A local look at the record-breaking Spring and May weather

Both the month of May and the full spring season have been exceptional for the UK, as outlined in our recent news release. In this blog we look at the local detail of what has been an exceptionally sunny and dry few months.

Sunshine

Perhaps the most impressive of all the national statistics was the number of sunshine hours recorded across the UK. May 2020 was the sunniest calendar month on record for the UK, England and Wales. It has also been the sunniest spring for all UK countries.

As we have seen at the UK level, in May many weather station locations have also had their sunniest calendar month on record. A notable example of this is at the Radcliffe Meteorological Station in Oxford. This station has the longest continuous sunshine record in the world and it recorded 331.7 hours of sunshine in May 2020, beating the previous record of 310.4 hours set in July 1911. Data from this station stretches back to February 1880.

Top 10 sunniest ceremonial counties in May 2020

County Sunshine hours Anomaly (%) Previous record (hours)
Isle of Wight 378.2 168 322.9 in 1989
Bristol 352.1 172 295.3 in 1948
Hampshire 345.4 171 304.0 in 1989
Berkshire 342.4 179 294.3 in 1989
West Sussex 338.2 162 311.2 in 1989
Wiltshire 335.5 173 274.4 in 1989
Kent 335.4 164 311.2 in 1989
Dorset 335.0 163 295.7 in 1989
Oxfordshire 330.7 175 279.0 in 1989
Essex 329.9 166 305.6 in 1989

Shetland was the only location not to record more than its average sunshine hours, with 165.7 hours of sunshine in May, which is 92% of its average for the month.

For the spring season, the Isle of Wight was the sunniest location in the UK. It set a new spring sunshine record of 837.4 hours. The previous record was 718.6 hours recorded in the spring of 1990. All top ten sunshine counties in spring have set new records for the number of sunshine hours.

Top 10 sunniest ceremonial counties in Spring 2020

County Sunshine (hours) Anomaly (%) Previous record
Isle of Wight 837.4 155 718.6 in 1990
Kent 784.8 159 691.1 in 1990
Hampshire 776.8 159 662.6 in 1948
Bristol 775.9 157 689.2 in 1948
Berkshire 775.1 167 643.5 in 1990
Essex 773.9 163 658.8 in 1990
West Sussex 765.5 152 690.3 in 1990
Wiltshire 763.0 162 659.7 in 1948
Cambridgeshire 752.1 164 619.5 in 1990
Dorset 751.1 150 689.2 in 1948

Rainfall

The next most striking meteorological statistic has been the lack of rainfall. England has had its driest May on record and this is reflected in north-east England and eastern Scotland, especially where a number of counties have recorded their driest spring on record.

Another exceptional fact is that the station at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire recorded no measurable rainfall during May, with rain gauges left at 0.0mm at the start of June. Over the course of spring just 77.6mm was recorded here; the average is 141.4mm. A total of 10 Met Office weather stations recorded 1.0 mm or less though May, the majority of these in south-east England.

There has, however, been significant rainfall in parts of the UK through May, the highest accumulation recorded at a Met Office site being 226.4mm at Achnagart in Scotland. The Achnagart station also recorded its wettest May daily rainfall in 51 years with 97.2mm of rain in the 24 hours ending 0900 GMT on the 23rd.

Top 10 driest ceremonial counties in May 2020

County Rainfall (mm) Anomaly (%) Previous record (mm)
Northamptonshire 1.7 3 7.1 in 1990
Warwickshire 1.9 4 7.8 in 1896
Cambridgeshire 2.4 5 9.3 in 1896
Berkshire 2.5 4 5.6 in 1990
Hampshire 2.7 5 8.9 in 1991
Suffolk 3.0 6 5.9 in 1989
Hertfordshire 3.4 6 5.6 in 1990
West Midlands 3.5 6 6.8 in 1896
City of London 3.6 7 No new record
Merseyside 3.6 6 8.0 in 1991

For spring, only the Western Isles recorded more than average rainfall, with 317.7mm, 101% of the season’s average. In contrast most counties were well below average.

Spring rainfall top 10 driest counties

County Rainfall (mm) Anomaly (%) Previous record (mm)
Tyne and Wear 36.4 25 56.5 in 1875
Lincolnshire 37.3 27 41.5 in 2011
East Riding of Yorkshire 41.5 28 46.8 in 2011
Nottinghamshire 42.8 30 45.2 in 1990
Norfolk 47.1 33 No new record
South Yorkshire 48.9 29 60.2 in 2011
Cambridgeshire 50.4 39 No new record
City of Dundee 54.4 36 58.5 in 1870
Suffolk 55.0 41 No new record
Bedfordshire 59.4 42 No new record

Tyne and Wear set its record for lowest spring rainfall, beating 56.5mm recorded in 1875. All counties in the top 10 table above except Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Bedfordshire set new records for their lowest spring rainfall.

Temperature

Although exceptionally dry and sunny, both spring and May were not notable for the temperatures recorded. Almost all of our weather stations in the UK were above their average temperature for May, however only Morpeth in Northumberland set a new monthly average maximum temperature record. The station has been recording weather observations for 113 years.

Top 10 mean temperature ceremonial counties Spring 2020

County Mean Temperature (°C) Anomaly (°C)
City of London 11.83 1.18
Greater London 11.14 1.17
Bristol 10.94 1.30
South Glamorgan 10.61 1.33
Isle of Wight 10.6 1.13
East Sussex 10.4 1.19
Hampshire 10.37 1.19
Cornwall 10.37 1.19
Merseyside 10.34 1.05
Surrey 10.31 1.23

All counties other than Shetland recorded mean temperatures above the long-term average in May. For spring, all counties were above their mean temperature long-term average.

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