The British weather in October

"This, our golden month.


Averages for October (for Central England)


Overall average

10.6

Average maximum

14.0

Average minimum

7.2

Average highest maximum

19.0

Average lowest minimum

-1.2

Average rainfall

52

Autumn is in full swing. For me October is about the leaves on the trees turning golden brown and then slowly falling to the ground in the wind. It is also about being windy. As Shelley said in his Ode to the West Wind, "O wild West Wind, thou breath of autumn's being". I also hope for the first frost from the middle of the month onwards (see my page the first frost for more detailed discussion of this). October (along with April) is my least favourite weather month: extremes are uncommon. For example, snow is very rare in October, notable falls occurring approximately every ten years. One can always hope for an Indian summer (named after the North American native Americans; it is a fine, sunny, warm spell in October or November, and strictly one can only have a true Indian summer after the first frost). However, because of the temperature contrasts in the Atlantic, October is one of the months least likely to be anticyclonioc throughout. The frequency of thunderstorms is well on the decline in October. So the ideal October will start with some thunderstorms, then quieten down for a good hot Indian summer for a couple of weeks, cooling down to give the first air frost, and ending with rain and gales. Snow in October was more common in the last century; indeed, there is some evidence that Octobers have been warming up considerably (more so than average), although most of the warming is due to a run of very warm Octobers between 1957 and 1972, and more broadly from 1940. The October of 1974 was then very cold. Until recently, October (along with June and December) has shown no warming trend since the 80s - but then three of the warmest have been in the last 11 years. So make of that what you will if you're interested in global warming. October has also become slightly drier and sunnier, with the 70s the driest decade for October, although it has recently become wetter. The 1920s was the driest decade, and the 80s the wettest.

It is reputed that the third old-wives dry fine period continues to the 4th. It is supposedly cyclonic 5th-12th, with storms peaking on the 8th-9th, followed by another anticylonic spell to the 20th (centred around the 18th, St Luke's day, hence "St Luke's little summer"). Traditionally, the late autumn storms then start and continue till mid November. It is claimed.

Extraordinarily, two weather records for October this century were set (so far!) in its first five years. 80F/27C has been exceeded in four years: 1908, 1921, 1959, and 1985.


Extremes for October in the 20th century

Highest October average overall = 13.2 (2001)

Lowest October average overall = 7.1 (1905)

Highest maximum = 29.4 (March, Cambridgeshire, on the 1st, 1985)

Lowest minimum = -11.7 (Dalwhinnie, on the 28th, 1948)


Some extreme weather events in October in the twentieth century

1900 Some very wet spells. The 28-29th was a wet weekend in the NE with flooding in the Newcastle area after about 75 mm of rain.

1902 Mild and dull.

1903 The wettest of the century, and indeed the wettest month of all in the England and Wales rainfall series since records began in 1766: an average of 218 mm of rain fell (268% of the long-term average). 450 mm fell in the Lake District. On the 8th heavy rain affected the northeast: 100 mm fell at Newcastle, leading to much flooding. The southwest was hit by a storm a few days later. There were also gales and storms. Tornadoes hit Wareham and Banbury on the 25th. By the end of the month 25,000 acres of the country was under flood water, particularly in the flood plains of the Ouses, Severn, Trent, and Thames. Bridges were weakened and collapsed. In the north the harvest was severely affected.

1905 The coldest this century (7.1).

1906 Mild and wet. There was however some snow in Northern Ireland on the 29th.

1907 Warm but very wet. A deep depression brought strong easterly midmonth, and dumped 90mm of rain on Lincoln on the 16th.

1908 Very warm and dry: one of the warmest of the century (at 11.8C CET, it was beaten only by 1921, 1945, 1959, 1968, 1969, 1978, and 1995). The month started with a heatwave, and a remarkable one at that, as the high temperatures tended to occur in the north and west. It was almost 28C in parts of England on the 1st and 2nd. 25.6C was reported near Elgin on the 2nd, and 27.2C at Tillypronie (Aberdeenshire - the record Scottish maximum for October) and 26.7C at Betws-y-Coed, both on the 3rd (Welsh record). The 28.9C recorded on the 1st at Whitby was a record high for October until 1985. There were some major thunderstorms towards the end of the month; 100 mm of rain fell in 5 hours at Weymouth on the 21st. It was one of the warmest Octobers of the century in Scotland.

1909 A quite mild but often wet and windy month. This month set the record for most rainfall in a month at one place: 1436mm at Llyn Llydau (Gwynedd). On the 26th, 84mm of rain fell at Brighton and 63mm at Shoeburyness.

1910 An unsettled month with a reverse north-south that was reminiscent of August. There were some warm sunny days in the north but the south tended to be cool and dull. It was particularly dull in the S midmonth, with only 5 hours sunshine between the 9th and 15th, and no sunshine at all in Birmingham from 23-29th.

1911 A quiet month. Quite dry and cool. The fine, settled weather of the long summer continued into the middle of the month. An unsettled spell midmonth, with periods of heavy rain. The 13th was a wet day in the SW.

