After a fairly inauspicious start to June 2017, the last few days have really boosted this months sunshine totals, particularly across southern areas. Top of the league at the moment is Jersey with 186.7 hours (average 10.3 hours per day), now there’s a surprise, closely followed by Manston in Kent and Herstmonceux in Sussex.
If you remember ever having to change a sunshine card in a Campbell-Stokes recorder as an observer, then I’m sure that you’ll like this new way of visualising hourly sunshine data from stations across the UK that I’ve dreamed up (fig 1).
I don’t have the luxury of being able to receive minute data from the Met Office network, so the next best bet is to access hourly SYNOP data from OGIMET and put it together in some code and plot a gantt chart, which is exactly what I’ve done here (fig 1). It’s unique as far as my knowledge of visualising systems that don’t have network access to a remote AWS. There is a bit of guesswork about how you assign the hourly amount of sunshine to each hour during the day, I’ve made it so that the program defaults to the end of the hour before noon, and to the start of the hour after noon. The gantt chart format allows you to also see the approximate times of sunrise and sunset for each station. I’m pretty chuffed with the end result which only occurred to me whilst sun bathing in the garden this afternoon!
The other thing that it enables you to do is to watch sunshine total as they increase across the UK in real-time through the day (fig 2).
I realise it’s not the same thing as UV, but the hourly solar radiation figures in the SYNOP reports do give you a very good idea of the sun’s strength at the moment, which is extremely strong across most areas. I know that down here in Devon, I’m starting to burn in less than 5 minutes sat out in it. It’s a funny thing, you wait patiently for the first hot sunny summers day to arrive, but then when it does, you have to hide from the sun.
The fair weather cumulus across East Anglia, has pegged solar radiation values down there a touch (fig 2), but in many other places it’s well in excess of 3000 kJ/m² (fig 1) this lunchtime.
The usual culprits are at the top of warmest places from the SYNOPs, but Exeter is doing quite well with 25.9°C at 13 UTC. It’s almost 4 degrees warmer than that here, about 8 km to the north of the airport, but my Vantage Pro is far too well sheltered, and at the moment is covered in splashes of Ambre Solaire.
A little unfair of me perhaps, but this is a comparison of the last weeks sunshine from Kinloss on the Moray Firth in the north (fig 1), and Exeter in deepest darkest Devon in the south (fig 2). I’ll let the graphics do the talking. I’m sure that the balance will be redressed as the summer goes as they usually do. The GFS forecast still looks good, but thundery showers might be a problem for some areas next week.
It looks like it will be another very hot day for mid May in Córdoba, Andalusia Spain, although it may not top the 41.4°C (106.5°F) that it reached their yesterday (fig 1). It looks like temperatures have been on the rise in that part of Spain for the last four days or so (fig 2).
According to the climate information in Wikipedia from the Agencia Estatal de Meteorología, yesterdays maximum of 41.4°C (fig 3) was still a long way short of the existing June all time maximum of 45.0°C.
As is fairly typical for Iberia it’s also been fairly sunny in Spain this May, and at the moment Córdoba is also probably the sunniest place in Europe, with over 164 hours of sunshine in the first 12 days of May (fig 4).
It’s neck and neck at the top of the sunshine table between Aldergrove and Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man this month. With just a few days left this May, Aldergrove with a total of 248.4 hours is just in first place. Tiree, who had been sunniest for the first 12 days has now slipped to 5th place. There are some missing values for stations in my list, but it maybe that Liscombe in Somerset might once again be the dullest place in the UK, but that does look a little suspect to me even though I’ve received all 26 sunshine values from their observations.
Plenty of sunshine across the southeast of the country at the moment, and for large parts of Europe. These are the hourly sunshine totals for 12-13 UTC today (fig 1), it’s a shame that Ireland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Iberia don’t include this hourly data in their weather reports.
I think I can say without a doubt that today has been the warmest day so far this year, at least in our part of south Devon. It’s not been particularly high, maybe just scraped a 22 or a 23°C this afternoon in the back garden, but it’s enough (fig 2). Personally speaking, this year Spring seems to have been a long time coming.
Certainly the solar radiation has been high (fig 3), and so must the UV, but unfortunately the SYNOP reports don’t include that.
Just what the Doctor ordered
Not only did the southeast get the warmest day yesterday (which is more that can be said down here in the southwest) they also got a good long spell of moderate rain, which must have come as welcome relief to the farms and gardens that have been crying out for it over the last six weeks or so. For a long time I thought that the rain gauge of the AWS in St James Park must have been faulty or perhaps full of pigeon excrement.
The estimates that I make from radar images were a little high, for example I estimated a 18-06 total for Wattisham of 21.8 mm and in reality they recorded 20.2 mm [06-06]. The coast of Kent seems to have escaped most of yesterday’s rain though.
Wattisham, as well as being the wettest place yesterday with 20.2 mm in the reported SYNOP’s (fig 3), also managed second warmest with 25.2°C (fig 4).
I still suspect that there is some kind of geothermal energy going on in close proximity to the Stevenson screen at Broadness, because yet again they were the warmest station in WMO block #03.
Despite the warmth in the southeast, I reckon the best day yesterday was in the far north or west albeit considerably fresher, Kirkwall reported 12.6 hours of sunshine, and stations in Ireland added more sunshine to their already high totals so far for May (fig 5).
I thought that I would investigate and find out exactly what climatologically is the sunniest month of the year using monthly sunshine data from the Met Office. The gridded sunshine record only started in 1929, but I’ve been reliably informed by someone in the know at the Met Office, that plans are well advanced to extend this (along with the rainfall and temperature series), back to at least the start of the 20th century, which I applaud, although in my opinion it’s a long way overdue. The add-on to my application looks not only at sunshine, but rainfall and temperature too, and for any region within the United Kingdom. The pie chart I’ve include is for England & Wales (fig 1), and reveals, surprisingly to many I bet, that May is climatologically the sunniest month of the year in 35.2% of years since 1929, followed by June in 31.8% of years, and July in 19.3% of years.
Also rather surprisingly, it can happen that in some years April is the sunniest month. According to my application that’s occurred five times, in 1945, 1954, 2002, 2007 and 2011, so three times in the last 15 years. There’s always a chance that I’ve made an error let me know if I have.
The sunniest month in the entire England and Wales record was the July of 2006 with 287.6 hours of sunshine (fig 2). The sunniest month in the famous summer of 1976 was also a July with 251.5 hours of sunshine, but ranked only 13th in the list of sunniest months in a year.
What was the sunniest May in the UK? That of course depends on where you live, so using the regional gridded sunshine data series from the Met Office that started in 1929 here is a map of the sunniest May for each of the nine individual regions, and for the whole series in a horizontal bar chart (fig 1). May is climatologically the sunniest month of the year in the UK, but more of that in an upcoming post, and by the look of it, the May of 1989 was the sunniest in nine of the seventeen regions, including the UK and England and Wales, if the gridded sunshine values are anything to by.
The 1989 record certainly is in no danger of being broken in the southeast this year, but it’s certainly could in Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland, where they’ve got off to a flying start (fig 2).