear-laden mandate for whatever the politicians find useful.
And admitting that “mistakes were made” is difficult.


Excellent article; thanks, Paul.
I lived just north of the Levels for 13 years from 1983 and almost every winter the view from “the Mendip” was a huge inland sea stretching southwards almost to the horizon. Flooding on the Levels is not new though the depth this time is exceptional – 8 to 10 feet in some places.
For non UK readers the Environment Agency is the UK equivalent of the US EPA. It has a remit for both wild life and humans the latter in particular with respect to flooding. Some say these are mutually incompatible responsibilities. Unfortunately, the EA (of which I have had much personal experience in Norfolk) is a conservationist organisation masquerading as one tasked with protection the citizenry. For example, in 2000 the the previous Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was appointed CEO of the EA and not long afterwards opined that all of the sluices, dredging machinery etc. on the Levels should be mined. More here:-
The area has been claimed from the sea much as the Netherlands has been: the suffix “-ney” in place names like Muchelney and Godney means island: these places were once islands in the sea.
Continued management had kept the Levels reasonably dry for farming and (some) habitation but in the 80s and 90s the farmers were increasingly banned from dredging dykes (a centuries old management practice) as the conservationists got their way and water levels were raised for wildlife and eventually virtually all dredging ceased and the machinery scrapped. There was even talk of creating another inland boating centre like the Norfolk Broads! The lack of dredging was predicted by locals to end in disaster, they were right.
Interestingly, it is a tale of two Levels. The area is bisected laterally by the A39 road and it is the Levels south of this road that are so badly affected. The northern Levels have just as much flood water but the Rivers Brue and Axe are being pumped into the Huntspill River – this is not a river but a near straight “drain” that has been dredged. The northern Levels are nowhere near so badly affected. I leave readers to draw the obvious conclusion.
I live not far from the infamous University of East Anglia of Climategate fame and my son was a student there reading geophysics. This morning a UEA prof (oceanography and meteorology) was asked about the link between recent UK “extreme weather” and climate change. The presenter sounded shocked when the guy said flat out that there is no link and that this is “a freak event”. No doubt Phil Jones will rap his knuckles.
Btw, the Thames floods are a different matter inasmuch as it is not a man made environment thus little or no mitigation is possible.

Dizzy Ringo

Didn’t someone say something about not dredging the Thames because of the freshwater mussels?

Here in Reykjavik we have enjoyed very unusual weather for weeks, calm, sunny, dry and relatively warm. Almost no snow. 🙂

M Courtney

FThe BBC is reporting on ots live flood coverage:

11:49: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News The Greens have called for a purge of senior government advisers and ministers who do not share the party’s views on climate change. The Green Party says any senior adviser who refused to accept “the scientific consensus on climate change” should be sacked. Leader Natalie Bennett said: “We also can’t have anyone in the cabinet who is denying the realities that we’re facing with climate change.”

If you can’t win an argument silence the opposition.


Very interesting.
Old newsreel footage of flooding and land reclamation in Somerset 1930, ’42, ’49, ’57, ’68 –
Aerial views of flooding in Somerset, 1950:
And in 1960:
“Devon and Somerset have been having the worst and wettest Autumn anyone can remember. Three times in a month, the same dreary routine has had to be withstood, then the process of mopping up. Now, it’s all been happening again. Day after day of downpour, sometimes two inches in 24 hours, and, already, estimates of the damage done are soaring into the million pound mark! As well as Exeter, Sidmouth, Exmouth, Bridport and Taunton have been hard hit.”


Dizzy Ringo says:
February 14, 2014 at 3:43 am
Didn’t someone say something about not dredging the Thames because of the freshwater mussels?
Yes, someone did say something like that. If you recall, when they continually dredged the Thames at Tilbury in the 60’s through to the 80’s to allow the small docks to expand into a major port, the whelks and cockles in the estuary right up to Leigh-on-Sea actually flourished. I assume the habitat needed for all molluscs survival is fairly similar.
PS. Thanks for the earlier link to Richard North’s blog. I have already been keeping up with him – along with Booker’s excellent Telegraph article last Sunday.


Paul Homewood
I posted a link to this article on Bishop Hill Unthreaded. A comment from John Lyon regarding hurricanes prompted me to have a look at 1929 and 1930 hurricane seasons.
From Wiki
The 1929 Atlantic hurricane season ran through the summer and the first half of fall in 1929. It was a mostly quiet season in the Atlantic as only five tropical cyclones formed during the season, with the distance between the first and second storms being nearly three months.
The 1930 Atlantic hurricane season was the second least active Atlantic hurricane season on record – behind only 1914 – featuring only three systems reaching tropical storm intensity.
I’m not sure if there is any significance in 2013 also being a quiet hurricane season.

son of mulder

“Espen says:
February 14, 2014 at 12:11 am
So what is the “wettest winter in 250 years” mantra we hear on the news every day based on?”
It will probably correlate with the winter when the most cherries were picked.

Solomon Green

Dizzy Ringo
“…the first head of the EA was a Baroness Young …”.
Actually she was the second CEO, appointed after Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took office and ensured that more than 70% of appointments to Quangos, such as the Environment Agency, the Charity Commission, Ofsted and the NHS, went to Labour party members, irrespective of their relevant experience. At the same time as she was appointed CEO, Sir John Harman, a math teacher and professional Labour politician, was made Chairman of the Environment Agency.
Harman and Young’s predecessors were both non-political men with real environmental experience.
Harman’s successor, Lord (Chris) Smith, has a PhD in English and, before becoming a professional politician and MP for a central London constituency, worked for a housing charity. He ended as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Richard Barraclough

I think you’ll find this winter’s rainfall across England and Wales as a whole is definitely going to be “unprecedented” in the record which goes back to 1766
Here are the wettest winters on record
1914-15 423.0 mm
1989-90 420.9 mm
1876-77 418.3 mm
1994-95 415.6 mm
This winter up to 12th Feb 394.8 mm, and as I write the rain is pouring down again , so you can say that with 2 weeks to go this year’s total will be somewhat over 400 mm.
For South West England the Met Office’s regional totals only go back to 1873, but here are the wettest winters in that series (all surprisingly recent!)
1989-90 540.3 mm
1994-95 531.8 mm
1993-94 508.9 mm
This winter up to 12th Feb 523 mm.
For England & Wales, there have been 4 autumns which are wetter than the wettest winter
2000 502.7 mm
1852 455.8 mm
1960 438.6 mm
1935 424.1 mm
I haven’t analysed 3-month periods which cross seasonal boundaries, so there may well be a wetter 3-month period somewhere in the record.
It’s a bit disingenuous to draw comparisons with a 3 month period of November to January 1929, when that year had a head start of nearly 200 mm in November, and it is the rain December to February which is causing all the flooding.