1976 UK Drought Facts: Learn How It Caused Devastating Damage! | Kidadl


1976 UK Drought Facts: Learn How It Caused Devastating Damage!

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The reservoirs go dry, plants wilt, and the ground cracks during a drought.

A drought is a period of continuous dry weather that carries on for a longer time -around three weeks- with only less than a third of the usual precipitation. Usually, Britain experiences less severe drought compared to other countries.

The United Kingdom used to have droughts once every 5-10 years. When it came, drought-impacted the agriculture, economy, and ecosystem of a country. The southern and eastern coasts of Britain were severely affected because of their density of population. The aftermath of the drought and its management was complicated compared to more drought-prone areas like the United States and Australia.

To know more about countries such natural phenomena, refer to our articles: 1989 San Francisco earthquake facts and 1978 facts.

Heatwave And Drought Effects

 A drought happened in '76 in the UK. It developed during spring and summer over South East England. A long dry period was the cause of the great drought of 1976 and was considered to be the worst drought in Britain. The autumn and summer of '75 were very dry; the winter and spring of both years were exceptionally dry and were set apart by strikingly below average rainfall. From '75 May to '76 August, average rainfall in some parts of Southern England was less than 55%. Some parts of South West went without any rain for 45 days. Surface water and groundwater got depleted due to hot temperatures in England and Wales. The jet stream remained to the north of Hebrides and remained there for most of the period in '75. In '76, it moved further away to the north and from the UK. As a result, all of Western Europe was affected by the drought. A precipitation deficit occurred in Western Europe, concentrating in South East England to North West France during summer and spring. The drought centered on central Europe. In summer, very few places recorded excess of half of average rainfall.

A heat wave is a period of sweltering weather. The heat wave of '76 extended for 15 continuous days from 23 June to 7 July; temperatures reached up to 89.9 F (32.2 C) in Britain, with few areas having virtually no rain for consecutive months and one of the hottest summers ever. A precipitation deficit occurred in Western Europe, concentrating in South East England to North West France during summer and spring. The drought centered on central Europe.

The hot weather started in '75; the summer, autumn, and winter were very dry. The year was marked by persistent drought followed by a heat wave. It was the warmest summer solstice ever recorded. The '76 summer is said to be the hottest summer in over 350 years. Till '76, the UK had never crossed the temperature of 89.9 F (32.2 C) in history. From 23rd June, for a fortnight, the temperatures reached 89.6 F (32 C), covering much of Southern England. Meteorologically, the focal point of the summer was an unmatched heatwave that lasted from 22 June to 16 July. On every 15 consecutive days from 23 July to 7 July, the temperature climbed to 89.6 F (32 C). Temperatures wavered between 86 F (30 C) and 95 F (35 C) for months. 28th June, in Southampton, the temperature reached 96.08 F (35.6 C), the highest in the month. Cheltenham recorded 96.6 F (35.9 C) on 3rd July, the hottest day ever in England. The heatwave of '76 summer broke the UK records. The hottest day of Northern Ireland in '76 was on 30th June '76, and the temperature was only 88.1. F (31.2 C). Thus we can see that Britain experienced the warmest summers from June to August in '76. The whole summer, the average temperature was 63.8 F (17.77 C), perhaps one of record-breaking average Britain.

Health Impact

Droughts affect people's health and safety; another impact is having anxiety and depression about financial losses, income, heat strokes, and even loss of dear ones.

More than 75 % of UK workers complained about a heat wave hindering their capability to work. Studies reveal that more boys were born during this period than girls, and in Britain, birth rates dropped to a record low; murder rates increased by 75%. The average death rate, according to the registrar, showed an increase of 20%. There were more hospital admissions between 24 July to 8 July. Reports show that adults were losing control of everything they did, and tempers rose very quickly. The lack of rain showed the lack of coolness in behavior, and the hot weather made people hotter. Many people lost their jobs in the UK; Northern Ireland faced protest and unrest, public sector strikes were there. People gathered water in buckets from tankers in Grove Hall Court. The whole summer witnessed people flocking on beaches, and yellow press pictures showed women wearing bikinis relaxing on balconies.

