February felt decidedly like spring at times; with the exception of an early cold spell, it was mild and showery, and generally lacking typical winter storms. Nevertheless, a windy and wet final week punctuated by Storm Doris signalled a return to wintry conditions entering March. February was particularly wet in southern Scotland and northern England but drier than average in Northern Ireland. Despite the UK registering near average rainfall, February was the wettest month of a winter characterised by an unusual combination of dry and mild weather. In contrast to winter 2015/16, few places in the UK were wetter than normal. Parts of south-west England received less than half the average rainfall and it was the driest winter since 1970/71 in Northern Ireland. February river flows were generally in the normal range at the end of a winter characterised by substantially below average flows across most of the country. Winter mean flows in Northern Ireland, Wales and south-west England were amongst the lowest on record. Although groundwater levels rose in nearly all of the index boreholes during February, levels remained below normal throughout most of the Chalk, but less so than at the end of January. Reservoir stocks increased throughout the UK, in some cases substantially (e.g. at Ardingly, which registered its third largest monthly increase in a record from 1987), and provided welcome replenishment during a notably dry winter. Overall stocks for England & Wales were as expected for the late winter, though some impoundments in Northern Ireland and south-west England remained well below average. With below normal groundwater levels and some substantially below average reservoir stocks, the weather over the next six weeks is likely to be influential in the outlook for water resources for the summer half-year.
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