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Winter was Norfolk’s worst-ever for gales

A flood warden replacing sand bags outside premises on the quay at Wells. Picture: Ian Burt A flood warden replacing sand bags outside premises on the quay at Wells. Picture: Ian Burt

Friday, March 28, 2014
3:08 PM

This winter saw the UK battered by the heaviest rainfall and most frequent severe gales on record this winter, according to scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

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Researchers have studied long-term records dating back to 1871. Figures show four of the six most severe flood episodes since then have occurred in the last 30 years.

Meanwhile data on wind patterns shows that the UK was battered by 10 very severe gales – almost double the previous record, set more than a century ago.

While Norfolk escaped the torrential rain and flooding which has seen areas of the country from Somerset to the Thames Valley submerged, parts of the county are still recovering from last December’s storm surge.

Gale force winds, spring tides and a low pressure system combined, causing damage to homes and businesses around the coastline.

Dr Colin Harpham from UEA’s Climatic Research Unit said: “We had more severe gales than any other winter since 1871. Usually we might expect to see one or two severe gales in a year, and the previous record was six in 1909, so 10 really is a phenomenal amount.

“Our records also show that four of the six most severe flooding episodes have happened in the last 30 years which is very unusual. High amounts of rainfall are closely linked to the number of deep low pressure centres.

“By looking back over 150 years we are able to place recent extreme weather in a historical context. This was clearly the stormiest period of weather experienced by the UK for at least 20 years. But our data also shows that these sorts of weather conditions are becoming more frequent.

“When it comes to temperatures, it was very mild – 1.50C above average and the fifth warmest on record.

In 2008, Prof Wilby and Prof Hayley Fowler at Newcastle University predicted that the first signs of climate change could be detectable in winter rainfall records for Southwest England as early as the 2020s.

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