Britain is noted for its fickle weather, which is caused by airstreams blowing over the country from different directions and over different terrain. For example, the hills near the west coast break up the moisture-laden west winds, which lose their moisture in the form of rain as they cross the country. Parts of the east coast therefore get drier weather – but they are chilled by east winds from the Continent. Weather conditions often change within a short distance, but these charts show the broad pattern of weather from April to September recorded over the years in ten main regions.
England’s south-west peninsula has one of the sunniest coasts in Britain, with Torbay, the Channel Islands and Scilly recording the highest sunshine records of all. June is the best mouth, with an average of 7 1/2 hours a day. July and August may be warmer but are usually less bright. Onshore winds bring frequent sea fogs in summer and autumn. In winter there is less sea fog, and the south-west then has the highest sunshine totals and the mildest weather in the British Isles. Frost and snow are rare. Strong winds are frequent, and exposed areas experience some 30 days of gales a year. If the weather is poor in one place, better conditions can sometimes be found on the opposite coast.
With up to 50 in. of rain a year, this is the wettest part of Britain’s coast. There are, however, local variations. Sunshine hours in southern parts of the Inner Hebrides average about 4 hours a day over the year; in some years Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, has been Britain’s sunniest spot during May. The climate is generally mild even in winter, when severe frosts and heavy snowfalls are rare. In sheltered areas exotic plants grow all year round. In exposed areas Atlantic storms are frequent, and gusts of 100 mph or more have been recorded at Tiree. Fogs occur on fewer than 10 days a year, and north-westerly airstreams from the polar region often produce a crystal-clear atmosphere.
The hills of Northern Ireland, Kiutyre and Arran shelter this region from Atlantic storms and rain-bearing winds, giving it a climate that is generally drier, sunnier and less windy than other parts of the western coast of Scotland. In addition the coast is washed /’i/ warm ocean currents, and this combined with the mild climate has made it a popular area for holiday-makers. In June it shares with Fife the distinction of being one of the sunniest parts of Scotland’s coast, with an average of around 6 hours of sunshine a day. Snow and fog are rare, and some areas are virtually frost-free. At Logan Gardens, on the Mull of Galloway, subtropical plants flourish outdoors.
This coast is sunnier than other parts of Britain at similar latitudes, especially during spring and early summer; there are nearly 7 hours of sunshine a day in May and June. It can be very hot on the Lancashire coast when winds blow from the south and south-east. Rainfalls are moderate, especially in the south and on the Isle of Man. Spring is the driest season and autumn the wettest, with more than twice as much rain in September as in April. The climate is usually bracing but winters are mild, with very few severe frosts or heavy snowfalls; any snoxo that does fall clears quickly. In areas sheltered from the prevailing winds and rain, exotic plants grow outdoors.
In comparison with inland Wales, the coastline is relatively dry and sunny. In North Wales the rainfall of 30 in. a year at the coast compares with more than 100 in. in Snowdonia; and the coast has an annual average of more than 4 hours of sunshine a day. The exposed coasts of Dyfed and Gwynedd, however, have gales on some 30 days a year. Gusts of more than 100 mph have been recorded at Si Ann’s Head and Holyhead. Frost and snow are rare. The north coast has mild winters; Rhyl, Colwyn Bay and Llandudno have had temperatures of 17°C (63°F) in January – the highest recorded in Britain at this time of the year. On Anglesey, variations occur within a small area.
EASTERN SCOTLAND /High land to the west protects this coast from the rain-bearing westerly winds. Rainfall is particularly low in the areas bordering the Moral/ Firth and the Firth of Forth; one of Scotland’s driest spots is Fidra in the Firth of Forth, with less than 21 in. of rain a year. June is the sunniest month, with more than 6 hours of sunshine a day from the Moray Firth southwards. Even so, summers are generaly cool, and a chilling sea fog, or ‘haar’, often occurs when there is an onshore wind. Winters are cold, with frequent snow: Aberdeen has an average of more than 30 days of snow a year. Orkney and Shetland are cold and strong winds are frequent.
