BBC: UK drought on the way?

28th April 2017 Last updated at 12:58
By Darren Bett
BBC Weather

Have you been watering your garden? How green is your lawn? The growing season started early this year but there’s a shortage of rain – should farmers and growers be getting worried?
April continues the trend
April has been very dry – just 41% of monthly average rainfall. Scotland has been wettest and southern England again driest. Middlesex remained the driest historical county with 2.7mm of rainfall so far – just 6% of the long term average for April.
But what a crazy month it’s been! You would expect April to become warmer but the early days of the month saw maximum temperatures regularly reaching 18C … several degrees above normal. The temperature peaked on 9th April with 25C recorded in Cambridgeshire. In mid-April, the heat and lack of rain led to early season wildfires in Surrey and Hampshire nature reserves, destroying a total of 16 hectares of heath land, gorse and trees. Since then daily temperatures have fallen away. Recently, daytime highs have been typically 8C with frosts at night. This late month chill was due to an Arctic blast of northerly winds that brought snow to Scotland and other northern hills, and for some places their first rain of the month.

Are we heading for a drought?
-October-March has been the driest in the UK for over 20 years
-Dry weather and warmth has led to very dry soils
-Particularly dry in southeast England. Only one month in the last 10 has shown above average rainfall
-Environment Agency, water companies, businesses and farmers are working together to minimise any potential impacts
-A continued lack of rainfall could lead to water restrictions

Lack of rainfall has led to the River Colne in Hertfordshire drying up, bringing fears for wildlife.

Why has it been so dry?
Areas of high pressure have dominated the weather pattern for months. Any bands of rain, typically coming down from the northwest, have weakened on progression across the UK. There were also fewer named storms than last year – an indication that the weather was less ‘energetic’ and more settled. There were only 5 named storms impacting the UK last Autumn and Winter compared with 11 the previous year.

By late April Bewl Water is usually full to capacity. Water companies also rely on aquifers and boreholes

Any rain in sight?

You can usually bank on the weather changing for a holiday weekend. Winds from the south are lifting temperatures but lowering pressure brings the likelihood of rain, especially in the southwest of the UK. This rainfall looks short-lived with high pressure forecast to build back across the UK over the coming week. The monthly outlook from the Met Office hints at settled weather being dominant in May with near or above average temperatures.
The outlook issued by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology indicates that below-normal river flows and groundwater levels are likely to prevail over the next three months in Southeast England, and could be very low in some places. If this situation persists, it could potentially lead to some pressure on water resources in the summer.
Bear in mind that the weather can change dramatically, as we saw in 2012. At the end of March that year, half of Britain was in drought. What followed was the wettest April-June ever and widespread flooding!

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