LAST year was the wettest in the North East perhaps since the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago. That’s the verdict from Tim Burt, Professor of Geography at Durham University.
Rainfall records are one of the areas of research for Prof Burt, who runs the university’s weather observatory.
He has now compiled his observatory report for 2012 which confirms it was the wettest since records began at Durham in 1850.
“It was an extraordinary year and dramatically wet,” says Prof Burt.
Last year also set a new record of six days when more than an inch of rain fell.
He described the rainfall total for the year of 1,033mm as remarkable, and 100mm greater than the previous record holder of 1872.
Climate change predictions for Britain have forecast milder winters and wetter summers, and more extreme weather.
Interestingly, 2011 was the warmest year on record in the region and it has now been followed by the wettest.
Prof Burt said that one factor could be the melting rate of Arctic ice and its effect on atmospheric conditions and circulation patterns, with air from the Atlantic being directed over Britain.
Yet 2012 started with a mild, dry and the third sunniest January since 1882 to be recorded in Durham.
February was another very dry, mild month, with a maximum temperature of 17.4C on the 28th – the warmest February day in Durham since records began.
It was the third sunniest winter on record (238.6 hours), beaten only in 2000 and 2007.
March was the second warmest on record at Durham, only exceeded by 1938.
It was also a very dry month and added to the driest start to a calendar year at Durham since 1973 and the eighth driest start since 1850.
Prof Burt says: “At the end of March, Durham was just like the rest of Eastern England in suffering from a developing drought, with growing anxiety about possible water shortages during the summer. How wrong we were!”
There have been 21 years since 1850 when March has been warmer than April and that was the case last year, with the second largest ever difference in temperatures between the two months.
It was also a very wet April – with much more to come. After near drought, the deluge.
It was the ninth year since 1882 when the number of hours of bright sunshine in March exceeded that for May.
June was an extremely poor month in all respects. Daytime temperatures were particularly disappointing, with average maximum temperature well below normal.
It was the third wettest June at Durham since 1850, and easily the dullest since 1882, with three hours less bright sunshine per day than normal.
July was another very poor month for sunshine and temperatures with above-average rainfall.
Only six days in August had more than six hours’ sunshine and again rainfall was higher than average.
September brought exceptionally heavy rainfall and flooding.
October was a cold month and November was another extra- ordinary month for rainfall. It rained for 11 hours on the 25th, for 19 hours on the 27th and, remarkably, rainfall was recorded in each and every hour on the 26th. By the end of November it was already the wettest year on record at Durham.
December was the wettest since 1978.