This past couple of weeks has seen very heavy rain for large parts of the UK. This was a photo that I took on Friday of the River Calder in my home town of Sowerby Bridge, which was at least a couple of metres higher than normal. In fact, you should normally be able to see a weir in that shot, but the water level was so high that it was invisible.
Here in Sowerby we haven’t been affected much – the River Ryburn, the town’s other river, did flood the aptly titled Water Street and a private car park briefly one night but there wasn’t any property damage. Elsewhere in Calderdale, particularly further up the valley in Mythomroyd, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, there have been serious floods which have seen people lose all of their belongings, and have found their homes uninhabitable due to flood damage. And more rain is on the way.
The problem is that we have had so much rain recently that the ground is saturated; normally at least some of the rain would be absorbed by the soil but at the moment it’s running straight off into the streams and rivers, or drainage systems. And so it only takes one heavy rain shower to overload the water courses and cause flooding. This is all GCSE Geography stuff but when you grow up in a place like York which regularly floods you tend to remember it. But whilst York now has robust flood defences, the Calder valley hasn’t been so fortunate; its lower population and less frequent incidences of flooding means that it’s less cost effective. At best, we have early warning systems in place, which essentially sound an air raid siren in case of flooding.
On Thursday, Christine and I were supposed to be going to the Great Yorkshire Show (I went last year but Christine couldn’t get time off work) – whilst it went ahead today, it has been cancelled for the rest of the week, for the first time in over 150 years. We bought advance tickets but should get a refund.
This is, of course, supposedly British summer time – for July, we’d generally expect a bit more sunshine, and certainly less rain. Maybe the odd rainy day, but not the heavy, sustained rain we’ve been getting recently. There have been ‘yellow’ severe weather warnings almost every other day of late, and some ‘orange’ ones; yellow is ‘be aware’ and orange is ‘be prepared’, one step down from red which is ‘take action’. Thankfully we haven’t had any red warnings in this area yet.
So if it’s summer, and this isn’t the norm, why is it happening? The BBC’s science editor write about the Jet Stream, which normally provides the British Isles with warm weather and is why Britain is a comparatively warm country considering our relative latitude. Normally its course varies, but it’s spent the past couple of weeks stuck in the same position, and we’re on the wrong side of it, which brings the bad weather. And it doesn’t look like it’s due to move again any time soon, which could mean that we’re stuck with the rain for the rest of the month.
Of course, every (rain) cloud has a silver lining. We had a comparatively dry winter which, earlier in the year, lead to a number of water companies instigating hosepipe bans due to the low reservoir levels and the need to preserve supplies. These have now all been lifted, as the recent wet weather has refilled the reservoirs. Of course, there’s been that much rain that hosepipes are probably redundant, but at least we’re not short of water.