After a dry start, December was exceptionally stormy, with wet and very windy conditions intensifying towards year‑end. The storms caused widespread disruption, particularly to transport networks and power supply infrastructure over the final ten days of the month. More generally, floodplain inundations were widespread and remarkably sustained and the December rainfall transformed the groundwater outlook in parts of the Chalk aquifer, leading to exceptional rises in water levels, and bringing localised groundwater flooding to vulnerable areas in southern England.
The assessment is contained in the latest monthly hydrological summary for the UK, the most authoritative analysis of water resources status in the country. The monthly summaries are produced by the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme, operated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) in conjunction with the British Geological Survey.
Scotland recorded its wettest December on record and the predominance of low pressure exacerbated the risk of coastal flooding. Eastern and southern England experienced its highest storm surge since 1953. The multiple manifestations of flooding were all witnessed in December 2013, though the relative impacts of tidal, flash, fluvial and groundwater flooding varied across the country. Provisional data indicate that the Medway and the Mole in south-east England, the Piddle in south-west England and the Nith in Scotland recorded their largest flows on record for any month.
Reservoir stocks increased to very healthy levels and the overall water resource situation is good.
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology jointly operates the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme (for the UK) 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 UK’s National River Flow archive. The NHMP also has a remit to analyse major flood and drought events in the UK and analyse long term trends in UK hydrological data. The UK Monthly Hydrological Summary is published on, or before, the tenth working day, of the following month. A Hydrological Outlook for the UK is also available.
Read the full December 2013 Hydrological Summary for the UK. [PDF, 1.82MB]
Terry Marsh of the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme provided An interim update on the UK's hydrological situation on 6 January 2014 [CEH blog]
Details of the National Hydrological Monitoring Programme
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.
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