UK sees fifth wettest October since 1862

One thing for certain is that October 2020 will be remembered for being exceptionally wet for some areas of the UK. The unsettled weather following Storm Alex brought enough rain on 3rd October to make it the wettest day on record for UK-averaged rainfall (31.7 mm, beating the previous wettest day of 29.9 mm on 25th August 1986). Persistent rain between the 2nd and 4th across the whole UK led to many stations breaking records for daily rainfall totals, and many parts of England and eastern Scotland have largely exceeded their average rainfall for October, making October 2020 now rank as the 5th wettest October on record for the UK. 

The month finished as it began as two separate Atlantic low-pressure systems brought further heavy and persistent rain as well as strong south-westerly winds. Yellow warnings covered parts of north-west England, Wales and western parts of Scotland. The remnants of former hurricane Zeta brought strong winds to the UK, and a weather station in Sutherland recorded the strongest gusts in the month of 79mph on the 31st.  

Towards the end of the month a warm conveyor – a band of warm, moist air that gets carried aloft in a frontal weather system and leads to the formation of heavy and persistent rain – brought continual rain on a south-westerly flow to parts of the UK, especially high ground in the west, including Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia National Park and the Lake District. The forecasting of this feature led the Met Office to issue yellow warnings for heavy rain. 

Rainfall  

Tim Legg, a scientist from the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, commented: “Rainfall totals were near average in many western areas of the UK but well above average in some eastern areas including eastern Scotland, north-east England, the south Midlands, London and central southern England. Overall, the south-east of England has experienced the highest volume of rainfall with 188% (174.3 mm) of its monthly average and parts of London, south-east England and Aberdeenshire had double the average rainfall.” 

On a county level Oxfordshire experienced the highest volume of rainfall with 222% (160.5mm) of their monthly average. Closely followed by Greater London with 217% (158.1mm) of their monthly average. This month’s provisional figures show that this October for Greater London is the eighth wettest calendar month (in a series that starts in 1862), the fourth wettest October over the same period, and the wettest October in 20 years. November 1940 still holds the record for the wettest month in Greater London with 171.2mm of rainfall. 

The October rainfall in Moray, north-east Scotland, was greater than any October since records began in 1862. The area received 205% (200.6mm) of its average October rainfall, following low-pressure systems which were influenced by the decaying elements of Ex-Hurricanes Zeta and Epsilon. A weather station in Kinloss, Moray recorded 165.4mm of rain in the month, 232% of its average rainfall.  

Other regions that exceeded double their monthly average rainfall are Bedfordshire 204% (132.7mm), Berkshire 215% (168.1mm), Buckinghamshire 214% (159mm), Essex 211% (134mm), Hertfordshire 217% (159.2mm), Hampshire 205% (203.6mm), and Kincardineshire 211% (237.5mm).  

Durris, Kincardineshire received 112.4mm of rainfall in just one day on 3rd October (its wettest day on record), beating the previous record of 90.3mm on 21st October 2009. 

 Rainfall 
Provisional October figures Actual rainfall % of the October average    
UK 179.3mm 142 
England 140.6mm 154 
Wales 208.4mm 123 
Scotland 238.1mm 136 
Northern Ireland 165.7mm 139 

Temperature 

There has been an absence of warm days this month, with daytime temperatures mostly a little below average. There was a period of warmer moist tropical maritime air around the 20th and 21st, with a maximum temperature of 19 Celsius being recorded on the 20th at Kew Gardens in Greater London. Overall, temperatures have been mostly near or slightly below average, with daytime temperatures particularly suppressed relative to the seasonal average.  

The lowest minimum temperature recorded was –3.3 Celsius at Tyndrum, Perthshire in Scotland on the 15th and the highest temperature recorded was 19.1 Celsius at Writtle, Essex on the 8th.    

 Maximum temperature  Minimum temperature  
Provisional October Actual °C Difference from Oct average °C Actual °C Difference from Oct average °C 
figures     
UK 12.4 -0.4 6.4 0.2 
England 13.4 -0.5 7.2 0.3 
Wales 12.5 -0.6 6.9 0.2 
Scotland 10.7 -0.2 5.1 0.1 
Northern Ireland 12.4 -0.3 6.2 0.1 

Tim Legg said, “Gardeners would have expected to see at least one air frost in southern England in October, but the only recorded frosts this October were confined to northern regions.” 

Sunshine 

October for the UK as a whole was rather dull, seeing less than three-quarters of its average sunshine hours (72%). For the South of England in particular only 62% of the average sunshine was recorded. Northern Ireland has seen the most sunshine with 101% of its average for the month, with County Armagh receiving 108% (99.7 hours).  

Tim Legg in the Met Office National Climate Information Centre says, “Sunshine was well below average generally, most especially in East Anglia, but near average in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. For the UK as a whole this was the fifth wettest and also the fifth dullest October in the historical series, since 1862 and 1919 respectively”.  

 Sunshine Hours 
Provisional October figures Actual sunshine in hours % of the September average    
UK 66.0 72 
England 67.4 65 
Wales 62.9 68 
Scotland 60.2 80 
Northern Ireland 88.5 101 

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For the latest guidance to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic please visit the UK Government’s coronavirus advice page. Those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can access country-specific advice. 

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