Clever Weather

This week I’m attempting to answer the question on everyone’s lips – why are we having such terrible weather and is our climate really changing? Thanks to @gaffa10 for suggesting it (albeit in stronger descriptive terms!).

So, first things first – why is our weather so bad this April? We’re on track for the coldest April in nearly a quarter of a century and quite possibly the wettest April on record (certainly for southern England) with almost two months’ worth of rain expected to fall in the next five days. The reason for our bad weather is all down to position and strength of the Jet Stream – a fast-moving ribbon of air high up in our atmosphere that steers areas of low pressure. Normally it would be rather quiet in mid-Spring, but not this year.

The result is low pressure after low pressure piling in off the Atlantic, bringing heavy rain and strong winds. If that wasn’t bad enough, the prevailing wind direction has a northerly component, so it feels cold too!

There is no sign of a let up from the changeable conditions but hopefully the downpours won’t be as frequent or as heavy as we head into May.

So is it all down to climate change? It’s a tough one to answer definitively. After all we’ve been putting all kinds of rubbish into our oceans and atmosphere for centuries so of course it has affected our environment and climate. But our planet is pretty complicated and we don’t know exactly what will happen next. Scientists now agree there is definite proof of global warming, and one effect of this is likely to be more extreme weather events. However, our weather records only go back so far and it could just be a natural fluctuation. Don’t forget we did have a very long dry spell recently (which few people complained about) so now we’ve got a wet spell to redress the balance. Let’s see how the next few months play out…

If you have a Clever Weather question then email me on or tweet me @kirstymccabe.

Even the ducks are fed up

With another wet week ahead, I think even the ducks are fed up. In an interesting twist, the south of the country will actually be wetter than the north – cue lots of phone calls from my mother in Scotland asking me what the weather is like just so she can boast it’s better where she is. She really does do this and in summer the game extends to “has the sun set with you yet?”…

But I digress. This time of year usually sees the weather quieten down and high pressure take over, but not this week. We’ve got low pressure after low pressure lining up in the Atlantic and that means wet and windy. So expect some longer spells of rain this week, and in between the rain bands it’ll be sunshine and showers (ie you’ll still need your brolly).

Looking at the longer range forecasts I think we’re stuck in this unsettled weather rut for at least another week or two. I guess I better buy my one-year-old his first pair of wellies!

Run – it’s the weekend

It would seem the weather gods have heard about the hosepipe bans and are taking the proverbial. Every time I’ve ventured out for a walk this week I seem to have got caught in a torrential downpour with hail and thunder making guest appearances. So is the weekend going to be any better?

In short, not really! The heavy April showers will continue, especially during the afternoons when they are more likely to turn heavy and thundery with hail for some and sleet/snow for the Scottish hills.

So a chilly start to Saturday morning with a few mist and fog patches but these should soon clear. Hopefully despite the showers soon getting going, we might see some sunnier breaks. I think Northern Ireland and southwest England may fare best for avoiding the showers. The wind should be lighter which will make it feel a bit warmer, though temperatures are nothing to write home about, highs just 10 to 14C.

Not much change on Sunday, with more heavy April showers and a risk of some very heavy downpours across northern England and southern Scotland in particular. Temperatures again around 10 to 14C at best and very chilly at night.

As for Monday it looks like more persistent frontal rain will move in across England and Wales, but Scotland and Northern Ireland may enjoy some dry and bright weather. There’s a lot of uncertainty over the track of the rain so I’d keep your brollies and wellies handy for the commute to work.

Good luck to everyone taking part in the London marathon on Sunday. It’s going to be a chilly but dry start, so if you can run fast you might just finish before the showers start…

Clever Weather

Once a week I will try to answer your weather questions, so if there is anything you’ve always wanted to know then this is your chance!

To start the ball rolling, here’s one I get asked a lot. What is the difference between rain and showers?

Obviously if you get caught in either one you’ll get wet, the difference is simply the type of cloud they fall from.

Rain falls from layer or stratiform cloud, usually associated with dynamic frontal zones (the boundary between two air masses). Often the rain will affect a large area and last at least a few hours. With a little bit of knowledge about fronts, it’s quite simple to forecast where and when the rain will fall next. Rain can be heavy, light or even just spits of drizzle.

Showers fall from convective or cumuliform cloud, often associated with an unstable airstream or the result of daytime heating (think tropical afternoon downpours). These are much more localised small-scale events, so you may get a shower while your next-door neighbour’s garden stays dry. It’s much harder to forecast where and when showers will fall.

Showers don’t last as long as rain, however they can be more intense. And if the wind steers them the right (or wrong!) way then you can get shower after shower, making it feel more like a spell of rain.

If you have a Clever Weather question then send it my way

Week ahead

I thought I’d don my weather hat and take a look at the forecast for the week ahead. Please don’t shoot the messenger when I tell you it’s unsettled, which means we’ll all get some showers or longer spells of rain accompanied by brisk winds. It will also feel cold with temperatures below average and still a risk of night-time frosts (when it’s not raining of course!).

And the signs are this unsettled spell will continue through the weekend and into next week too. Which isn’t great news for sunbathers but good for the gardens. Although it will take an awful lot more rain over many more months to reverse the drought and hosepipe bans. Personally, I’m still hoping for a nice warm dry summer.

April showers

The weather is back to normal this month with plenty of April showers. Although the rain is welcome news for our gardens it won’t be enough to reverse the hosepipe ban in place for parts of England. Unless of course we get a horrendous amount of rainfall over the next few months. But do you remember summers 2007 and 2008? Let’s hope not…

I’m dreaming of a White Easter

Believe it or not in the UK we are more likely to get a White Easter than a White Christmas. But surely after last month’s record-breaking heat, there won’t be snow on our Easter eggs this year? Well, given the snowy start to this week I wouldn’t rule it out!

The later Easter falls (the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox in case you were wondering) the better the weather is likely to be. However, over the past 45 years snow has fallen quite regularly, and not just on the mountain tops. The most recent snowiest Easter occurred on 1st-3rd April 1983, with Scotland, the Midlands and Kent getting up to 10cm of snow.

So, what is the forecast for Easter 2012? Cool, breezy and rather changeable pretty much sums it up. I’ll bring you more details later this week…