• Sryan Bruen

"Summer has been warmer and drier than normal", misleading or truthful?

Floods or heavy rainfalls have seemed to make the weather headlines more often than warm and dry weather this summer 2021 in the UK. This creates a negative picture in the minds of people that it has been quite a wet summer with little respite. Statements like "Summer has been warmer and drier than normal" from the UK Met Office might seem misleading at first sight. Let's get into the nitty gritty statistics to see factually, relative to average, just how wet or dry this summer has been so far as of late July for all regions of the UK.

The table below shows the total rainfall averages at various regions of the UK during June and July 2021. Very unusually so, the southeast England / central southern England region has been the wettest out of all through June and July 2021 with 166.5mm. This is 155% of the region's June / July average for 1991-2020 and the wettest since the exceptional wet June / July of 2012.

Normally, the wettest region tends to be western Scotland which in this case was the second driest of all regions beaten only by Northern Ireland which had its driest June / July since 1983. A complete reverse of the norm!

Rainfall totals on a UK regional basis for June / July 2021. Credit: Met Office.

If we were to look at the totals relatively speaking, we can see a clear bias in wetter than average conditions towards the southeast of England through June and including July too but a wider region had more variable rainfall during July with the wetter conditions extending further north whilst the far north and northwestern regions remained on the dry side.

UK rainfall anomaly maps for June and July 2021. Credit: Met Office.

If we were to combine the June and July anomalies, we see much more widespread drier than average conditions as compared to wetter than average with the main exception being the southeast of England. It is very clear that the southeast of England has done very poorly this summer (after starting off high with a dry first half to June) relative to most other regions of the UK in terms of rainfall with recording both the highest totals and highest positive rainfall anomaly. The London area in particular has made the news on numerous occasions being prone to heavy downpours giving away to floods. The wet weather has extended to most areas through early August but the southeast of England continued to get affected by rain from time to time.

However, it should be noted that these downpours and thunderstorms can be quite to very localised giving some towns a lot of rain at once whilst others had next to nothing and escaped. That is the nature of showers. To illustrate this, Heathrow (Greater London) has recorded approximately 185mm of rain as of August 9th which you only have to go back to 2017 to find a higher total for the same period. Meanwhile, St. James' Park (Greater London) has recorded approximately 250mm for the same period which is on course provisionally for its second wettest summer on record behind only 1987 (264mm) currently. That is over a 65mm difference between the two despite being in the same county! The difference largely comes down to Heathrow avoiding a lot of the July downpours whilst St. James' Park had its wettest July on record!

So to reiterate the title, is the Met Office statement of saying that this summer has been drier and warmer than normal misleading? To answer on behalf of the drier than normal part, well yes and no. Geographically, it has been a drier than normal season so far with most places having drier than average conditions and in the case of Northern Ireland, exceptionally dry. However, the southeast of England has faced very differently which just happens to be the most populated part of the country with including the London area of course. Therefore, it should be of no surprise that many feel the title is misleading with a lot of people experiencing the frequent downpours that this summer has brought in the southeast of England where it would normally be driest.

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