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Looking back at the weather and flooding events in 2020

Looking back at the weather patterns and flood events over the past year, we see that climate change is continuing to affect us, with sunny springs and stormy summers. We also notice the changes that have happened due to coronavirus disrupting our normal day-to-day lives from early in the year.

2020 marks the end of the warmest 10-year period on record, with 2020 itself being the second warmest year at around 1.28°C above pre-industrial levels. The spring of 2020 brought the sunniest spring with 626.2 hours of sunshine, and May broke records as the sunniest month on record. Alongside this, 2020 also ended up being the sixth wettest year since 1862 and the eighth sunniest year since 1919!

A summer that saw the third hottest UK day ever in July (37.8°C) and a major heatwave at the start of August, was then followed by two summer storms, Ellen and Francis, at the end of August. The new 2020/21 storm season started with two storms in October and we’ve already seen Storm Christoph in January of 2021. What will the rest of the year bring?

Flood events

November 2019 – Flooding in Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and West Midlands

December 2019 – Incidents reported across the country, mainly flooded roads and disruption to transport, with properties flooding in South West England.

February 2020 – This was the wettest February on record with 237% of its average rainfall, due to Storms Ciara and Dennis. Storm Ciara impacted the UK from 8th – 9th, followed by Storm Dennis from 15th – 16th, and finally the Spanish Storm Jorge which travelled up and affected the UK on the 28th February and 1st March. This caused flooding across the country from Yorkshire to the Midlands and into the south.

August 2020 – Between 19th and 25th August, Storm Ellen and Storm Francis brought some unseasonable weather and strong winds to England, Wales and the Isle of Wight which caused travel disruption, power outages and coastal flooding.

October 2020 – The French Storm Alex had limited flooding impacts from 2nd – 4th. The first named storm of the Met Office 2020/21 season, Storm Aiden on the 31st, affected upland areas of the UK with travel disruption to western Scotland and localised flooding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

December 2020 – Bedfordshire was affected by heavy rain and flooding on Christmas Eve with homes being evacuated. Storm Bella then arrived from 26th – 27th with heavy rain, strong winds, and 2020’s highest recorded wind gust of 106mph on the Isle of Wight. The heavy rain fell on already saturated ground which caused flooding to properties in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire.

January 2021 – From 18th – 20th January, Storm Christoph brought lots of rain to Wales and North West England, affecting Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire with flooding to properties. Around 2,000 homes were evacuated in South Manchester. For North West England and North Wales, this was one of the wettest 3-day periods on record!

Flooding in Ribchester, Lancashire in February 2020

Effects of coronavirus

Whilst coronavirus has affected everyone with both their work and home lives, it has also affected people’s flood resilience and ability to prepare for future flood events. This is because community flood action groups have been unable to meet face-to-face to develop actions plans and discuss progress with agencies and Risk Management Authorities (RMAs).

Flood scheme progress has also been affected in some cases. Construction works faced delays due to lockdowns, and agencies having to make changes to be compliant with government regulations. The Environment Agency have been unable to hold drop-in events for residents to update them on scheme progress and provide an opportunity for feedback, which has now been moved online. Information on progress for flood risk management schemes across the North West can be found on The Flood Hub here.

During flooding in January from Storm Christoph, many properties were advised to evacuate in South Manchester which brought uncertainty and distress to some residents worried about coronavirus after being told to stay at home throughout the year. Some residents decided to stay in their homes whilst many did make the decision to go to either an emergency assistance centre or to stay at friends and family’s homes.

Both people and agencies have had to adapt to the situation, however progress is now being made and will hopefully continue throughout this year. Take a look at the Newground Flood Team’s blog about online community engagement and how this can be used to help progress community flood resilience during the coronavirus pandemic.


Flooding in Ribchester, Lancashire in January 2021

Sources: Met Office, BBC, Manchester Evening News

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