Weatherwatch: the forgotten drought before the Somerset floods

Early 2010 to 2012 was the equal driest period for a century – and then came the rain

Many people, especially where I live in the south-west of England, remember the Somerset floods of winter 2013-14, which followed the very wet spring and summer of 2012. But few recall that for two years before the first of those wet periods, many parts of England and Wales endured one of the most prolonged droughts in recent times. The dry spell lasted more than two years, only coming to an end in March 2012.

It all started with a long, dry period from January to June 2010, during which the water levels dropped in many reservoirs, resulting in an early hosepipe ban in some areas. A year later, after a brief respite with more normal levels of rainfall, spring 2011 was exceptionally dry, with wildfires breaking out and farmers struggling to harvest their crops during the summer and autumn, which continued to be very dry.

By March 2012, things were looking even worse. By then, the previous two years had been the equal driest since 1910, that dubious honour shared with the period from April 1995 to March 1997. Then came the rains, which began to fall in April 2012 and continued right through to the summer. The drought was finally over; but new problems were just around the corner.


Stephen Moss

The GuardianTramp

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