The paths on either side of the Kennet as it flows through Coopers Meadow are flooded, the water has risen to within inches of the Tower Mill homes and, at Stonebridge Meadow, the islands in the middle of the Kennet have disappeared.
Yet, despite the deluge that has given Britain its heaviest recorded rainfall in the west, Marlborough has in fact escaped the worst of the downpours that have flooded acres of the West Country yet failed to drive intrepid Christmas and New Year shoppers indoors.
The year 2012 has not been the wettest ever in Marlborough, but the rainfall figures collected by Eric Gilbert at his weather station set up in 1984. But it was a close run thing – coming in at second place.
“Rainfall in 2012 was unusual but not exceptional,” he reveals. “With a total of 1112mm — some134 per cent of the long-term average and plus 279mm, it was the second wettest since my station started in 1984,” he reports.
“2012 bears many rainfall similarities to 2002, which was the wettest year with 1146mm when, as occurred this year, October, November and December totals were similar and well above average.”
And he explains: “During the 1990s, the North European climate entered a warm period with rising sea surface temperatures. Much of our weather arrives from winds travelling over the western sea areas where they pick up moisture and the warmer air holds greater quantities of moisture.”
“Experts calculate that we now have four per cent more moisture in the atmosphere than in the 1990. Substantial daily rainfall of 10mm and above occurred 45 times in 2012, a record as the previous high of 41 was set in 2000.”
“The trend has risen by about four occurrences since the 1980s. The incidence of very heavy daily rainfall exceeding 20mm totalled eight occasions in 2012 when the average is in fact four.”
“Further evidence of greater moisture in the atmosphere is the occurrence of wet days when daily rainfall is equal to or greater than 1mm. Again the trend is upward with an increase of 4 occurrences annually since the 1980s.”
“Additionally the trend for annual rainfall is rising giving an annual average increase of around 15mm since 1984.”
December nevertheless was outstanding with rainfall total of 155mm making it the wettest since 1984. With an aggregate of 28.0mm on December 19, it was the second wettest day in 2012.
In fact, the December daily record for rainfall of 39.5mm was set on December 20 in 1989. The highest daily rainfall for the Marlborough weather station was set on May 27, 2007 when 45.4mm was recorded.
The statistics have provided a fascinating period for 70-year-old Eric Gilbert, who started recording meteorological statistics when a teenager with a simple maximum/minimum thermometer and logging other details from a domestic barometer, graphed on sheets of squared paper.
“Only much later, when my career indicated a longer residence in Marlborough, did I start to build a quality weather station in 1984,which required manual recording,” he says. “Towards the end of my teaching career I spent six years as deputy head at St Peter’s Junior School in Marlborough followed by 14 years as a head teacher in Swindon.”
“In 2009, I installed the most advanced wireless equipment consisting of an extensive range of instruments.”
He is convinced that climate change is now a fact.
“A look on my website at the temperature details for spring, or the annual data, shows quite clearly the rising trend,” he reveals. “There are other rising trends such as rainfall.”
“I enjoy working with statistics and graphs. My recordings now extend to almost 30 years, which makes more useful and relevant comparisons possible.”
And he adds: “The reasons for the disappointing year of 2012 is principally due to the unusually persistent southerly position of the Gulf Stream, the boundary between warm, moist Equatorial air and cold air from the Arctic.”
“Experts are not sure what the reason is for this phenomenon but suggest it might either be due to the warmer surface temperatures of the Atlantic or the melting of the Arctic Ice.”
“My data is forwarded monthly to the Climatological Observers Link that has connections with the Meteorological Office. The readings are taken daily at 0800 GMT. There is also added interest and satisfaction in supplying a range of data for requests from local people, students and businesses – and Marlborough News Online.”