1912 The wettest this century (e.g. 450mm in the Lake District). Not surprisingly therefore, there was widespread flooding. It was also a cold month (8.2

1913 The month was very warm and thundery. There was a thundery start to the month. There were 79 mm of rain in Boston (Lincs.) on the 5th. It then turned unsetted. The month was however most notable for an extraordinary tornado associated with severe thunderstorm that moved from east Devon via Wales up to Lancashire on the 27th. Much damage was done. Rooves were lifted several miles. A hayrick weighing several tons was carried for a mile. Near Pontypridd half a ton of brick chimney was carried several hundred yards. The death toll was six (at Edwardsville, Glamorgan, Wales) with over a hundred injured. It was associated with a thunderstorm that was seven miles wide, although the tornado was only about a hundred yards wide, as measured by the swarth it cut through trees at Church Stretton. The death toll is Britain's highest for a tornado. Overall wetter than average in the SE, but dry in the north of England and most of Scotland.

1914 Dry and mild.

1916 Wet and stormy. The record daily rainfall for the month of 208.3mm was set at Loch Avoich (Kinlochquoich) on the 11th. Up to this point, this was the highest daily rainfall ever for the British Isles.

1917 Cold, stormy and wet the coldest of the century in Scotland. Snow in the north. There was snow in northern Ireland on the 26th. In spite of the overall cold (7.5C CET, nearly as cold as 1919), there was a warm start, with 24C at Southend on the 2nd.

1918 Dull, damp and foggy.

1919 Notable prolonged frosty spell. Very cold (7.4C CET - the second coldest of the century), but dry and very sunny (the third sunniest on record), although it was cloudier at the end.

1920 Sunny - it was cloudless across the country 24-30th. Felixstowe recorded 207 hours of sunshine in the month. A very easterly month.

1921 Heatwave! The high of 28.9C in London on the 5th and 6th remained a record maximum for October until 1985; it is still the record warmest day so late in the year this century. The high of 27.8C in London on the 9th is the latest date in the year when 80F was reached anywhere in the UK. The heatwave was prolonged over several days: 25C was exceeded eight times in the first ten days. The temperature at Brighton on the night of the 1-2 didn't follow below 17.2C (63F). Later, 24.4C was reported in several locatons in the southeast on the 18th. Generally fine, sunny, and extremely dry, but with some exceptions: thundery outbreaks early on: 63mm at Oswestrt on the 3rd, flooding in Lochaber on the 5th. Cooler second week with local heavy rain. There was heavy rain in Kent and Sussex on the 20th, Shanklin (IOW) flooded, 62mm of rain in thunderstorm at Tunbridge Wells. Overall it is the fourth warmest October on record (with a CET of 12.8C, after 2001, 1969, and 1995). The sunniest October on record, with sunshine 41% above average.

1922 A very dry month. In parts of what are now the West Midlands it was the driest recorded. It was very dry in the NW, and no rain fell on the Isle of Wight from the 5th to the 26th. After a mild first week it became cold. It was continuously sunny from the 11-16th. There was even snow in London and the SW on the 29th. It was a very sunny month in the NE, and in southern and eastern Scotland.

1923 Wet, windy, unsettled.

1924 Changeable. Wet in the south. 83 mm of rain in 24 hours at Falmouth on the 7th, with widespread gales.

1925 The month began settled, but became colder in the second week, with some notable (for the time of year) frosts: -4C at Andover and -8C at West Linton on the 15th. This year there was a slight snowfall in Norfolk.

1926 A cold month overall (CET 8.1C). The month started off nice and warm (23.5C at Worksop on the 4th), with a thundery breakdown on the 5-6th. It was then wet and windy. The month turned much colder from the 14th with frosts, and snow fell almost daily from the 19th. There was sleet on the 21st as far south as the Isle of Wight. Gales and heavy ran on the 24-25th; about 125 mm of rain near Keswick. Further snow on the 28th gave 5cm in London (Hampstead). At Harrogate there was morning snow cover for three consecutive days. Snow was a foot deep at Dalnaspidal near Perth on the 28th. It was -10.5C at Braemar on the 27th, and snow eventually reached a depth of 30 cm over the Perthshire hills. Apparently the severe weather was blamed on the sun: either on the auroral display of the 14-15th, or on sunspot activity.

1927 Severe gales over the NW on the 28-29th. Flooding on the Lancashire coast.

1928 It was quiet and warm, with southerly winds at first, but then became wet and windy. On 22nd a small tornado travelled through London between Picadilly and Oxford Circuses.

1929 Severe gales on 5 - 8th as two depressions tracked across Ireland. Gusts of 92 mph were recorded at Falmouth on four consecutive days. A gust of 110 mph at Scilly was a record at the time for lowland Britain in October.

1930 Wet and the west but dry and sunny in the east. 70F (21.1C) was recorded in London in a warm spell 15-17th, and the minimum in Manchester, Ross, and Margate on the nights of the 15th and 16th was as high as 60F.

1931 Sunny, dry, and anticyclonic but with frost at night: there were some very low minima in the south.

1932 Unsettled, dull and wet. 6.7 inches of rain fell at Aberdenn and 8 inches at Newquay.

1933 Mild and dull until the 25th. Very thundery. Flooding in Sussex on the 11th.

1934 Mild and dull, but turning cold at the end of the month. Snow is rare in October, but there were snow showers in the Midlands on the 31st. 5 cms at Belvoir Castle in Leics., and a light covering in parts of the Chilterns. This is the last time there was snow lying in southern England in October. The maximum at Bellingham (Northumberland) on the 31st was less than 1C (33F in old money), and in places it was the coldest day of the year. This was the last time Northern Ireland saw any October snow before 2008.

