Southwell's 2013 flooding caused by worst UK rain since 1901, says weather expert Jim Rothwell
7:45am Sat Aug 09, 2014
A former meteorologist based in Southwell has shared his research into last year’s flooding of the town.
FORMER meteorologist Mr Jim Rothwell with the weather monitoring equipment at his Southwell home. 050814JT3-5
FORMER meteorologist Mr Jim Rothwell with the weather monitoring equipment at his Southwell home. 050814JT3-5
Mr Jim Rothwell, of Archer’s Field, said the amount of rain that fell was the most that could possibly fall at one time in the UK, given the country’s meteorological conditions.

He believes the last time so much rain had fallen in Britain was in Maidenhead in 1901.

Mr Rothwell said the unusual rainfall was caused by two storms converging in the area and being fed by warm humid air blowing into the storm.

He said: “If you feed the beast then it will grow.

“I expected it to be a thunder storm but I didn’t expect there to be record rainfall.

“I would say it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Mr Rothwell said during the storm, in July last year, 6.7mm of rain was recorded falling every three minutes compared with a more normal storm, such as that which hit Southwell a few weeks ago and caused small areas of localised flooding, where around 12mm of rain fell in nine minutes.

He said: “The trouble with South-well is that it’s slightly undulating and, although you don’t want a big hill, you also don’t want a long slope because the water will pool at the bottom like it did on The Ropewalk.”

Mr Rothwell, 83, said his interest in weather started when his parents’ shop in Bedford flooded when he was five.

He gave his first weather forecast aged ten when he predicted a storm during a family walk in Dovedale, Derbyshire.

Mr Rothwell left school with no qualifications to work aged 14 when his father died.

He later did national service with the RAF.

Aged 19, Mr Rothwell was working as a flight traffic control officer in Aden, Yemen, when he contracted polio and spent a year in hospital convalescing.

The illness left him 40% disabled but by May 1951 he was well enough to return to work and the RAF sent him to the Met Office base at Cranfield, where he spent four years, before being transferred to Cardington.

There, he carried out fog and rainfall research and completed his qualifications.

Mr Rothwell later worked at RAF bases including Cranwell, Swinderby and Waddington as well as a posting to Cyprus.

He was based at RAF Finningley near Doncaster for ten years, during which time he completed a degree in geography and a masters before spending three years in Cardiff until his retirement.

Since then, he has obtained a degree in history, been made a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and spent 18 years putting together the world’s longest weather record.

Mr Rothwell said: “Some people feel sorry for themselves but in that summer of 1951 I’d had polio, I wasn’t fit, I had no job prospects and no qualifications and the only way from there was up.”

Mr Rothwell has written an article about the storm in Southwell that will appear in the Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather magazine in November.

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