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May 2024 was one of the warmest on record for Britain, but why did it feel cold?

Average temperatures for May in Great Britain.  Source: Met Office UK
Average temperatures for May in Great Britain. Source: Met Office UK
Helena Mottram

Helena Mottram 4 minutes

Britain had his warmest May ever recorded, according to preliminary Met Office figures and it came as a shock to many of us! The average mean temperature was 13.1°C a whole 1°C warmer than the previous record set in 2008 at 12.1°C. So Why has our perception not kept up with reality?

Many skeptics question the data, but these figures come from the Met Office, which has an extensive network of weather stations across Great Britain, with over 200 automatic stations. These weather stations measure a wide variety of different meteorological parameters, including air temperature; air pressure; rainfall; wind speed and direction; humidity; cloud height and visibility. To ensure accuracy and consistency, these weather stations must do so meet strict criteria and are then subjected to an internationally agreed rigorous quality control process. In short, their data is accurate and reliable.

If the data is correct, why didn’t May feel warm?

The average temperature of 13.1C is taken into account day and night temperatures for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Therefore, before we even begin, half of the temperatures recorded occurred while we were sleeping and it is very unlikely that we would find that our nighttime temperatures have been well above average, 1.2°C higher than the previous record to be precise.

Average temperature;  precipitation and sunshine amounts for May 2024. Source: Met Office UK
Average temperature; precipitation and sunshine amounts for May 2024. Source: Met Office UK

The The most abnormally warm regions are in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England. The average temperature in Scotland in May was 12.3°C, beating the previous record set in 2018 by 1.6°C parts of northern Scotland were more than 3.5°C warmer than average. This region of Britain is considerably less densely populated than our major cities further south, so although England and Wales also set May temperature records and Wales equaled their 2008 figure, this was not by such a large number. this heat was not that noticeable.

May was wetter and cloudier than average

although both spring and May were the warmest on recordD, Sunshine was below average with 159.3 hours of sunshine recorded in May 17% below average. The same temperature can feel very different in different weather conditions, we all know that it feels warmer when the sun shines directly on us, compared to sitting in the shade. This doesn’t change the temperature, just the conditions with cloudy weather it is understandable that May did not feel so warm.

Rainfall was above average for Britain, with some areas in the south receiving more than a third more rainfall than average. So again, if it is wetter and cloudier than normal, these warmer temperatures are less likely to be felt.

News reference:

Met Office: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/news-and-media/media-centre/weather-and-climate-news/2024/warm-may-and-spring-for-the -uk

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