1935 Very wet in Scotland. On the 19th an intense depression passed east north of Scotland. A severe gale killed 11 people; 92 mph was recorded. There was heavy rain too, and the winds turned northerly briefly afterwards to produce a cold snap. The pressure near the centre of the low was 950 mbars.

1936 Anticyclonic first halk. Windy after the 14th. On the night of the 26th a tramcar was blown off its rails in Glasgow.

1937 Dry, especially in Scotland. Quite a foggy month. It was dry across much of the country from the 2nd to 20th, when it turned more unsettled.

1938 Very wet and windy at the beginning. 80 mm of rain at Hawkshead Hill (Cumbria) on the 2nd. On the 3rd, much of the north and west had over 25 mm, 50 mm was widespread, and some places in the Lake District and South Wales recorded 125mm. The 4th was particularly stormy as a deep depression (with a low pressure of 953 mbars) moved NE across Scotland, with severe and widespread gales over central Britain, causing widespread damage, with a maximum gust of 104 mph: 95 mph gust at Bidston (Merseyside, where a mean speed of 64 mph was recorded) and 92 mph at Barton (Mancheste). Thunderstorms on the 5th. More heavy rain on the 6th, 8th, and on the 12th Blaenau Ffestiniog had 130 mm. Watendlath Farm (Cumbria) recorded 475 mm from the 2-12th. Drier and quieter midmonth; 21C at Colwyn Bay on the 13th.

1939 Unusually, this month was very dry in the NW of England, but very wet in the SE. A very easterly month. A cool month (8.2), unusually it was cooler than the November that followed. Kent was wetter than Snowdonia: a number of places in Kent exceeded 250 mm; Margate had 261 mm - which is 25 mm than it had in the whole of 1929.

1940 Dull and unsettled.

1941 The month had a very warm, fine start, with some hot days, sunshine, and fog at night. 24C was recorded in the SE on the 1st and 2nd, and 6th and 7th. However, it became colder with showers as the winds changed to northerlies in the closing days of the month. The maximum was only 5C in the SE on the 29th.

1942 Mild but dull.

1943 Dull and mild.

1944 Wet and cold. Also of note this month; with victory in distant sight, the government allowed information about the weather to be broadcast on the radio again, if only a forecast for the day before yesterday.

1945 Dry, anticyclonic up to the 20th, when it was very dry in places: there was no measurable rain in the Thames Valley in this period. It reached 25C in Croydon on the 11th. It then turned stormy, with severe gales on the 24th, 25th, and 27th.

1946 High pressure over Scandinavia throughout the month meant that Scotland was very dry (5% of expected rainfall). While England and Wales were dry they also suffered from easterly winds, resulting in cool, cloudy weather. It was the dullest October at Kew since 1924.

1947 An anticyclonic month: very dry in the south - one of the driest of the 20th century in England and Wales. There were just 4 mm of rain at Kew all month, and 10 mm at Birmingham. It had a warm first half, although there was rain at times in the north and west.

1948 Mainly mild until the 24th when it turned colder The record low minimum for October was then set this month: -11.7C at Dalwhinnie on the 28th. It was dry and dul in most of England and Wales but wet and sunny in Scotland.

1949 A very wet second half. 26C was recorded in Essex on the 3rd and 4th. The temperature did not fall beneath 17C in London on the night of the 14-15th. Very wet between the 16th and 26th. On the 23rd, a southerly gale damaged the sea wall at Folkestone. The month was drier than average from Cheshire to Durham.

1950 A warm start and cold end. Doncaster reached 23C on the 5th; yet there was snow in Bedfordshire on the 27th. There was widespread fog on the 31st.

1951 October was the driest month of 1951. There was an absolute drought of 23 days at Tynemouth. A sunny month. 69F (20.6C) was recorded at Llandudno on the 9th.

1952 Cold and changeable, with some night frosts. It was often stormy and with some heavy showers. A tornado hit and caused some damage in Londonderry (NI) on the 23rd. Wet in the west and dry in the east; inly half the usual rainfall in Edinburgh.

1953 Generally mild, quiet and dull, with a more changeable final week and a widespread gale on the 26-27th. It was cool and and dry during the first 11 days, and sunny in the south, with some foggy mornings. There was an absolute drought in the Scilly Isles for 15 days. Only about an inch of rain fell in NE England and SE Scotland all month.

1954 Generally mild with spells of warm southerly or southwesterly winds in the south. The month was notably wet in Edinburgh. It reached 23C at Lowestoft on the 17th.

1955 A dry start, but then a notable wet spell in the south from the 18th-21st - e.g. 73mm at Lytchett Matravers (Devon) on the 18th. On the 19th, there were 67mm at Winchester and 27mm in two hours at Poole, and 62mm in Edgware. Poole had 102 mm in the 24 hours up to 9pm on the 19th. On the 21st there were 111mm at Ramsgate and 95mm at Ashford. Widespread flooding. Ramsgate had 173mm this month. On the other hand, only 25mm of rain all month at Lincoln. Locally it was the fourth consecutive dry month. As an example of local variability, consider Dorset: Swanage had 132mm, but Shaftesbury only had 47mm. Also a sunny month.

