February 2016

Period: From February 2016      Issued on 12.02.2016 using data to the end of January 2015


The outlook for February is for normal to above normal river flows and groundwater levels over the next one to three months for the majority of the UK, whilst parts of eastern and central England are likely to be normal. This spatial distribution reflects the rainfall patterns across the UK during January and early February. Groundwater levels in parts of the southern Chalk are likely to be notably high for the next one to three months, and exceptionally high levels in the Permo-Triassic sandstone of northern England and southern Scotland are likely to persist over the next three to six months. Meteorological projections indicate an equal probability of above and below-average precipitation.

Note: Up-to-date flood warnings are available from the websites of the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.


Based on projections released by the Met Office on 21 January. For both February and for February-March-April both above and below-average precipitation are equally probably. The probability that UK-average precipitation for February-March-April will fall into the driest of five equal categories is around 20% and the probability that it will fall into the wettest of the five categories is also around 20% (the 1981-2010 probability for each of these categories is 20%).

River flows

River flows for January were exceptionally high across eastern Scotland and north-eastern England, as well as in areas of Wales and south-western England. New January flow records were registered in several catchments within these regions, and eastern Scotland experienced severe flooding. River flows were above normal and notably high across much of the rest of the UK. Whilst meteorological projections display an equal probability of above and below-average precipitation, saturated soils in many parts of the UK indicate that even with normal rainfall, flows are likely to be above normal. Consequently, and following a wet start to February, the one to three month projections of river flows across the UK are primarily normal to above normal, with normal river flows likely to be confined to parts of eastern and central England. 


The rainfall received during December and January brought groundwater levels into, or above, their normal range across most aquifers. The rapidly responding Chalk aquifers along the south coast rose quickly, and are likely to stay notably high over the next one to three months. In other parts of the Chalk levels will generally be normal or above normal; where they are currently below normal in some aquifers in central and eastern England the trend is for rising levels. In Yorkshire drier conditions in January have slowed the rate of increase seen since December, but levels should remain above normal over the next three months. The Permo-Triassic sandstone aquifers in northern Britain characteristically respond slowly, and this means that the exceptionally high levels recorded in these aquifers will be likely to persist over the next three to six months.

Further information - February 2016

Comprehensive further information that supports the production of the Hydrological Outlook UK is available here.