Why does it always rain on the UK?

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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