March is joint second coldest on record

2 04 2013

Provisional full-month Met Office figures for March confirm it has been an exceptionally cold month, with a UK mean temperature of 2.2 °C.

This is 3.3 °C below the 1981-2010 long-term average for the month, and ranks this March as joint second coldest (with 1947) in our records dating back to 1910. Only March 1962 was colder, with a record-breaking month mean temperature of 1.9 °C.

In an unusual turn of events, this March was also colder than the preceding winter months of December (3.8 °C), January (3.3 °C) and February (2.8 °C). This last happened in 1975.

Looking at individual countries, the mean temperature for England for March was 2.6 °C – making it the second coldest on record, with only 1962 being colder (2.3 °C). In Wales, the mean temperature was 2.4 °C which also ranks it as the second coldest recorded – with only 1962 registering a lower temperature (2.1 °C). Scotland saw a mean temperature of 1.3 °C, which is joint fifth alongside 1916 and 1958. The coldest March on record for Scotland was set in 1947 (0.2 °C). For Northern Ireland, this March saw a mean temperature of 2.8 °C, which is joint second alongside 1919, 1937, and 1962. The record was set in 1947 (2.5 °C).

This March was also much drier than average for the UK, with 62.1mm of rain falling during the month – just 65% of the 95.1mm average. Scotland was particularly dry, seeing 49.5mm of rain which is 35% of its long term average for the month.

Sunshine hours were also slightly down compared to average, with 82.9 hours for the UK notching up 81% of the average.

The cold and dry conditions seen in March were largely due to high pressure dominating UK weather patterns, allowing cold and relatively dry air to move in from the east. While this pattern is set to continue through the first week of April, milder and more unsettled conditions are expected to move in for the start of next week. You can stay up to date with the latest information with the Met Office’s forecasts.

March 2013 Actual Difference from average Actual % of average
Regions °C °C mm  %
UK 2.2 -3.3 62.1 65
England 2.6 -3.6 64.4 101
Wales 2.4 -3.4 86.2 74
Scotland 1.3 -2.9 49.5 35
N Ireland 2.8 -3.1 74.1 78
England & Wales 2.6 -3.6 67.4 95
England N 1.8 -3.7 56.4 75
England S 3 -3.5 68.6 118

March – top five coldest in the UK

1 1962 1.9 °C
2 2013 2.2 °C
2 1947 2.2 °C
4 1937 2.4 °C
5 1916 2.5 °C

Cold night breaks August records in places

31 08 2012

Last night saw some unusually cold August night-time temperatures across parts of the UK, with some observation sites hitting record lows.

Among those stations seeing their coldest recorded August temperature were:

Braemar No 2, Aberdeenshire: -2.4 °C

Aviemore, Highlands: -1.8 °C

Redesdale Camp, Northumberland: -0.7 °C

Bainbridge, North Yorkshire: 0.5 °C

Benson, Oxfordshire: 2.1 °C

Bradford, West Yorkshire: 2.8 °C

Observation sites have operated for differing amounts of time, so some records are more significant than others. Out of the new records, Bradford has the longest historical dataset – going back to 1908.

It’s worth noting that none of these break the all-time record low UK temperature for August, which is -4.5 °C recorded at Lagganlia, in Inverness-shire on 21 August 1973.

Why was it so cold in places?

Last night saw northerly winds drag cold air from quite a long way north over the UK. This air was also dry, which meant there was very little moisture to help retain heat from the day.

This, combined with clear skies caused by the high pressure sitting over the country, meant all the heat radiated into the sky – leaving very cold temperatures for the time of year.

Once in a blue moon?

While UK weather records such as this aren’t broken once in a blue moon (we’ve had many broken already this year), this set does more or less coincide with the astronomical phenomenon.

A blue moon occurs when there are two full moons in one month – which is perhaps not as rare as the saying may have us believe. There was a full moon at the start of August and now a full moon is due tonight.

You can read more about this in articles online, such as this one at

Why does it always rain on the UK?

9 05 2012

After the wettest April in records dating back to 1910 and an unsettled start to May, parts of the UK are set to see more heavy rain today and tomorrow.

With all the wet weather, many people have been asking what is to blame and whether something unusual is going on.

In an earlier article on this blog we looked at how the jet stream has influenced the recent spell of unsettled weather, but stressed it is not the only factor at play.

While the jet stream may be an influence, there is nothing unusual about its current position and it regularly behaves in this way.

With that in mind, it’s possible to go a step further and say there is nothing unusual about the UK’s weather over the last few weeks.

That may sound odd on the back of a record-breaking wet month, but we do expect to see records broken and they do topple fairly regularly for one area or another.

The past April fits into this expectation – it was exceptionally wet, but only slightly wetter than the previous record set just a few years ago in 2000 and there are several years close behind.

We only have to look back another month to see that March was the joint warmest on record for Scotland. Looking further back, parts of the UK have seen some of their driest months on record in the last year or so, and we saw the coldest UK December on record in 2010.

The mixture of record-breaking months in recent history illustrates what’s called natural variability – which is a way of summing up the inherent random or chaotic nature of weather. This is why our weather is different from one week, month or year to the next.

Here in the UK that variability is particularly noticeable because of our location. We sit in the mid-latitudes where cold air from the poles meets warm air from the tropics, and have the Atlantic on one side and the large landmass of continental Europe on the other.

All these factors mean our weather can be highly variable and we can see periods of unsettled, wet and windy weather at any time of year – a challenge that the Met Office has to rise to every day to provide the accurate weather forecasts that you, businesses and our government partners have come to expect.


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