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UK Weather: Conditions in the UK
Guide to UK Weather Conditions
Although the UK doesn’t face too many extreme weather conditions, it does face a wide variety of conditions on a regular basis. The British weather can be quite erratic and conditions regularly change from day to day, whatever the season.
Below you can find which weather conditions the UK faces, and when and how often they happen.
Temperatures in the UK
Temperatures in Britain usually stay within the range of between about -10°C at the very lowest night time winter temperatures, to 30°C at the height of summer. This relatively small range is due to Britain being surrounded by oceans, which hold heat much longer than land, and therefore warm the UK in the winter and cool it in the summer.
Occasionally the temperatures do exceed these extremes. The lowest temperature in the UK on record is -27.2°C in Scotland in 1995, whilst the highest was 38.5 °C in Kent, England in 2003.
Temperature is not always roughly the same anywhere in Britain, as it is generally colder the further north you get. For example, even just in England, the average annual temperature for the south is 11°C, whilst for the north it is just 8.5°C.
Sunshine in the UK
In the UK sunshine can seem scarce at times. The average total annual sunshine is 1340 hours (just over 3 and a half hours a day on average) which is about 30% of the maximum possible. However, this obviously varies hugely depending on the time of year and location in Britain.
As you would expect, there is more sunshine in the summer than in the winter, when some mountainous areas get as few as 38 hours during the three winter months. However, location makes such a huge difference that this average winter total increases to about 217 hours in the south and east of England during winter.
This regional difference is true throughout the year, and indeed, it is Eastbourne on the south coast of England that holds the record for most hours of sunshine in a month, with a massive 384 hours in July 1911 (that is almost 12 and a half hours each day!).
If you are planning on a trip during the British summer that requires the sun to be out, we recommend that you check the weather forecast, head to the south of England and keep your fingers crossed.
Rain in Britain
There is a stereotypical view of Britain that it rains all the time. Whilst this can seem true when it begins to rain in the middle of June just as you have packed your bags to spend a day on the beach, for many parts of the UK it is actually a complete myth. This is due to the huge difference in amount of rainfall different parts of the country receive.
As a general rule, the further west and the higher the land the more rain will fall. For example, the mountains of Wales and Scotland and the moors of South West England can see as much as 4,577 millimetres (180.2 in) of rainfall each year, making them some of the wettest locations in Europe.
In contrast, London, for example, gets just 650 mm (25.6 in) on average per year, which is less than Rome, Sydney and New York. This erratic rainfall has meant that in recent years the UK has suffered from a number of both floods and droughts in certain areas.
Snow in Britain
The British have a strange relationship with snow. Most areas rarely get much of it, but when they do people seem to go mad. It is on every news channel, in every newspaper and is all that anyone seems to talk about. Transport links close down, roads shut, children can’t get to school and workers can’t get to their offices. This causes half the population (mainly the younger half) to love the snow as they go sledging, have snow ball fights and build snow men (just like the one on the right), whilst the other half are simply frustrated by it.
Snow is far more likely to fall the further north or east you get in the UK. For example, many areas of Scotland get heavy snow every year (there are even five ski resorts in the Scottish mountains!), whilst the south coast of England almost never gets and considerable amount. However, there are exceptions to this rule, when some winters bring heavy snow to the whole of Britain (as happened in the winter of 2009-10).
Wind in Britain
The fact that the UK is so close to a large ocean to its west (the North Atlantic) means that it regularly experiences quite strong winds, whilst rarely faces extreme hurricanes or tornadoes.
Gales (winds with speeds of 51-101 km/h) are common in some areas of Britain. The Hebrides (a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland) for example, experience on average 35 days of gale a year, whilst many inland areas of England experience less than 5 on average.
The highest wind ever recorded in Britain was 191 km/h (119 mph) in Cornwall on the south west coast of England in 1979.