Britain has deployed Royal Marines to help with devastating floods after what officials say is likely the worst winter rainfall in 250 years The Telegraph (Australia) Flood Devastation as UK suffers worst winter rainfall in 250 years. Friday, 7th February 2014
So what happened 100, 250, 500, 750, 1000 years ago? Did they have exceptional winters, storms and flooding?
I have chosen the following to match within a three year window, however only a small portion of ‘weather’ has been measured in scales or to a single degree, let alone tenths of a degree. The website Booty does a wonderful job of collating many of these records for the British Isles into a seamless chronological list which I quote from below.
1. A very WET March across England & Wales….within the ‘top-10’ of wet Marches in that series. The WET weather was particularly a problem for East Anglia, with local anomalies of around 200% leading to much FLOODING. In London, it was the WETTEST March until 1947.
1. 28th December: HEAVY SNOW event over England. SNOW, very thick and of an ‘unusual’ size (?) caused damage to many trees. At Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire HEAVY SNOW fell for 4 hours amounting to a depth of 18cm.
1. The WETTEST winter in the EWP series (as at 1999) with 423mm for December, January and February. At Coulsdon (Surrey) the total was some 500mm.
A notably WET winter…374mm for December, January and February… notably WET February across England & Wales.
1. A WIDESPREAD SEVERE NORTHERLY GALE (STORM TO SEVERE STORM-FORCE in southeast England) & associated BLIZZARD affected much of East Anglia, the east & south Midlands, parts of Southeast England & the West of England/West Country…Large numbers of trees brought down…HIGH WINDS/northerly (over eastern areas to at least Beaufort Force 9 or 10, with Kew Observatory reporting Force 11 for a short time early evening of the 28th as the parent low moved NE across SE England and onto the Netherlands by the 29th**)….Much DISRUPTION to transport, both road & railway, across the southeastern ‘quadrant’ of England – also large number of telephone / telegraph lines cut due to weight of snow. (**lowest PRESSURE estimated for this system 968mbar in Lyme Bay at 0100GMT on the 28th.)
1. On the 11th in 1916, 208.3 mm of RAIN fell at Kinlochewe (Kinlochquoich / western Scotland). At the time, the highest 24hr rainfall recorded in the British Isles, and now amongst the top 6 or 7 such events – still (at 2005) the HIGHEST for October.
A very wet summer across England & Wales. The anomaly is given by Lamb (in CHMW) as 181% of LTA (1916-1950), and he ranks it as the second wettest in the rain-gauge record…across Scotland, there are reports of a ‘Great drought’ during the summer…Thames flooded (possibly a fluvial event autumn / winter?).
A severe winter in western Europe, including many parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb). From (LWH) “Thames frozen” in January 1514: carts crossed from Lambeth to Westminster. This would imply extended period(s) of sub-zero temperatures, together with persistent, and perhaps strong east winds.
1264 (May to October)
Eleanor of Provence (Queen-Consort to Henry III) was frustrated by ‘bad weather’ (dates not known, but has to be late summer / early autumn 1264) in her attempt to bring troops to the aid of her husband’s cause. The Queen’s fleet was trapped by frequent spells of high wind at Sluis, Flanders…before it could cross to the Kent coast.
According to Lamb, the 13th century experienced the highest number (by some margin) of “severe sea floods” along North Sea & English Channel coasts. Although the climate across NW Europe was still generally benign (indeed, the peak of warmth of the Medieval Age may have occurred in this century), from the middle of the 13th century, an increase in ‘unsettled’ weather events has been detected by some researchers; the first signs of the descent into the ‘Little Ice Age’. It is indeed possible that the increased storminess was concentrated in the second half of the 13th century
“St. Michael’s day Flood”; Possible major flood due storm-surge (or some have “tsunami”) occurred on ‘St. Michael’s Day, which is September 29th (OS) in the western / Christian calendar. (Note that Dutch chronicles have this as September 28th). Great damage to coastal communities along the English south coast & given the impact on the eastern side of the southern North Sea, surely had a significant effect on the English side of that water.)
[ http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/chestorm.htm ]
AD 763/4 [noted as “Winter & later]
The winter is noted as being ‘severe’ .. and was followed by a ” long and terrible drought ” .. in the spring/summer of 764: suggests abnormally persistent blocking / high pressure situation (at least, ‘abnormal’ in length of persistence in the same ‘phase’), with the primary jet perhaps shunted well to the south. Some sources note ‘great snow’, with an ‘intense’ frost. In ‘London Weather’ entry, …. “one of the severest winters known in history”. (Probably affected large areas of continental Europe, again suggesting a ‘Scandinavian High’ situation.)
By this time, the storminess of the latter part of the 5th Century (q.v.) had ‘re-arranged’ some coastal alignment in East Anglia. A sea-level rise noted, BUT, Lamb considers that this may have more to do with reporting of increased frequency of inland storm-driven surges, rather than a general world-wide sea level rise. Also note that evidence of significant rise in peat bog deposits by or around this time: therefore implies greater ‘wetness’ (and presumably cyclonicity).