UK warned it faces an increasingly wet future

UK may face a future of downpours and floods.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 4 January

UK warned it faces an increasingly wet future

The UK experienced its second wettest year on record in 2012, with warnings that the country faces a future of increasing downpours and floods.

Government scientists announced on Thursday that the previous 12 months have been – as many people around the country who have been flooded would have already realised – unusually wet.

The persistent rainy weather led to 1,330.7mm of rainfall in 2012, just a few millimetres short of the highest recorded annual total, set in 2000.

Four of the top five years in these records – which stretch back more than a century – have come in the last 12 years.

Not only is the country getting wetter but the rain is coming in shorter, more intense bursts – one of the reasons for the increased flooding, because the water arrives too fast to soak into the ground.

The increased rainfall, and its greater intensity, has added to the debate about global warming, the idea that humans and industry are affecting the climate of the world by releasing gases and chemicals into the atmosphere.

Many scientists believe that if average global temperatures continue to rise – they have climbed by small but significant amounts in the last two centuries – the intense rainstorms experienced by this country will only get worse.

The past year saw ten separate flooding events hitting different regions. At the end of April, parts of Devon and Cornwall saw more than 24 hours of continuous rain, while in late June, Honister in Cumbria saw 200mm of rainfall in one day.

The Met Office – the Government's weather forecaster – said that more extreme rainfall was being seen around the world, in countries such as India and China, and now in the UK.

Mike Childs, head of policy at campaign group Friends of the Earth, said that he expected to see extreme weather events such as intense rainfall become more common as global warming took hold.

"We must end our dependency on dirty fossil fuels and reap the benefits of energy efficiency and developing clean power from the wind, waves and sun," he said.


  • What problems or difficulties can be caused by too much rain?
  • Can you think of any benefits that could come with increased rainfall?
  • Do you think that rainy weather affects the mood of a country? If so, how?
  • How could we find out if our region is at risk of flooding? What precautions can be taken to protect against flood damage?

Related resources

Weather bingo

  • A great game to play with your class either as a starter or plenary or even a back to school activity.

How do we put weather forecasts together?

  • A lovely set of PowerPoint-based activities about how weather forecasts are put together and why.

Types of rainfall in the UK

  • Help pupils to understand the science of rainfall with these excellent worksheets and activities.

Flood response team

  • Ask your pupils to create a flood and evacuation plan with this timely activity.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

Data from a national census conducted in 2011 has revealed that the UK is in the midst of "an astonishing era of demographic change", with the number of foreign-born residents rising by nearly three million since 2001.

Sir Patrick Moore, the popular astronomer and broadcaster, has died aged 89.

A Swedish artist has claimed he stole ashes from a Nazi extermination camp to create a painting now being displayed in one of the country's galleries.

Scientists have rediscovered dinosaur fossils which predate the earliest previous specimens by 10-15 million years, a new study in Biology Letters suggests.

In the news archive index