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It's raining, it's pouring

By Claire Hattam, Principal Planning Consultant – 03 May 2024

A group of people holding umbrellas in the rain


Claire Hattam standing against a light blue patterned wall

Claire Hattam

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As a nation, we Brits are notorious for complaining about the weather. It's no secret that we've been experiencing a lot of rain lately. In fact, the past 18 months have been the wettest in the UK's recorded history, which goes back 200 years. And it's still raining. Spring is well-underway, however there has not been much respite from persistent rainfall in recent weeks.

Since 1830, when accurate records from the MET office began, the UK's average annual rainfall has exceeded 1,300mm average per year on 11 occasions, seven of which have been in the past 25 years. Over the same 200-year period, the average rainfall has increased from about 1,000mm/year to 1,175mm/year. Interestingly, there is a correlation between the percentage increase in UK average land and sea temperatures and the percentage increase in rainfall.

Then there's the matter of the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation), a climate pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean. Recent evidence shows that the positive phase of ENSO is getting stronger, and the negative phase is getting weaker. When the positive phase is strong, it brings warmer seas and more rain to the UK. This, combined with global climate change, could make our rainfall even heavier.

So, it's not just a case of April showers. There is clear evidence that this prolonged period of wet and stormy weather directly results from climate change. This has not only been unpleasant and prevented us from enjoying our leisure time to the fullest but also poses significant challenges for the built environment sector. With an increasing number of flooding events and extreme flooding, this is something that is likely to get worse over time.

As a multidisciplinary company, we have valuable technical expertise that supports our clients in tackling these challenges. It's an opportune time for our planning, sustainability, civil engineering, and geotechnical teams to share their insights on the key implications of persistent rainfall and flooding events, and how these barriers can be successfully addressed and delivered.