Are we really having ‘topsy-turvy’ weather?

There have been many media reports on the UK’s ‘barmy’ and ‘topsy-turvy’ weather over the past few weeks, with front pages warning of  an ‘arctic blast’ and ‘mini ice age’ to come. But is the weather we’ve been having really that unusual in terms of climate history, and what can we actually expect in the days to come?

Record-breaking October temperatures

We saw a very warm start to October, with a new maximum temperature record for the month of October of 29.9 °C on October 1. Temperatures this high in October are very unusual – in fact temperatures over 25 °C at the start of October have only been recorded widely five times since 1959; in 1997, 1985, 1969 and 1959. The average daily maximum temperature for October is around 15 degrees lower than the levels we had at the start of the month, as can be seen from the image below.

Autumn weekend ‘heatwave’

The newspapers reported ‘freak warm weather’ for last weekend, and although the weekend temperatures were mild – a few degrees warmer than average – they were not out of the ordinary. Temperatures reached 18 °C as forecast by the Met Office, but during last week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were all warmer than the weekend, with maximum temperatures exceeding 20 °C every day. 

Snow and cold weather in October

The weather we’re seeing this week is not unusual, and is also nowhere near as severe as was reported in some media outlets last week. In line with our forecast, 1 – 3cm of snow is expected on Scottish mountains, with a dusting possible as far south as the Pennines. You can see the snow line at Ben Nevis on the Fort William webcam. But snow in October is perfectly normal, if we look at climatology we would expect, on average, to see 1 – 4 days when snow falls on high ground in Scotland and the north of England. Temperatures are also around what would normally be expected for October.

This week

Windy and showery weather is set to continue for a couple of days, with snow again likely on higher ground in Scotland, and possibly as far south as the north Pennines. It will be chilly – compared to the recent mild weather – with overnight frosts likely.

Later in the week and into the weekend unsettled weather is expected to continue across northern parts of the UK, with wind and rain returning from the Atlantic. While in the south it becomes mainly dry once again. The risk of frost receeds with temperatures near, or slightly above, normal.


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