1956 After a miserable summer there was at least an Indian summer this year. Unsettled till the 5th, fine and dry after that.

1957 A mild but dull month. Dry in the south and east and wet in the west. Relatively dry first half, more unsettled second half.

1958 Changeable frist half, then dry and mild across the country.

1959 A very warm and mostly sunny first half, with a notable heatwave. It was 28.3C in several places in the southeast on the 3rd (e.g. Rugby, Faverhsam, Mickleham), and readings in excess of 27C were widespread during the first week, on southerly and southeasterly winds. After the great summer, the rain in eastern England on October 10 was the first for 58 days (from August 14). The weather deteriorated on the 17th and ended cold and stormy, though. It was particularly bad in Scotland on the 27th, with gales. The second sunniest October on record, with 39% sunshine above average.

1960 Quite a month, with some severe thunderstorms. Dull and very wet (the second wettest of the century). Low pressure dominated the first week, but with some warm, humid spells in the sun: 21C at Maldon (Essex) on the 6th. There was some serious flooding, at its most severe in Devon. In the five days ending on the 2nd Teignmouth had 175 mm of rain. There were 60 mm in 2 hours near Lyme Regis on the 2nd. Two notable spells of flooding in the Exeter region, on the 6th and 26/27th. More heavy rain in the SW in the following week; nearly a 1000 houses flooded in Exmouth on the 6th. There was a severe thunderstorm gave Horncastle (Lincs.): 184 mm in 5 1/2 hours on the 7th between midday and 6pm: 178mm fell in 3 hours, with most of the rain falling between 2.30 and 4 pm - this is the highest know 3 hour rainfall total in the UK. The result was severe flooding: 100 homes were flooded, a man drowned, and many shops were damaged. Four miles away at Revesby reservoir the fall was 162 mm. More thunderstorms later in the week: 103 mm at Luxborough (Somerset) on the 8th, and 87 mm at Danby Lodge (North Yorks.) on the same day. There was widespread flooding in the south. The second week was drier, with cold and sunny weather in parts. Prolonged easterly winds on the other hand gave the north and west of Scotland a particularly dry month. From the 17th there was more heavy rain, followed by thundery showers. Aberdeen managed only 12 minutes sunshine from the 18-31st. More rain in the SW on the 26-27th, as rivers rose to their highest level this century, leading to further extensive flooding. There was a total of 314mm of rain at Exeter, three times the average.

1961 A wet month. Exceptionally wet in North Wales, where 179 mm was recorded. It was a sunny month, particularly in the Midlands. It was warm (21C) in the east on the 10th. There was a severe gale on the 23-24th, with gusts in excess of 90 mph, affecting the NW.

1962 A dry and sunny month, although more unsettled from the 24th.

1964 Cool but fairly dry overall. It was however very unsettled from the 5-17th. 22C was recorded in Hereforshire on the 5th. There was heavy rain on the 6th. A severe westerly gale affected the Channel Islands on the afternoon of the 9th, causing much damage, with a top gust of 108 mph, and hourly average wind speeds of 73 mph. The pressure fell rapidly, at the rate of 6 mbar/hour. Many agricultural greenhouses were destroyed, and the late tomato crop ruined. This was the most severe gale in the area on record - until 1987. Then 67 mm of rain fell along some parts of the SE coast on the 14th, with 77 mm at Dymchurch. Some snow in the south.

1965 Some late warmth. The warmest day of the year in the Snowdon area was on the 5th. 22.2C at Cape Wrath on the 22nd. It reached 25C a couple of times over a wide area in the first week - the warmest day of the year since May. It was the hottest day of the year at Spadeadam (Cumbria) on the 5th - the latest date this has happened in the whole country.

1966 265 mm of rain for the month at Ramsgate. A tornado caused widespread and serious damage at Headington, in NW Oxford, on the 16th. Prolonged heavy rain in South Wales contributed to the Aberfan disaster on the 21st.

1967 A pretty average month for temperature (CET 10.8C), although the month was very wet and stormy. Some places received three times the monthly average of rain. On the 9th, Great Langdale in Cumbria recorded 146 mm of rain. On the 16th, 25 mm or more fell across much of England and Wales. On the 27th a gust of wind of 94.4 mph was recorded at Portland Bill. It was a sunny month in the north.

1968 Warm (12.8C CET): the one of the warmest of the twentieth century - yet often dull, with frequent SW winds. Even better was to follow the next year in an extraordinary run. There was 159 mm of rain at Tollymore Park on the 31st is Northern Ireland's highest daily rainfall total.

1969 Until 2001, the hottest on record (13.0), with a particularly notable late heatwave. 26C was reported on the 9th, but a high of 22.8C at Portsmouth (26th) is the record for the last ten days of October (although this figure might be a bit high). An anticyclonic month which was very dry in the south. This was my first year at grammar school, but even with this cue available I still don't remember much about it.

1970 Another average October after the excitement of the previous one (CET 10.7C). It was dry in the south (with 9 mm of rain at Margate and 13 mm at Southampton) but wetter in the NW (with 213 mm at Stornoway). 18C was recorded in central England on the 30th.

