UK Met Office – May 2020 sunniest calendar month

Now that we are in June, the UK’s Met Office has issued an update for May 2020. On the surface it comes across as a rather passive non-event update, but lurking under the surface is something rather mind-blowing.

They have announced that May 2020 has been the sunniest May they have ever recorded. “Ho Hum” you might think, “It is spring, we had a few extra hours of sunshine, that is what we might expect … right?”.

Exactly How Sunny?

The previous record for sunshine in a UK spring was 1948. – The record was 555 hours

This spring of 2020 a new record has been set. Not just by a couple more hours, but by a staggering amount – 626 hours.

What do the folks at the Met Office make of this?

Dr Mark McCarthy is the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre. He said:

“The most remarkable aspect is just how much some of the May and Spring records for these climate statistics have been exceeded. Exceeding the UK sunshine record is one thing, but exceeding by over 70 hours is truly exceptional.

“The sunshine figures for spring would even be extremely unusual for summer and only three summers would beat Spring 2020 for sunshine hours.

“The principal reason for the dry and sunny weather is the extended period of high pressure which has been centred over or close to the UK. This has suppressed the development of clouds and rainfall over the UK, while allowing plenty of sunshine to reach the surface. There has been a band of similar weather conditions extending across central parts of Europe, whereas Iberia and parts of Scandinavia have experienced rather wetter conditions.”

Water – Is this a cue for the inevitable incoming hosepipe ban 

Commenting on the relative lack of rainfall, Harvey Bradshaw, Executive Director for Environment and Business, Environment Agency, said: 

“This has been an exceptionally dry spring, we have seen a fall in river flows and reservoir levels. However, at this time most water companies across the country have appropriate water reserves for this time of year. 

“We work closely with all water companies to ensure their drought plans are up to date and activated as needed. Some will be following their plans as a precaution. We can all do our part to use water wisely and manage this precious resource, simple steps such as fitting a trigger to your hose or using a bucket to wash the car or water plants can make a difference.”

Water UK Chief Executive Christine McGourty added:

“These are exceptional times and the record-breaking dry weather is a powerful reminder of what a precious, natural resource our water is. With so many people at home and enjoying their gardens, water companies are seeing record demand for water, which can cause issues with water pressure. Working together, we can all make a difference right now, so let’s use water wisely. We need to keep washing our hands, but make other small changes to our water use, for example cutting back on paddling pools and sprinklers, particularly at the peak times in the evening.”

Further Met Office Details

Spring 2020 headlines

  • 626 hours of bright sunshine were recorded in Spring 2020 for the UK and have exceeded the previous high (555 hours, set in 1948) by over 70 hours. Spring 2020 also exceeds the sunshine amount for most summer seasons, with only three summers being sunnier (1976, 1995, and 1989).
  • The figure for England is even higher. Spring 2020 recorded 696 hours of sunshine, exceeding the previous record set of 594.3 hours 
  • All UK countries have recorded their sunniest spring on record in series stretching back to 1929
  • It has been the eighth warmest spring on record for the UK, with both England and Wales having their fifth warmest spring on record
  • It has been the fifth driest spring for the UK overall, but some counties in north east England and eastern Scotland have recorded their driest spring in a rainfall series from 1862.

Is this climate change?

February 2020 was the wettest February ever recorded in the UK, and now we suddenly switched to the sunniest spring.

Meteorologists say they are amazed at the sudden switch from extreme wet to extreme dry – it is not “British” weather. Is it however climate change?

The new record is a staggering amount. We simply don’t see stuff like this … normally.

The BBC has been asking and the guidance they have received is this …

The Met Office says this year is not an indicator of the future, because the jet stream might behave differently.

Scientists suspect man-made climate change may be implicated, but it is too soon to tell.

Some of them believe the rapid man-made heating of the Arctic, which has led to record temperatures and wildfires in Siberia, may be influencing the jet stream, although that is not proven.

Professor Joe Smith, chief executive of the Royal Geographical Society, told BBC News: “For many people, the recent long sunny spell is simply ‘nice weather’.

“In a wider context it’s a signal of the increasing unpredictability of the UK’s climate. Planning for the growing season is starting to resemble a night at the gambling tables.

“The fact remains that bold early actions to slash emissions can still cut the larger risks associated with climate change in the UK and around the world”.

Met Office Update – Further Reading

Met Office Update – Tweets

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