1 Jun 2012

Potten End Newsletter Article 2

A condensed version of this article originally appeared in a special commemorative edition of the Potten End Newsletter, June 2012. Also, there were some minor mathematical errors in the original article – they have been corrected here.

Potten End Weather

I’ve taken a bit of a departure from my planned series of articles to briefly write about the extraordinarily wet April we’ve just had.

Also, as this is a special commemorative issue of the Newsletter, I’ve been digging around in the weather archives of the Met Office and other sources to find out what the weather was like over 60 years ago.

The Wettest April on Record

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just’s umbrella.
– Lord Bowen
The Met Office declared April 2012 the wettest since records began in 1910. And it certainly felt that way. In fact, our region of the UK received 237% more rain than the average April rainfall from 1971-2000.

How do our Potten End records compare to that? Well, we measured a total of 113mm of rain in April. This is the wettest April we have on record by quite some margin. Here are the rainfall totals for April in previous years:
  • 2011: 8mm
  • 2010: 12mm
  • 2009: 20mm
  • 2008: 45mm
And it rained every day from April 17th to the end of the month. The wettest day being Sunday 29th April with a total of 21mm falling that day.

Surprisingly, the sunshine amounts for April have not been far off the average.
Despite all that rain we’re still in drought conditions with a hosepipe ban because we still haven’t had enough rain in the east and south-east this year.

April has been in stark contrast to March, which was the fifth driest on record for the UK.

The Queen’s Weather

As this is the commemorative edition of the Newsletter, some have been wondering what the weather was like sixty years ago.

In February 1952 when Queen Elizabeth II was proclaimed Queen, the month started out mild and dry, but became grey and a little wet towards the end. It was the driest February compared to the surrounding years with only 11mm of rain that month. In February 1951, 121mm of rain was recorded.

In 1953, the month before the Coronation had been dry and warm with temperatures reaching nearly 32C in the week before the actual event. But the weather turned at the end of May and the day of the Coronation was decidedly cold, grey and wet. Though it did dry out in the afternoon, the high temperature was only 12C.

And This Year?

Because of the lead time in producing articles for the Newsletter, it is not possible to provide meaningful forecasts for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee bank holiday. All long range forecasts tend to be very vague with a lot of wriggle room. Depending on where you look and how you interpret trends, the weather will always be some combination of hot, windy, wet, cold and dry.

As an example of just how variable long range forecasts can be, here are just some of the forecasts at the time of going to press:

There are indications that a high pressure zone will develop to the north of the UK which could mean a westerly or south-westerly flow will bring changeable conditions resulting in a ridge of high pressure which could bring some pleasant weather. On the other hand that could also mean that low pressure systems will be forced to take a more southerly track resulting in prolonged wet weather.
My favourite prediction is that the high pressure zone extends and moves south causing warm air to be pulled up from Africa or southern Europe. This gives rise to the effect known as the “Spanish Plume” heat wave. OlĂ©!