1971 Warm and sunny at the start and end, and quite warm overall (11.3C CET - although nowhere near as good as 1969). 25 C in Wales on the 2nd; it even reached 20C at Wick that day. The 13-14th was a cold night, however, with -8C at Crawford-John and Craigie. On the 19th there were nearly 88 mm of rain at Oldham, and the wettest October day on record in Manchester. Later in the month Dalness (Argyllshire) had 162 mm of rain. Such things never bothered me back then. There is one fine October I remember at school, and I think it must have been this one. Very pleasant.

1972 Very average (10.6C).

1973 A rather cold (9.0) and generally dry month. The record for the lowest minimum in the first half of the month (-8.5C) was set this year on the 12th, at Lagganlia (Highland). There was an unsettled spell midmonth, with 96 mm of rain at Penzance on the 12th.

1974 Very cold (7.8C CET) - in parts of the south and midlands the coldest since 1905. The month had the lowest average maxima this century. It was dominated by persistent and often strong northerly winds. It was also very dull in Scotland. There was sleet and wet snow in the southeast on the 7th, and some light snow in the south (on the hills of Essex and Hertfordshire) for a while on the 30th. This is the last time there was snow in lowland Britain in October. The 7th was also the earliest date for snow in the south this century. There was maximum of only 3C widespread on the 30th, with more local sleet in parts of the south. I don't remember it at all. The highest temperature of the month was just 16.3C, in Northern Ireland (in England it was 16.1C).

1975 At 9.9C, slightly cooler than average. Mostly quiet and settled. In the second half of the month southerly winds brought fog at night and some warm afternoons. It reached 20C in Huddersfield on the 28th.

1976 Contined very wet after the great drought. Indeed, September and October 1976 combined were the wettest on record in England and Wales. The wettest October of the century for Northern Ireland. Very windy (90mph) in Edinburgh on the 6th. Dull on the east coast.

1977 A mostly unsettled first half, with some heavy rain, especially in the north and west. 100 mm of rain fell in Cornwall on the 5th. A tornado hit the outskirts of Grantham on the 8th. There was then maximum temperature of 24.3C at Pen-y-Ffridd (north Wales) as late as the 18th. This is the highest reading for the second half of October. Heavy rain led to serious flooding in the Borders on the 31st.

1978 One of the driest of the century, and particulary dry in the south. There was only 0.1 mm of rain all month at Gravesend, and some local spots had no measurable rain all month. It was very similar in style to 1969, with high pressure dominated the south of Britain, with westerlies bringing much rain to the north and west. It was also a consistently warm month in the south. Very mild midmonth - 25C in parts of the southeast in the 11th, and then 25.2C was recorded at Martyr Worthy (Hants.) on the 12th - this is the latest date 25C has been exceeded this century. It was often foggy at night.

1979 Quite mild overall. It was unsettled but with frequent southerly winds. 90 mm of rain fell at Dyce on the 4th. There was a minimum of 17C at Manchester on the 9th.

1980 Cold and wet after a fine start in the south, although Lerwick reported a gust of 103mph on the 1st. The maximum was only 7C in parts of the Midlands on the 10th.

1981 A very unsettled month that was also mostly cold and wet. It was very wet at the beginning of the month in the north. On the 2nd to 3rd, 100 mm of rain fell in 24 hours in areas around the Irish Sea. At the same time, there was snow on the Scottish mountains, and some areas were affected by a severe NE gale. There were severe gales in places on the 19th and 20th, and then there were many small tornadoes (29) associated with a cold front across England on the 20th. There was a maximum of only 5C in the south on the 25th.

1982 Very dull, cold, and very wet. The second half was particularly unsettled. The month was most notable for a slow-moving cold front that gave 40mm of rain over 60 hours in parts of East Anglia and the southeast from the 20-22nd.

1983 The first three weeks were unsettled and quite windy, but warm with mostly westerly winds. From the 20th on it became fine, with some notable frosts: -6C at Bournemouth airport on the 30th.

1984 Warm, but unsettled and wet.

1985 Sunny and dry. There was a notable "Indian summer". I'd just moved to Coventry, so was under the impression that this was a typical October for the south Midlands. There were widespread temperatures of 27C+ (80F) on the 1st and 21C+ for several days thereafter. The all-time highest October maximum of 29.4C (until 2011) was reached at in March (Cambs.) on the 1st. (Hence the pub quiz question: "When was the October record set in March?") Over much of eastern England it was the warmest day of the year, and a wide area saw temperatures over 80F. Cambridge saw 28.3C, Newcastle 25C, and 21C at Elgin. The sun shone, and a southerly breeze brought hot air up from Africa. Yet on the 30th the maximum was only 6C in Jersey, as it turned much colder on easterly winds. It was more unsettled midmonth; Kirkwall recorded a gust of wind of 100 mph on the 10th. Although it was warmer than average (11.0C CET), it was not extraordinarily so.

1986 Fine first half, then windy and wet. October was nearly as warm (11.0C CET) as September. (We need to go back to 1807 for the last time that October was warmer than September.) A notable autumn drought ended on the 14th; parts of the Midlands and North Wales had gone 42 consecutive days without rain.