Ecological Impact

Forests and woodlands of Europe suffered from droughts and Dutch elm disease - a fungal disease spread on trees by black elm beetles. The '76 summer is said to be the hottest summer in over 350 years. In Southern England, there were extensive woodland and heath fires. Seven–spotted hungry ladybirds lay siege to the towns, cities, and villages. As the hot weather continued, forest fires broke out in some parts of South England. Studies show many drought-sensitive trees were wiped off in this hot climate; the tree ring data showed how strongly the survived trees were affected. 17% of beech trees died out while oak- a drought-resistant tree survived. Due to severe summer and hot weather conditions, surface water and groundwater depleted in many places of England and Wales; less water impacted agriculture badly. The price of dairy products increased as the food of the cattle, like hay and grass, turned white and dried out. In East Anglia, the topsoil turned to dust; Reservoir in South Wales nearly dried out. Boats got stuck in the river Thames.

It is best to plant drought-tolerant trees in drought-prone areas. To plant drought-tolerant trees, we have to select trees that do not need frequent irrigation. Selecting native trees, small leaves, upland species, deep-upright multilayered crowned trees is an excellent step in arid areas. Droughts and warm temperatures increase stress in plants, and efficiently watering plays a crucial in hot weather that reduces stress in trees. The best way to revitalize these plants is to moisture the deep root. Spreading mulch over the tree's root will protect the root from high temperatures and lessen the moisture loss from the soil. Water the tree 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) away from the trunk. 

Reevaluate the turf yard to minimize water wastage and make your yard drought tolerant. During drought times deepwater the lawns less frequently each week. Water the plants in the morning when it is not hot. Adding wood mulch and using organic minerals will keep the moisture of the soil intact.

UK's droughts affected the world economically, socially, and environmentally. Farmers lost their crops; ranchers spend a lot on their animals and farms. Like people, animals and plants also depend on water, and drought can affect their habitat.

Many people got stranded during the heatwave.

Government Response

Drought results in significant socioeconomic risk for any country. In addition to economics, the environment and society are also affected. Farmers lose their crops; ranchers spend a lot on their animals and farms. The aftermath of the drought and its management were complicated compared to more drought-prone areas as the United States and Australia.

The government put up a notice for public information warning against drought in the Bridport area of Dorset. When hosepipes were banned in South West England, standpipes came to the streets in many parts of the UK. Patrols that toured the streets enforced the bans. The decrease in water supplies resulted in the Drought Act, and Dennis Howell, a Minister, was appointed to manage drought in the last week of August. Schools and establishments closed early because of water rationing. Rivers in the North of England dried out. The slogan "Save water, bath with a friend" came up in T-shirts, bumpers of the cars, and all over the public places. People were asked to use a full-load washing machine than a half-loaded to save water. The last week of August, rain poured down, and the drought minister was renamed minister of floods.

Drought monitoring is essential as it shows factors like precipitation, ground and reservoir water levels, streamflow, temperature, snowpack, and soil moisture. We need a variety of composite drought indices. A regional climate model is a quantitative climate prediction based on lateral and ocean conditions.

Regional Drought Monitoring and Outlook System (RDMOS) aims to give accurate drought indicators. Presently RDMOS has four variables connected to drought indices: the Standardised Precipitation -Index(SPI)data based on precipitation, Evapotranspiration Deficit Index (ETDI) - to monitor agricultural droughts, Soil Moisture Anomaly (SMA) detecting soil moisture, Vegetation Condition Anomaly (VCA) - highlight areas of vegetational stress. The NASA Land Information System (LIS) is widely used for monitoring high-resolution land surface modeling. LIS developed Land Data Assimilation System based on ground-based observation and satellite observation with a quantitative model to get land-surface state.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 1976 UK drought facts, then why not take a look at 1989 facts or 1997 facts?

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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