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Welcome rainfall for most drought-affected areas of England, new UK Hydrological Summary for June 2011 shows

14 July 2011

Aerial view across Derwent

Following three months dominated by anticyclonic conditions, a return to frontal weather patterns brought welcome rainfall to most drought-affected areas of England during June. Whilst this provided some relief from the agricultural stress caused by extremely dry soils, the rainfall was not sufficient to ameliorate the drought conditions significantly. 

Owing to the high evaporative demands typical of June, effective rainfall was modest and soil moisture deficits continued to develop, contributing to heathland fires. Authorities declared drought status on June 10th in parts of eastern England and areas of the Midlands were considered "at-risk". 

The above analysis is contained within the latest monthly hydrological summary for the UK (for June 2011) produced by the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme, operated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in conjunction with the British Geological Survey.

Whilst reservoir stocks for England and Wales stood just above average entering July, stocks remained depressed in most reservoirs in southern England (notably in the southwest: Wimbleball equalled its lowest July stocks on record) with decreases also registered in some Pennine reservoirs (Derwent Valley group was 17% below average). With substantially elevated soil moisture deficits a feature across much of England, given only average summer rainfall the decline in runoff, groundwater and reservoir levels can be expected to last well into the autumn, significantly delaying the typical seasonal recovery. 

Jamie Hannaford, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “The June rainfall resulted in a marked recovery in runoff rates in some areas (e.g. Wales), but only moderate river flow response in the driest areas. Despite some improvement to the water resources situation, the drought is still in evidence, albeit with appreciable local variations in severity. Across much of England, in response to long-term rainfall deficiencies, seasonal recessions continued and river flows and groundwater levels remained well below the June average.”

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology jointly operates the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme (NHMP) in conjunction with the British Geological Survey. NHMP scientists produce the UK Monthly Hydrological Summary which assesses rainfall, river flows, groundwater and reservoir levels. They also operate the National River Flow archive. The NHMP has a remit to analyse major flood and drought events in the UK and analyse long term trends in UK hydrological data. The Programme was set up in 1988 and relies on the active co-operation of measuring authorities throughout the UK.

Additional information

Read the full June 2011 Hydrological Summary for the UK [PDF, 2.39mb]

Details of the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme

What is a drought? - NHMP Briefing Note

CEH’s Water Science Programme

Datasets hosted by CEH: National River Flow Archive, National Water Archive and others

Media enquiries related to the Hydrological Summaries should be directed to the CEH Press Office. Our scientists can provide explanation and analysis of historic hydrological patterns, possible future scenarios under climate change and scientific understanding of the current situation. We are not able to comment on immediate operational issues.

If you wish to reproduce figures from the Monthly Hydrological Summary please respect the copyright credits contained within the document.


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