March 2011 Very dry and sunny, frequent warm days and cold nights


  • Philip Eden

High pressure straddled the UK throughout the first week, followed by short westerly and cyclonic interludes during the second week. High pressure re-established itself over southern Britain from the 18th, extending to the whole country on the 22nd before undergoing a long, slow decline. The last three days of the month were unsettled. The sea-level pressure anomaly field was dominated by a large area of above-average pressure of +9mbar centred over the British Isles.

Nearly all parts of the UK were dry until the 8th with varying amounts of cloud, but also some good sunny spells especially on the 4th, 7th and 8th. Central and southern parts of England and Wales had a cold east to northeast wind for much of the first week and the temperature only rose to 1.3°C at Lake Vyrnwy (Powys) on the 3rd, but in northern districts the days were occasionally quite mild though the nights were often frosty. Southern districts were the coldest early on the 8th with an overnight low of –7.2°C at South Newington (Oxon).

It became more changeable and windy between the 8th and 11th, with gusts to 70kn at Benbecula (Outer Hebrides) on the 10th, and there were frequent snow showers over northern hills from the 9th onwards. Kinlochewe (Wester Ross) collected 35mm of rainfall equivalent on the 9th – the month's heaviest daily fall. Between the 12th and 14th wintry weather in central and northern Scotland contrasted with mostly dry and mild weather in southern Britain; at Dalwhinnie (Inverness-shire) the day's maximum on the 12th was –0.5°C, while Aviemore (also Inverness-shire) reported 29cm of snow lying on the morning of the 13th.

A large anticyclone developed over Scandinavia on the 14th and a ridge of high pressure extended towards the UK. It was foggy at times over England and Wales between the 15th and 17th, but other regions enjoyed sunny periods – notably eastern Scotland on the 16th, 18th and 19th. Southern parts of England and Wales were dull and cold with rain at times on the 18th thanks to a slow-moving cold front, but in Scotland there was a sharp early frost and Braemar (Aberdeenshire) logged –7.5°C.

It became warm from the 21st onwards and many places enjoyed long periods of hazy sunshine – 11.8 hours at North Wyke (Devon) on both the 23rd and 24th – although northern and western Scotland were rather wet and windy for a couple of days. Temperatures reached 15–18°C widely, with 19.6°C at Chivenor (Devon) and Charlwood (Surrey) on the 25th. Warmth was confined to southernmost counties during the next two days, and on the 26th there were scattered heavy showers in southern England whilst an area of more persistent rain over north Norfolk gave 25mm at Tuttington. It became progressively less settled from the 29th onwards, and a 31-day spell without measurable rain at Cambridge came to an end on the 30th. The last day of the month was warm but windy: a gust of 61kn was logged at Loftus (N. Yorks) but the temperature reached 18.8°C at Santon Downham (Norfolk).

Mean maximum temperature ranged from fractionally below normal in Shetland to 1.0–1.5 degC above normal over much of England and Wales, while mean minima were 0.0–1.0 degC below normal in most regions. Except in eastern Scotland it was a dry month – exceptionally dry in some midland and eastern counties of England where less than 5mm of rain fell in many places from Hertfordshire to North Yorkshire; Cambridge collected just 2mm. Sunshine duration was slightly below normal in northern and western Scotland but 30–40% above normal over much of England and Wales. Weymouth (Dorset) reported an aggregate of 199 hours of bright sunshine.

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All the charts on these pages are © Crown Copyright, Met Office. Charts on this page are based on NCEP Re-analysis data provided by the NOAA-CIRES Climate Diagnostics Center, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

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Data supplied by the Met Office:

§ All averages are for the period 1961–1990.

The altitudes shown for the sites now conform with those shown in WMO Publication 9 Vol A.

The assistance of the Met Office in producing the maps and tables is gratefully acknowledged.