A monster storm named Ruth will bring winds of up to 80mph and as much as 1.6 inches of rain to parts of southern and central England this weekend. Perhaps most dangerous are the huge waves — some may reach 35 feet — expected to crash into the Cornish coast. In response to Ruth, the Environment Agency has issued three severe flood warnings, which indicate risk of loss of life, as well as 187 flood warnings and 280 flood alerts. In the Chertsey area of Surrey, the River Thames has burst its banks and home-owners are bracing for flooding.
As the western U.S. continues to struggle through a record-breaking drought that is fast depleting the water supplies for major cities and is forecast to hike food prices nationwide in the months to come, across the Atlantic in Great Britain the problem continues to be too much water — relentless storms that have transformed fields in southern and central England into shallow lakes.
According to data from the Met Office, last month was the wettest January on record — since 1910 — for Devon, Kent, and much of the midlands. Records from the world’s longest-running weather station at Oxford University show that the rainfall measured there in January was the most for any winter month since 1767, and was three times the average precipitation recorded.
Andrew Barrett, a storm expert at the University of Reading, told the Guardian that, “The conditions are exactly right to bring wet weather across Britain. There’s effectively a storm factory over the Atlantic, caused by cold polar air pressing up against warm, tropical air, causing weather systems to form. These have then been steered across Britain by a strong jet stream.”
Some scientists believe that the melting of the Arctic ice cap has caused the jet stream to track further south, leading to more storms channeled across the UK. Over the last two months, more than 5,000 homes in Britain have been flooded and a key stretch of railroad between Devon and Cornwall remains impassable.
On Thursday, the UK government pledged an extra £30 million for flood repairs and maintenance this year, on top of £100 million previously announced to be spent next year.