The Seasons - UK Climate
Seasons of the UK
Winter in the UK is generally a cool, wet and windy season. Temperatures at night rarely drop below -10 °C (14 °F) and in the day rarely rise above 15 °C (59 °F). Precipitation is plentiful throughout the season with occasional snow.
Towards the later part of the season the weather usually stabilises with less wind, precipitation and lower temperatures. This change is particularly pronounced near the coasts mainly due to the fact that the Atlantic is often at its coldest during this time after being cooled throughout the autumn and the winter. The early part of winter however is often unsettled and stormy; often the wettest and windiest time of the year.
Snow can fall occasionally and mainly affects northern and eastern areas and chiefly higher ground, especially the mountains of Scotland where the amount of lying snow may be significant enough on occasions to permit skiing at one of the five Scottish ski resorts. Snow however rarely lasts more than a week in most areas as the cold air brought by northerly or easterly winds, or sustained under high pressure system, gives way to mild southerly or westerly winds (normally introduced by North Atlantic depressions). Low pressure systems move in from the Atlantic ocean frequently throughout the season, often bringing strong winds and heavy rain along with mild temperatures. However, on rare occasions some potent depressions may move in from the north in the form of 'Polar Lows', introducing heavy snow and often blizzard-like conditions to parts of the UK, particularly Scotland.
Spring is generally a calm, cool and dry season, principally since the Atlantic has lost much of its heat throughout the autumn and winter. However, as the sun rises higher in the sky and the days get longer, temperatures can rise relatively high and thunderstorms and heavy showers can develop.
There is a fair chance of snow earlier in the season when it is colder.
Summer climatic differences are more influenced by latitude and temperatures are highest in southern and central areas and lowest in the north. Generally, however, summer temperatures rarely go much above 35 °C (95 °F); but it is not unusual to record temperatures of over 32°C during a particular summer. The record maximum is 38.5 °C (101 °F).
The north west and north east have cool summers, the south west has rather warmer summers (average 17 °C (63 °F)) and the south and south east have the warmest summers.
Summer is a dry season on average but rainfall totals can have a wide local variation due to localised thunderstorms. These thunderstorms mainly occur in southern, eastern, and central areas and are less frequent and severe in the north and west.
North Atlantic depressions are not as frequent or severe in summer but increase both in severity and frequency towards the end of the season.
In the summer, the temperature may only be around 30 °C (86 °F), but may feel hotter due to the humidity.
Autumn in the UK is notorious for being extremely unsettled. As cool polar air moves southwards following the sun in the sky, it meets the warm air of the tropics and produces an area of great disturbance along which the United Kingdom lies. This combined with the warm ocean, which due to heating throughout the spring and summer, produces the unsettled weather of autumn. In addition, when the air is particularly cold it may actually be colder than the ocean and this can result in significant amounts of condensation, producing clouds which eventually condense and bring rain to the UK.
Atlantic depressions during this time can become intense and sustained winds of hurricane force (greater than 74 mph) have been reported. One such intense depression was the great “hurricane” of 1987.
Western areas, being closest to the Atlantic, experience these severe conditions to a significantly greater extent than eastern areas.
As such, autumn, particularly the latter part, is often the stormiest time of the year.
However, the UK often experiences an 'Indian Summer', where temperatures particularly by night can be very mild and rarely fall below 10 °C (50 °F). Such events are aided by the surrounding Atlantic Ocean and seas being at their warmest, keeping the UK in warm air, despite the relatively weak Sun. An example of this was in 2005, where September and, especially, October saw above average temperatures which felt more like a continuation of summer, than autumn. Autumn, especially September, has been very mild or warm in recent years with notable extremes of precipitation as the UK has seen some of its wettest and driest autumns since the turn of the millennium.
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Page 1 - Introduction / Overview
Page 2 - Seasons (Current page)
Page 3 - Regions
Page 4 - Sunshine & Clouds
Page 5 - The Atlantic Ocean
Page 6 - Winds
Page 7 - Rainfall
Page 8 - Temperature
Page 9 - Severe weather
Page 10 - Climate history