Britain lies in the path of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, an equatorial current that starts in the Gulf of Mexico, Hows northwards along the east coast of the United States and is deflected across the Atlantic by the cold waters of the Labrador current. When it reaches Britain’s shores it is known as the North Atlantic Drift. In summer the seas around the coast are further warmed by the sun, the highest temperatures occurring in shallow waters such as the Thames Estuary and off the Lancashire coast. Because the sea is slow to warm up, maximum temperatures are not reached until August; but the sea is also slow to cool, so that in some areas the water remains warm through September. The hotter the summer, the warmer and longer-lasting the sea temperature.
NORTH-EAST ENGLAND /Spring arrives late, due to the influence of tin-cold North Sea, and even in May and June the weather is usually dull and cold. Hours of sunshine are the lowest of any pari of the English and Welsh coasts, with an average of less than 4 hours a day over the year. Autumn is usually the finest season, with relatively dry, bright and bracing ‘weather. Strong north winds and violent gales are frequent, and fog occurs on more than 40 days a year along the coasts of Durham and Northumberland. In late spring and early summer, onshore winds often bring in a chilling ‘sea fret’ or ‘sea roke’. An offshore wind, however, often gives fine, dry weather. Winters are cold, with frequent snow.
England’s southern coast has the best combination of temperature and sunshine records in Britain. Summers are warm and sunny, with an average of more than Tvl hours of sunshine in the long days of June. Poole Harbour and the south-east corner of the Isle of Wight are among the sunniest spots on the coast. Rainfall is moderate, and occurs mostly in autumn. The mild winters allow subtropical plants to be grown in sheltered gardens, and snow is rare. The coast has its share of winter gales, and in summer there are occasional thunderstorms. The hills inland, however, protect the coast from northerly and easterly winds. Fogs occur round the Isle of Wight, but are seldom persistent.
Temperatures range widely between warm summers and cold winters, and snow occurs more frequently than on the southern and western coasts. Rainfall is light, and Shoebury-ness in Essex is the driest spot on Britain’s coast. Hours of sunshine are above the national average, with 7 hours a day in June and more than 5 hours a day in September. The east coast often has warm, dry periods in summer when the rest of the country is affected by the rain-bringing south-westerly winds. In spring, however, piercing easterly winds are common. Fog occurs on 20 to 25 days a year; onshore breezes bring a damp ‘sea fret’ which blots out the sun and cools the temperature rapidly.
This region has the greatest extremes of climate on Britain’s coast, with warmer summers and colder winters than the average, and because of its closeness to the European mainland it is affected by Continental weather conditions. Rainfall, however, is light, and one of the driest parts of Britain’s coast occurs on the North Kent coast bordering the Thames estuary. Most of the area has plenty of sunshine, averaging nearly 5 hours a day and reaching a June peak of more than S hours. The sunniest spots are along the Sussex coast. Spring is the driest season and autumn the wettest. Fogs average 30 to 40 days a year, and Beachy Head is one of the foggiest spots on the entire coast.
THE WEATHER AT SEA For the purpose of forecasting weather at sea, the coast of Britain is divided into named areas which are used by the Meteorological Office in giving details of sea conditions, visibility and wind speeds. Reports ; or forecasts of gales or storms use a scale called the Beaufort Scale, which defines the wind force by a number. For example, force 4 refers to a moderate breeze of 13 to 18 mph, fl and force 6 means a strong breeze of 25 to 31 mph. Small boats may be unsafe in conditions of force 4 upwards, and should never put to sea above force 6. When winds of force’8 (39 to 46 mph) are expected within 6 hours, gale warnings are issued and black cones are hoisted at coastguard stations and on piers and harbours. Force 11 indicates a violent storm with winds up to 73 mph, the highest normally recorded in Britain.