1987 Slightly cool, sunny, and very wet. Frequent thunderstorms. Thunder was heard on ten days of the month in east Sussex. This month will be remembered however for the "Great Storm", the so-called hurricane of the night of the 15-16th and the morning of the 16th. Gusts of 70-90 knots were widespread across the southeast. Peak gusts included 115 mph at Shoreham, 108 mph at Langdon Bay near Dover, and 106 mph at Ashford (Kent). There were 18 deaths, 15 million trees were uprooted, and there was great damage to property. The worst storm since November 1703. In Coventry, we slept through it, although I did see the forecast the preceding lunchtime when Michael Fish said that there wasn't a hurricane on the way. I didn't pay attention. The first I heard of it was when my mother-in-law rang to ask if we were still alive. (She thought Coventry was more or less on the south coast.) A deep and complex depression moved northeast from the Bay of Biscay on the 15th. Its warm front brought heavy rain to the south. There was a marked temperature contrast across this front: at 11pm it was 17C at Southend bit only 8C at Stanstead. Around midnight the main depression suddenly deepened. An area of winds 50-80mph and 100 miles wide hit the Channel Islands at 11pm and moved NE across SE Britain in the early hours. In particular, many trees were uprroted (Sevenoaks was no longer). This extreme event has very well documented (see Eden, 1995, for a good discussion). Then on the 18-19th, there was severe flooding in the Tywi valley, Carmethen; a railway bridge was swept away, leadin to a rail disaster with loss of life. A dustfall overnight on the 26-27th. All in all, this has got to be the most exciting October of the century for weather.

1988 Variable across the country, but mostly warm, sunny, but wet. On the 19th a severe thunderstorm affected Merseyside. Crosby had 82 mm of rain, resulting in severe flooding.

1989 Warm, very unsettled at the end of the month. A very warm start to the month: 22.3C at Herne Bay (Kent) on the 6th. 97.3 mm of rain fell in two days (15-16th) at Fort William midmonth. Gusts of 100 mph at Portland Bill and 98 mph at Herstmonceux (Sussex) as a gale swept across Britain on the 28th. The warmest in the Midlands since 1969.

1990 Warm, sunny in the east, but very wet in some places (Edinburgh - the wettest October since 1954 - and Sussex). On the 6th there were 61,3 mm of rain up to 9pm, leading to flooding. There was a notable heatwave midmonth 12-15th, with southerly winds and warm sunshine, with temperatures including 24.3C at Northolt (London) on the 12th, and the same temperature at Wyton (Cambs.) and Valley (Gwynedd) on the 13th - the highest temperature for such a late date since 1921. It even made 22.3C at Kinloss (Grampian). With heavy rain and strong winds at the end of the month, there was some serious flooding along the south coast.

1991 Cool and cloudy. The maximum at Fylingdales (North Yorks.) on the 19th was only 4.8C. On the 21st, the minimum at Thurleigh, near Bedford, was -2.6C.

1992 Very cold (7.8) - the coldest since 1974. Northerly winds dominated, and the mean maximum was particularly low. There was a minimum of -5.0C at Bournemouth on the 17th, and -7C at Braemar on the 26th. Some snow in Scotland from midmonth. Wet, with heavy rain almost every day from the 18th-28th, with 46 mm at Cosby overnight on the 17-18th. It was the coldest October in Scotland since 1929. This was the last October there was any snow recorded in southern England (it happens about every 15 years on average).

1993 Cold, wet, and sunny; and an unusually easterly month. Cyclonic start, anticyclonic end, notable for its variety in weather and across locations. In the SE there were 6 consecutive air frosts in the third week. -9.9 on the 15th at Carnwath, near Glasgow. Snow in Scotland, starting on the 13th on the hills; however, there were 4 cm at Aberdeen on the 16th - the first snow in mid-OCtober there since 1973. There was also a sequence of 6 sharp frosts, with -9.9C at Carnwath, near Lanark, on the 17th being the lowest. Flooding across eastern England. There were tornadoes in the midlands on the 5th, particularly at Rothwell (Northants.), and severe thunderstorms with hail affected Leicester and Nottingham on the 6th. Thunderstorm on the 11th in the southeast led to flooding around Windsor.

1994 Slightly cooler than average overall. Dry, fine, warmer first half, much colder, wetter second half. Sunny in some southern places: Bognor Regis recorded 121 hours of sunshine between the 3rd and 18th inclusive as an anticyclone reigned. Saunton Sands and St Helier reached 21.9C on the 15th, and 20C was reached every day somewhere in the country between the 10th and 15th. It became much colder as the anticyclone moved away. There was flooding in the SW at the end of the month after 100 mm of rain fell in two days.

1995 Very warm and very sunny. The CET average of 12.9 was the second highest on record (after 1969, before it was pushed into third place by 2001), although this was attained with the assistance of a very high average minimum. A warm spell at the start of the month, with temperatures of around 25C in the south on the 8th and 9th, with 25.5C at Prestatyn on the 8th, the highest temperature this late in the year since 1978. On the 8th, under cloudless blue skies that were enjoyed across much of Britain, Torquay had 10.8 hours of sunshince. There were severe gales in the NW on the 24th.

