By Tim Groves
The Met Office has confirmed that 2012 was the second wettest year on record for the UK as a whole with a total of 1,330.7mm (52.4 inches) of rainfall.
The total was only 6.6mm (0.26 inches) less than the record figure set in 2000 and, whilst it was the second wettest year since 1910 for the UK, it was actually the wettest ever year for England.
There was as much as a third more rain than usual in England last year, with 15 per cent more than normal falling in the whole of the UK and a total of 8,000 homes and businesses were flooded, leaving owners having to claim on their insurance policies.
And the Met Office has revealed that 2012 was not just a one off as four of the top five wettest years on record have been since the turn of the century, 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2012, and average long-term rainfall has risen by 5 per cent between 1961-1990 and 1981-2010.
The preliminary evidence suggests that the country is experiencing slightly more annual rainfall as the years go by and Professor Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the Met Office, says there is also potentially a "trend towards more extreme rainfall events".
She believes more research needs to be carried out into both the causes of the increase in rainfall and the patterns in order to help with "decision-making" and predicting the "frequency of extreme weather" and the prospect of flooding in future.
There were hosepipe bans in many areas at the beginning of last year after two relatively dry winters in the UK but persistent and heavy rain then caused floods in some places and the country experienced its wettest summer for a century.
April and June were record months for rainfall and the wet weather had an adverse effect on wildlife, with only a small number of species such as slugs and orchids doing well, and farmers' crops.
The Met Office has stressed that it is largely a global trend though, with Julia Slingo citing "India and China" as other countries suffering more extreme rainfall events, and said that rising temperatures could be to blame.
The higher temperatures lead to a warmer atmosphere that holds more moisture and that raises the potential for heavy rain. It has also been suggested that the fact there is now less Arctic sea ice and natural cycles have changed sea surface temperatures may also be having an impact.
The Met Office wants "much more research" to be conducted on various aspects of the changing weather but it states that global temperatures have officially risen by 0.7C since the start of the Industrial Revolution, meaning there is 4 per cent more moisture in the atmosphere.
Interestingly though, despite last year being the wettest on record for England and the third wettest ever for Wales, it was only the 17th wettest year in Scotland and was only 40th on the list for Northern Ireland.