Provisional climate statistics up to the 29 March reveal that March 2017 has been a relatively warm month and has been rather dry in South-East England.
Despite a colder interlude in the third week of the month – which brought some frosts and snowfall in northern areas – the mean temperatures during March were above average for all parts of the UK. Indeed, the average temperature for March 2017 in south-east England is currently running as the second warmest March in a series stretching back to 1910. Across the UK it is currently running as the ninth warmest.
Underlining the month’s generally warm feel, a number of long-running English weather stations – from Cornwall to Yorkshire – recorded their highest daily minimum March temperatures. Additionally, long-running climate sites in Hampshire and Wiltshire (Farnborough, Larkhill, Boscombe) have for the first time in their records had a March without any air frost days.
Emphasising the warmth in south-east England, Middlesex was the historic county recording both the highest maximum average temperature and the highest average mean temperature: 13.6 °C and 9.8 °C, respectively. Middlesex was also one of a number of counties, including Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey, which recorded the highest average March temperatures relative to their county’s respective long-term average (2.3 °C above the 1981–2010 climate average for March).
The highest temperature recorded so far this month is 22.1 °C at Gravesend, in Kent, on Thursday 30 March. Tim Legg – a climate scientist in the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre – said: “It is very rare to go above 22 °C in March, with only three years since 1968 recording 22 °C or above, these are: 17 March 1990, when 22.6 °C was recorded at High Beach; and 23.6 °C at Aboyne in 2012.
“After this we have to go way back to 29 March 1968, when we recorded 25.6 °C at Mepal in Cambridgeshire: currently the all-time March record.”
Examining the provisional rainfall map for March (updated to March 29), it is clear that the majority of the UK enjoyed average rainfall. However, parts of South-Eastern England and northern and western Scotland received much lower rainfall than average.
Essex recorded the lowest total rainfall of any county in the UK, with just 26.2mm of rain falling up to the 29 March. Sussex was the UK historic county receiving the least rainfall compared with the long-term 1981–2010 average, with just 59% of the average March rain total.
With parts of north-west Scotland drier than average, the relative lack of rain-bearing cloud correspondingly boosted sunshine figures, with the region recording 121.2 hours of sunshine. This is a 40 per cent increase on what is normally expected in March.
No named storms occurred during the month. However, as Tim Legg added: “The UK was fortunate not to be hit by a storm, which brought some exceptionally strong and damaging winds to northern France on 6 March.”