1996 Warm but dull. On the 24th it reached 22C at Prestatyn. Some windy spells: severe gale (the remnants of Hurricane Lili) in southern England on the 27th with gusts of 90 mph along the Devon and Hampshire coasts; 92 mph recorded at North Hessart Tor in Devon. This was the worst gale to hit the south since that of December 1993. Overall it was wet in the north and west, but dry in the southeast.

1997 Mainly dry and sunny apart from the second week. The rivers were at a very low level, as the below average rainfall that started in March 1995 took its toll. A month with an interesting mixture of temperatures. The Good Indian summer continued from September. Very sunny (apart from northern Scotland) - in some parts since 1959. 26.0 recorded on the 1st at Shoeburness (Essex) - the highest reading this late since 1985. 22.0 at Aberdeen on the 5th - the highest October reading there since 1908. There was flooding in Hampshire midmonth. It became colder briefly midmonth, before warming up again on the 15th. The weekend of 18-19th was particularly warm: 23C in London, and 25.9C at Nantmor (Gwynedd) - this is the highest temperature ever recorded so late in the year in Britain. It became much colder on the 20th, with widespread and severe frosts in the last week. It was -8.1C at Redesdale (Northumberland) on the morning of the 29th, and other low readings in the SE meant that the mimima were the lowest in the south since 1931. It was also sunny, but with very low humidity (20%). Birmingham was one of the best places to be in the country this month.

1998 Cold and very wet: the wettest since 1987. Sunny in the north, but very dull in eastern England. Average temperatures arrived at with generally slightly low maxima and slightly high minima. Very wet end to the month: 319mm of rain in the Rhondda valley in 8 days towards the end of the month, leading to flooding, damaage, and evacuations in Merthyr Vale, Aberfan, and Pontypridd, worstaround the 20th-23rd. This sort of rainfall led to extensive flooding in the Welsh valleys and the western Midlands, in some places the worst since 1979. Loss of life. Some places in Wales had 500mm of rain this month.

1999 Average temperatures and rainfall. Dry, anticyclonic, and easterly until the 20th, with mild days and cool nights in the south. Early frost in many places on the 5th and 6th. There were several waterspouts reported around the Isle of Man on the 6th. Very sunny, particularly in the south, but dull in northeast Scotland; in some places the sunniest since 1959.

2000 The second wettest October in a century - equally as wet as 1987, but not as wet as 1903, with an average of 181 mm across England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland were also wet, but not so extraordinarily so. It was an exceptional month. Parts of Sussex saw about 380 mm of rain. Exceptional flooding midmonth in the SE. Heavy rain affected Kent and East Sussex. 143.8 mm fell at Plumpton (Sussex) in 24 hours up to 6pm on the 12th, 120 mm of it in 12 hours, with many sites in the region recording more than 100 mm. The flooding particularly affected the rivers Uck and Ouse. Parts of Lewes had to be evacuated. A severe and damaging tornado hit Bognor Regis on Saturday 28th. A severe gale affected the south coast on the night of the 29-30th, with a central pressure of 950 mb over Yorkshire; this is a record low pressure for England. In its wake, there was even some snow - 4 cms in the early morning of the 30th on high ground in east Lancashire. Snow fell but did not settle across much of the north - only the second time that there was October snow or sleet since records began at Leeming (Yorks.). Six tornadoes touched down within minutes of each other along the Hampshire and Sussex coasts on the morning of the 30th, causing damage and even injury.Overall it was quite a sunny month in the east and north, but dull in the west and south. Average temperatures.

2001 What a month! With a CET of 13.3C, easily the warmest ever recorded! Goodbye 1969. In some places, October was warmer than September 2001. Unusually for a very warm month, it was generally duller than average in many places, although quite sunny in eastern and northwestern England and Wales. It was also wet (60% above the England and Wales average) - but nowhere near as wet as October 2000. The month had a violently disturbed start, with gales, heavy rain, and thunder. There was some heavy rain, flash floods, hail, and strong winds on the 1st and 2nd. The 6th was a lively day. A tornado swept through the Norfolk Broads, damaging roofs in the villages of Repps-with-Bastwick and Potter Heigham, and uprooting trees and electricity poles, and generating a waterspout on the River Thurne. A large waterspout was spotted off the Suffolk coast near Sizewell. On the same day 7 mm hail fell on Leicester, as thunderstorms and sharp showers crossed Britain. On the 7th there were more gales and heavy rain: 28.6 mm fell at Hurn in one hour early in the afternoon. There was flooding in Sussex and Kent on the 7th. Mild midmonth, with temperatures exceeding 21C, including 25.3C at Herne Bay in Kent on the 13th. Some very wet weather affected eastern districts on the weekend of the 20-21st: there was flooding in the West Midlands and North Wales, and then 82.2 mm fell at Cambridge on the 21st, leading to localised flooding in the Fens. On the 24th another tornado damaged the roofs of houses and overturned lorries at Westbury (Wilts.). It was very warm at the end: 20C at Hawarden and 21C at Guernsey on the 30th. Nowhere in the country reported an air frost this month - this has never happened before. Indeed, with such a SW/w month, night time minima were particularly high.

