Records broken as temperate end to March offsets earlier cold spell

March 2021’s overall provisional climate statistics show a 0.9°C average temperature increase from 1981-2010 national averages for the month, as some high temperatures during the latter part of the month saw several stations break their existing records for their warmest March day.  

Particularly low temperatures started the month for large parts of the country, especially in southern England, but this was then balanced by late March temperature highs that brought the average temperatures for the month above what would normally be expected. For the UK as a whole, the March temperature was 0.9°C above the 1981-2010 average. Moreover, northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland can look back on March as slightly warmer than average.  

The last week of March saw several notable station records for the warmest March day being broken. Bude (Cornwall) recorded its highest temperature ever for a March day at 23.4°C, with the previous record having been in place since 1968 when 21.2°C was recorded. It was a similar story for stations across the UK, as, among others, Kew Gardens (Greater London), Lyneham (Wiltshire), and Oxford broke long-standing March daily temperature records. Many March daily high temperature records were broken, with the vast majority being reported on 30 March, although temperatures remained well above average for many stations on 31 March.  

It wasn’t only daytime temperatures that were notably high. With temperatures staying above 12.7°C on 30 March at Kinloss (Moray) it was the highest March daily minimum temperature for Scotland on record.   

In terms of rainfall, the month was drier than average for southern, central and eastern areas, although northwest England saw more rain than usual, thanks to persistent heavy showers from 9 March to 14 March and rain from 24 March to 28 March. Cumbria saw 41% more rain than average, which was the most above average of any of the UK’s counties. The wettest day of the year so far was on 28 March when 177.2mm was recorded at Seathwaite in Cumbria. 

Dry conditions were reported for much of the country, however, with Cornwall, Worcestershire, Tyne & Wear, and the Isle of Wight all having less than half of their average rainfall for March. Southern England overall was on average 36% down on the rainfall average for March, while only Scotland and northern England got to their March average, both at 100% in total each. The UK as a whole had 89% of the average rainfall for the month.  

Days of air frost for the month were in relatively short supply across eastern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, large parts of the South West and Wales got to their March averages, while north-west Wales crept above the average.  

Mark McCarthy, from the National Climate Information Centre, said: “With the exception of some record-breaking highs at the end of the month, March didn’t deviate too much from what we’d expect to see for the time of year. It was warmer than average overall, but a cold first week balanced the milder end to the month. 

“It was dry for a lot of areas, but northwest England took the brunt when it came to the month’s rainy weather.  

“The most notable factor was the high temperatures at the end of the month, with a number of stations recording their warmest March day since we’ve been recording the data.”

Provisional March 2021Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm) 
 Actual Diff from avg (°C)Actual% of avgActual% of avg
UK 6.4 0.9 101.9100  84.3 89
England 7.0 0.8 110.6 103 50.0 78
Wales 6.4 0.7 105.5 104 96.9 83
Scotland 5.3 1.1 91.1 98 140.4 100
N Ireland 6.8 1.0 74.1 75 74 78
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