Global meteorological influences on the record UK rainfall of winter 2013-14

Jeff R Knight, Anna Maidens, Peter A G Watson, Martin Andrews, Stephen Belcher, Gilbert Brunet, David Fereday, Chris K Folland, Adam A Scaife, Julia Slingo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


The UK experienced record average rainfall in winter 2013–14, leading to widespread and prolonged flooding. The immediate cause of this exceptional rainfall was a very strong and persistent cyclonic atmospheric circulation over the North East Atlantic Ocean. This was related to a very strong North Atlantic jet stream which resulted in numerous damaging wind storms. These exceptional meteorological conditions have led to renewed questions about whether anthropogenic climate change is noticeably influencing extreme weather. The regional weather pattern responsible for the extreme UK winter coincided with highly anomalous conditions across the globe. We assess the contributions from various possible remote forcing regions using sets of ocean–atmosphere model relaxation experiments, where winds and temperatures are constrained to be similar to those observed in winter 2013–14 within specified atmospheric domains. We find that influences from the tropics were likely to have played a significant role in the development of the unusual extra-tropical circulation, including a role for the tropical Atlantic sector. Additionally, a stronger and more stable stratospheric polar vortex, likely associated with a strong westerly phase of the stratospheric Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO), appears to have contributed to the extreme conditions. While intrinsic climatic variability clearly has the largest effect on the generation of extremes, results from an analysis which segregates circulation-related and residual rainfall variability suggest that emerging climate change signals made a secondary contribution to extreme rainfall in winter 2013–14.
Original languageEnglish
Article number074001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2017


  • winter 2013–14
  • floods
  • UK rainfall
  • atmospheric circulation
  • Rossby waves
  • climate change

Cite this