Review of 2012: Charting the year’s extreme weather

As 2012 draws to a close we take a look at some of the events that marked the year. For many it will be the year’s extreme weather that will stick in the memory. 

This year’s weather extremes, from drought to flooding, were unprecedented, say climatologists.

The drought in England this spring, which saw hosepipe bans across many southern counties, was followed by the wettest April to June on record for the UK.

Flooding hit almost every region from May to July, ruining the harvest hopes for many farmers and adding to the busy workload.

Harvest 2012 will go down as one of the latest on record, with most farmers finishing two weeks later than normal.

Record-breaking wet weather resulted in shrivelled grain and low bushel weights. Poor crop yields meant productivity was down to 1980s levels, the NFU said.

A survey of NFU arable growers found mixed yields across all main crops after a summer of persistent and occasionally torrential rain. Winter wheat was badly affected, down 14.1% on the five-year average from 7.8t/ha to 6.7t/ha.

NFU chief combinable crops adviser Guy Gagen said the 2012 harvest was one “many would want to forget”.

The poor weather also wreaked havoc on livestock farms, devastating fodder crops and forcing farmers to buy in grain for feed.

Farmers looking for breaks in the weather to complete winter cereal planting saw little joy. The UK’s second wettest summer in 100 years, according to the Met Office, gave way to the wettest start to autumn for 12 years.

A wet October and November meant many growers abandoned plans to drill autumn cereal crops and turned their attention towards securing enough spring seed.

University of East Anglia climatologist Clare Goodess warned farmers to “adapt to changes in weather extremes over the coming years”.

More on this topic

See our interactive weather map