Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

2012: Dry in Central U.S., Wet in U.K.

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While significant portions of the U.S. suffered under extreme drought in 2012 (including Denver, my neck of the woods), the U.K. suffered under quite a different fate: 2012 was the 2nd wettest year on record.  An astounding 1,330.7mm of precipitation fell over the U.K. in 2012, only 6mm behind the record 1337.3mm that fell in 2000.  A dry Jan-Feb-Mar (102% deficit) gave way to a very wet Apr-May-Jun (170% surplus). The last six months of the year were also wetter than usual (140% surplus).

1,330.7mm is equivalent to 52.3″ of precipitation!

As someone who is used to 15″ of precipitation (rain and snow combined)  per year in the semi-arid high plains of the U.S., 52″ of rain is unfathomable.  I’ve seen 52″ of snow on the ground, but that’s clearly not the same thing.

The BBC article notes the following: four of the five wettest years on record (dating back to 1910) have occurred since 2000.  That is an important item to remember, but so is this: that fact alone isn’t sufficient evidence that climate change is the proximate cause of wet years, though it is likely the leading candidate.  While the observation period is long (>100y), precipitation trends are difficult to ascribe to climate change.  It is much more straightforward to find anthropogenic influence in temperature records.

That said, there is no doubt that the effects of 1,300mm of precipitation were widespread and will last into 2013.

For the remainder of this century, weather phenomena will be increasingly affected by man-made emissions.  The effects will vary by region, as we saw in 2012.  The magnitude of those effects depend on how successful we are in formulating mitigation and adaptation strategies.  To date, our efforts have been too few and ineffectual.  As impacts become more apparent, even recalcitrant elected officials will have to support shifts in policy.

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