Sunniest May caps record-breaking spring weather

Emma Gatten
The record-breaking clear skies followed a period of high pressure  - Martin Dalton 

May was the sunniest month the UK has seen on record, the Met Office said yesterday, after a spring that saw more sun than most British summers in history. 

The month saw 266 hours of sunshine, beating the previous record of 265 hours in June 1957.  It caps off the sunniest spring on record across the country, with 626 hours of sunshine beating 1948’s 555 hours.

Only the summers of 1976, 1995, and 1989 had more sunshine hours than spring 2020 in records stretching back to 1929. 

May was also the driest on record for England, and the second driest on record for Wales since 1862, with just 17 per cent of average rainfall. 

The spell of blue skies followed a prolonged period of very high pressure close to or over the UK, which suppressed clouds and rainfall, the Met Office said. 

Scientists say climate change may be a factor in the extreme weather, but that it is too soon to tell. 

Dr Mark McCarthy, the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre said the scale of the records broken was remarkable. “Exceeding the UK sunshine record is one thing, but exceeding by over 70 hours is truly exceptional.”

Stephen Burt, a research fellow in the department of meteorology at the University of Reading, said the data was “extraordinary” and left the UK sunnier than the average May in Malaga or Seville. 

“I’ve been a meteorologist for 50 years,” he said. “I can count on the fingers of one hand the most extraordinary events in terms of anomalies and this is one of those.” 

Records for Oxford show the city had its sunniest month as far back as 1880, Mr Burt said. 

He added that a lack of air pollution from plane contrails during the lockdown might also be giving sunny days “a little bit of oomph”.