When the rains came

Longest drought for 2 years
by Philip Eden

Last Saturday the Trooping the Colour ceremony in London was rained on rather heavily, as was the one-day international cricket match at Chester-le-Street. Newspaper reporters started asking whether it was the wettest June on record. Unfortunately two wet days do not make a record-breaking month.

The general weather pattern which prevailed during the first half of June also conspired to hide the fact that there was very little rain - we tend not to notice a shortage of rain during cool and cloudy periods. Averaged over England and Wales there was only 12mm of rain during the first 14 days of June, little more than one-third of the normal amount.

The dryness was most marked in southwest England where Yeovilton in Somerset and Falmouth in Cornwall recorded no significant rain between May 18 and June 13 inclusive, a period of 27 consecutive days. This was the longest rainless period anywhere in England since July/August 1999 when parts of southern England experienced a 31-day dry spell beginning on July 3.

For the record, the longest rainless period in recent years occurred in the summer of 1995 when the rains stayed away for 42 days at Margate in Kent, while the longest such drought on record extended to 73 days at Mile End in east London during spring 1893.

When the rains finally arrived they arrived with a vengeance. Rain on Thursday 14th was sporadic, but Friday 15th was much wetter with what many weather-forecasters call 'heavy showers' - to most of us they are 'torrential downpours' - breaking out across much of England and Wales. Some of these downpours were accompanied by hail and thunder. From the limited data to hand, the wettest place was RAF Leeming in the Vale of York where 53mm, about a month's worth, fell in a couple of hours. About the same amount fell at Norwich on Saturday night.