Spring 2020: the sunniest on record in the UK

The UK has recorded the sunniest spring since records began in 1929. Since that time there have been only nine UK springs recording more than 500 hours of sunshine, with the previous sunniest being 555.3 hours in 1948.

However, up to 27 May, Spring 2020 has already recorded over 573 hours of sunshine; and with the forecast indicating an extension of the sunny conditions until the end of the month, Spring 2020 will surely cement its record even more firmly.

The weather patterns creating the sunny conditions have also created relatively dry ones too. Dr Mark McCarthy, from the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, explains: “Much of spring has been dominated by successive areas of high pressure, leading to sunny and relatively dry conditions. In February, the Met Office was reporting record rainfall as Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge boosted totals, making February 2020 the wettest February on record.

“However, Spring 2020 has been very dry, and May in parts of England has been exceptionally dry. As it stands up to May 27, for England, May 2020 is the driest May on record since 1896, with less than 10mm rain falling across England on average.”

Some locations have recorded far less rainfall than this. Northamptonshire – the driest county so far – for example has only recorded 1.5mm of rain during May. To put that measurement into context 1.5mm is less than the thickness of a 20-pence coin – you could lay the coin flat in the month’s rainfall and the Queen’s head would remain dry!

Although spring as a whole has been relatively dry, the patterns of each of the spring months have been subtly different. Mark McCarthy explains: “The rainfall totals for each part of the UK for each month of spring (March, April and May) have followed different patterns. For example, parts of South West England had close to average rainfall in March, with drier conditions in April and very dry conditions in May. However, the pattern for other parts such as northern England was different with April being the driest month.”

The subtle differences in rainfall patterns across spring are largely influenced by the areas covered by the centre of the high pressure. Mark McCarthy explains: “You can perhaps see this effect most clearly in the May rainfall figures for north-west Scotland. During the month, the centre of the high pressure has been located to the south and east, leaving the Western Isles and other parts of north-west Scotland extending beyond the influence of the high pressure, leaving them exposed to weather fronts bringing more rainfall to the region, whereas southern England has been largely covered by the high pressure, suppressing rainfall.”

So far during May the Western Isles have received more than average rainfall (117%)

Until the month concludes some of the above may be liable to change. Full provisional climate statistics for May and Spring will be released on 1 June.


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