For anyone who keeps a vague eye on the news or weather, it’s not hard to notice the number of flood warnings and storms we’ve seen so far this year. Fields have been turned into lakes, footpaths into swamps, and the number of road closures around rivers has caused major disruptions up and down the country. But why are we seeing so much more rain this year compared to previous years?

According to Met Office data, so far in the 2023/24 storm season (running from early September to late August), the UK has seen ten named storms. That averages out to about one storm every two and a half weeks. The 2022/23 storm season in comparison only saw four named storms, two of which occurred in August 2023, right at the end of the recording period. With an increased number of storms bringing heavy rain in such quick succession, fields and parks barely have time to drain before a new onslaught waterlogs them once more.

Studies across the UK have found that the 50-year water levels of the 1950s (the greatest height a river is expected to reach once in a 50-year period) are now occurring in many places less than every ten years. Since 1959, the 50-year water level has increased by more than 10%, meaning that floods now have not only become more common but are getting bigger.

So why are they occurring so much more at the moment? Climate change is the obvious answer, and while it does have an influence, there are other factors driving this surge in flooding. Natural climate variations see rivers cycle through periods of greater and lesser flood risk. Between 1960 and 1990, the UK saw a low flooding spell, meaning we are now in a flood-rich period in line with this pattern. For this particular season, though, many storms and heavy rainfalls are being influenced by the jet stream. According to the Met Office, over recent months, the jet stream has been directed largely towards the UK and Ireland, bringing with it deeper low-pressure systems that eventually become storms. A band of sinking cold air across North America influenced the most recent two, Isha and Jocelyn; the temperature contrast intensified the jet stream and caused the violent winds and lashing rain that put half of the country under home arrest.

For now, while there don’t seem to be any more storms on the way in the near future, we’re still in for plenty of rain. But with spring setting in and the temperature warming up, hopefully flooded roads and constant weather warnings can be a thing of the past. For this year at least.

Edited by: Connor Forbes

Design by: Connor Forbes


Rachael Alvey is a Contributor to LABEL and the Union President-Elect for the 2024-2025 term

Comments are closed.