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Flooding Worst in Modern Records for Southern England

By: Christopher C. Burt, 9:26 PM GMT on February 21, 2014

Flooding Worst in Modern Records for Southern England

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the recent flooding in southern England as “biblical” following the wettest December-January period on record. The Thames River has been flowing at its highest level for longer than any period since 1883 according to news sources.

Submerged homes in an unidentified neighborhood in southern England. Getty images.

Some 5000 homes have been flooded in southern England with the Somerset region worst affected where 150 square miles of land have been submerged by floodwaters. Damage from the floods is now estimated to have surpassed US$1 billion (630 million pounds sterling).

Satellite images of Somerset before the flooding and after (as of January 23, 2014).

A map of the rivers in flood in southern England that also shows the location of Somerset where much of the worst flooding has occurred. This was the situation as of February 12th. Map courtesy of The Economist magazine.

The floods are a result of an almost continuous series of powerful Atlantic storms sweeping over the U. K. since early December. One of the strongest of these storms hit just last week bringing winds of over 75 mph to a wide area. The container ship Svendborg Maersk was overwhelmed by 30-foot seas and 60-knot winds in the Bay of Biscay and lost 520 full containers overboard. This was the greatest container loss on record for a single incident (discounting, of course, vessels that have sunk or vanished in the past).

There is no end in site to the bad weather for England as the current and forecast surface charts show:

Current (Friday February 21st) synoptic chart and forecast chart (for Monday February 24th) continue to show a parade of storms sweeping across the Atlantic and impacting the U.K. with more rain and wind. Maps for U.K. Met Office, Crown copyright.

Below is a map of where the flood situation stands as of Friday February 21st:

Severe flood warnings continue for the Somerset region in southeastern England and 43 flood warnings and 109 flood alerts are also currently posted for most of the south-central portions of the country. Map created by Shoothill and published by the Environment Agency. You can follow the flood situation and updates of the above map on the Environment Agency web site here.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Extra-tropical Storms Flood

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

We are the asteroid now.

Thanks Dr Burt, I feel it's worth pointing out though the entire rainfall total for the UK. It's a more indicative and clearly readable weather story than flooding data alone: you can clearly see a more southerly tracking jet, consistently strong lows crossing the UK itself leading to ample coastal south-easterlies running up against the hills (which is why Aberdeenshire in Scotland was extremely wet, with SErlies hitting the mountains, when it normally benefits from a rain shadow off the Cairngorms to the prevailing south-west)

There is no doubt that the outbreaks of bitter cold in the eastern US have fed an extreme Atlantic storm cycle, if only because the storms stayed south of the normal winter track. As the above data shows, northern Scotland actually had a very dry (!) January: solely because the usual parade of storms hit 600 miles south of the location.
There've been several news stories talking about heaviest snow in 50 years in Tehran, "unprecedented snowfall" and so forth. Have you heard whether Tehran had a record snow? The news stories don't say how much fell in the city itself. Also curious about how much snow fell in Rasht.

Iran takes emergency measures to tackle unprecedented snowfall

Iran snow cuts power to nearly 500,000 homes

Heaviest snowstorm in 50 years blankets northern Iran
I do remember there being a rather large snowstorm of similar size a couple years ago in northern Iran. The country is on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea and receives the same lake-effect type snowfall we get here around the Great Lakes. When ever the wind lines up down the length of the Caspian just right Iran gets slammed.
I remember also sullivanweather. There were accounts of a meter of snow at Rasht on the beaches. (90 feet below sea level)
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