THE year that saw the North East devastated by repeat floods was the wettest on record, new figures show.
More rain fell in the North East in 2012 than in any other year since records began in 1910, the Met Office has said.
In Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle 1228.8mm of rain fell, 37% more than average for the area. This topped the previous record of 1117.3mm, which was set in 2008.
Sunderland, County Durham, Gateshead and South Tyneside saw 1202.8mm of rain, 44% more than average. The previous record of 1091.7mm was set in 2000. The figures come in the wake of floods that battered the region last year.
In July, the “Great Tyneside Storm” brought misery to families across the North East.
Two further floods arrived on August 5 and then on September 5, just as people were trying to get back on their feet.
The cost of the destruction was estimated to have cost in excess of £100m.
Nationally, 2012 was the wettest ever year in England, but only the 40th wettest in Northern Ireland, the 17th wettest in Scotland and the third wettest in Wales.
The Met Office has warned that extreme rainfall, and the floods it can cause, is getting more frequent, possibly as a result of climate change.
Extreme rainfall is classed as the sort of heavy downpour that only occurs once every 100 days on average, but the latest figures show that such storms are now occurring about once every 70 days.
Britain’s average annual rainfall has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years, with the 30-year average rising from 1100mm in 1961-1990 to 1154mm in 1981-2010. Professor Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the Met Office, said: “The trend towards more extreme rainfall events is one we are seeing around the world, in countries such as India and China, and now potentially here in the UK.
“Much more research is needed to understand more about the causes and potential implications.
“It’s essential we look at how this may impact our rainfall patterns going forward over the next decade and beyond, so we can advise on the frequency of extreme weather in the future and the potential for more surface and river flooding.
“This will help inform decision-making about the need for future resilience both here in the UK and globally.”
The Met Office said changes in sea surface temperatures because of decreasing Arctic sea ice is one possible cause for the changes in weather patterns.
Another possibility is that an increase in global air temperatures since pre-industrial times has led to more moisture in the atmosphere, bringing with it a greater potential for heavy rain.