Concern over climate change as UK enjoys sunniest spring on record

Sunshine at the weekend saw people paddle along the River Cam as the UK government began a relaxation on coronavirus lockdown rules. (Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Britain has been basking in the sunniest spring on record but the sunshine followed a period of record-breaking rainfall, prompting concern about climate change.

Figures published on Monday by the Met Office confirmed that the UK enjoyed more than 613 hours of sunshine between March and the end of May, with the average being just 436.

Only 10 years have had more than 500 hours’ sunshine in the same period since 1929, when records began, and only 2020 has had more than 555 hours (recorded in 1948).

Spring 2020 also exceeds the sunshine amount for most summer seasons, with only three British summers being sunnier (1976, 199, and 1989).

The sunniest May on record saw thousands flock this weekend to beaches and beauty spots such as Ruislip Lido in west London as lockdown measures were relaxed in England. (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

A spokesman from the Met Office told Yahoo News UK: “The sunshine statistics for spring are completely unprecedented and if we look at the transition between a wet winter and a dry spring this is also unprecedented in our national rainfall series, dating back to 1862.”

February saw storms Ciara, Dennis and Ellen sweep across the British Isles, leaving trails of devastation in their wake.

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Analysts say the prolonged dry spell is due to the jetstream locking the fine weather in place, just as it locked the previous winter rainfall in place.

Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, told Yahoo News UK: “The most remarkable aspect is just how much some of the May and spring records for these climate statistics have been exceeded.

February 2020 was the wettest on record as storms Ciara, Dennis and Ellen ravaged the British Isles causing widespread flooding (Oli Scarff/AFP)

“Exceeding the UK sunshine record is one thing, but exceeding by over 70 hours is truly exceptional.

“The sunshine figures for spring would even be extremely unusual for summer and only three summers would beat spring 2020 for sunshine hours.

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“The principal reason for the dry and sunny weather is the extended period of high pressure which has been centred over or close to the UK. This has suppressed the development of clouds and rainfall over the UK, while allowing plenty of sunshine to reach the surface.”

Professor Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, told BBC News: “We’ve swung from a really unsettled spell with weather systems coming in off the Atlantic to a very, very settled spell.

“It’s unprecedented to see such a swing from one extreme to the other in such a short space of time. That’s what concerns me. We don’t see these things normally happening with our seasons.

“It’s part of a pattern where we’re experiencing increasingly extreme weather as the climate changes.”

Harvey Bradshaw, executive director for environment and business at the Environment Agency, said: “This has been an exceptionally dry spring. We have seen a fall in river flows and reservoir levels.

“However, most water companies across the country have appropriate water reserves for this time of year. 

“We work closely with all water companies to ensure their drought plans are up-to-date and activated as needed. Some will be following their plans as a precaution. 

“We can all do our part to use water wisely and manage this precious resource – simple steps such as fitting a trigger to your hose or using a bucket to wash the car or water plants can make a difference.”

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Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty said: “These are exceptional times and the record-breaking dry weather is a powerful reminder of what a precious, natural resource our water is.

“With so many people at home and enjoying their gardens, water companies are seeing record demand for water, which can cause issues with water pressure.

“Working together, we can all make a difference right now, so let’s use water wisely.

We need to keep washing our hands, but make other small changes to our water use, for example cutting back on paddling pools and sprinklers, particularly at the peak times in the evening.”

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