Monday, 26 November 2012

The world according to Snafu - Forty and one

It has possibly come to everyone’s attention that Britain has been suffering from some unusual weather recently and since 2007, rainfall has become extremely variable, ranging from intense and unprecedented downpours to some months of drought. Since the spring of this year when a couple of dry winters had left the water suppliers in panic because they were beginning to run out, we have had intensely wet months of rain, leading to flooding all over different parts of the country. Houses, shops and businesses have been washed out and left wet and covered in stinking mud. I know from personal experience how long that smell remains after you have dried out the rest of the house. What interests me are the two figures that have come out of this, forty and one. When I was flooded out, forty years ago, the older residents all expressed huge surprise and declared to each other and the press that they had never seen the like in forty years.
Each time someone is interviewed in the recent floods, quite often, a similar declaration of surprise has been accompanied with the phrase ‘I have not seen the like in forty years!’ Obviously floods come at forty year intervals, I was flooded out forty years ago and so it seems have many others. Is this a coincidence I wonder, or real? If so, once this latest disaster has run its course, we should start thinking of a long term plan to cope with the one due in forty years from now.

The second number; ‘one’, is the reported severity of the rain. Each major flood is reported to have occurred because one month’s worth of rain has fallen in one day. Since the figure, ‘one month’s rain’ must be based on averages, and we have now heard that figure several times in the last few months, it means that the average rainfall in any given month, even if only for one day in the month when this figure is quoted, the rainfall for that month must have at least doubled. Because this phrase recently has occurred several times in one month, then the average monthly rainfall for this year must have tripled at least and maybe even quadrupled. This means that when reporters and weathermen tell us a month’s rain is about to fall, we should take to the hills or build an ark, or something, because that latest average figure must by now imply an absolutely Biblical amount of rain.


  1. I think the 40 years is a generic expression of a long time. Because I can remember reporting on serious floods in Northants, following similar unexpected downpours, in 1983. So that's 30 (ish) years really.

    And York used to get it every year, until they built the flood defences, then it moved to Selby.

    But 40 years sounds impressive.

  2. An interesting hypothesis, snafu!