2002 A very mixed month. Slightly cooler than average overall - making it the coldest since 1993. It was very wet, particularly in the east and south; Aberdeen and Dundee (but not Pitroddie!) had three times the normal amount rainfall, making it the wettest October on record there. It was also the wettest on record on the Isle of Man. The month had a very warm, dry, fine start. 23.8C at Prestatyn on the 1st. The autumn drought that afflicted many areas ended after 32 days, on 11 October. Some significant depressions then tracked across the country. Very heavy rain affected the north on the 11-12th, and the SW on the 12-13th: Cardiff had 60 mm, and St. Ives 50 mm, where there was serious flooding. There was then severe rain in the south on the 15th, with a damaging tornado in Torquay, where part of a church roof was destroyed, and another in Essex. There was 120 mm of rain in Dunkeswell (Devon) between the 11th and 16th. On the same day there was 73 mm of rain at Lowestoft. As the depressions moved away, the winds swung to the east or north, bringing cold air across the country, making the third week cold. There were significant snowfalls on the Scottish mountains. A minimum of -6C was recorded at Eskdalemuir on the morning of the 19th, and -7.5C at Tulloch Bridge on the 20th. A great gale affected the south on the 27-28th, causing widespread disruption and destruction, with loss of life; there was a gust of 97 mph at the Mumbles, and a 102 mph at the Needles (Isle of Wight). The Dartford and Severn Bridges were shut. It was dull in the east, but very sunny in the extreme north: it was the sunniest October in Lerwick since 1939.

2003 Dry, cool, and sunny, with winds mainly from the N and E. The coolest October for 10 years. Although there were some warm months in the first half of the month, the second half was cool, with some sharp night frosts. 22.1C was recorded at Staunton Sands (Devon) on the 2nd, and -6.9C at Shap on the 22nd. Many areas had no rain until the 28th. A cold snap set in on the 18th for nearly the rest of the month. There was some snow in parts of Scotland on the 20-21; 4 inches of snow settled at Huntly (Aberdeen), and 10" reported in parts of the Lammermuir Hills. There was some snow on Exmoor and Dartmoor on the 21st. The maximum at Carter Bar, Roxburghshire, on the border between Scotland and England, was just 3C. There were some sharp frosts in this cold spell too. Sunshine for the month was 31% above average. There were superb auroral displays on the 29th and 30th.

2004 Very wet - the England and Wales average of 144 mm was 51% above average. It was particularly wet in North Wales and eastern Scotland, and it was the wettest October on record in Leuchars (Fife). Temperatures were about average in the south, although Scotland was on the cool side. The highest reading of the month was 19C at Gravesend on the 24th - this is the lowest high October maximum since 1974. There was a notable gale in the SW on the 27th, noted more for its effects, a storm surge leading to flooding around Mousehole and Penzance, than the strength of the wind. Apart from the far SW, it was mostly dull overall, in spite of a sunny, dryish interlude 5-11th. Aviemore had its dullest October since 1974.

2005 Very warm - with a CET of 13.1C it was almost but not quite as good as the record-breaking month of October 2001. It was consistently warm rather than containing exceptional hot spells, with very little frost. The highest maximum was 23.6C at Herne Bay (Kent) on the 10th. It was also a very wet month, and quite cloudy - the dullest since 1982. At Eskdalemuir the total of 36 hours of sunshine made it the dullest October in a century. There were notable downpours in east Scotland on the 11th and 24th. On the 11th a slow-moving front delineating the boundary betweeen warm, humid air to the south and cold air in the north moved across the country. Milford Haven had 120 mm of rain in 24 hours; 48 hour totals included 140 mm at Milford Haven and 113 mm at Eskdalemuir. It was very warm towards the end of the month, with southerly winds: it reached 22.5C at Kinlochewe (Wester Ross) on the 27th - the latest date at which 22C has been exceeded in the UK.

2006 Warm and wet: the third warmest on record (equal with 1969, and beaten only by 2001 and 2005). It was particularly wet in the north, and especially in Orkney. Sunshine was slightly beneath average, with more sun in the first half. The highest temperature of the month was 23.0C at St. Peter Port, and 22C central London, on the 9th. Wednesday and Thursday 25-26th were very wet, followed by a gale as the winds swing to the east. There was flooding over large areas of north-east Scotland. A boat and four lives were tragically lost at sea. 25 mm over a wide area, and 118 mm at Rackwick in Orkney, with serious flooding in Kirkwall.

2007 Anticyconic and very dry - at 53% of the England and Wales long-term average, it wasthe driest since 1995. Overall slightly warmer than average. It reached 21.5C at Herstmonceux (Sussex) on the 11th. There was a cold snap between the 22nd and 27th, with a maximum of just 5.9C at Strathallan (Perthshire) on the 24th, and widespread frost. Quite sunny, except in parts of the southeast.

2008 Mainly because of the cold final week, slightly cooler than average - the coolest since 2003. It was a westerly, changeable month, and therefore wet in the west and dry in the east, very slightly above average overall. It was a sunny month, especially in the south and east, the sunniest for five years. A warm spell midmonth: the 12th sees 22.9C recorded in London and at Broadness, Kent. There was a very cold snap late month: at Dalwhinnie the maximum was only 0.9C on the 28th, with a minimum of -6.6C at Topcliffe (North Yorks.) early on the 29th. There was widespread snow on the 28th, with widespread lying snow in the south, and even some decent lying snow around London, as a shallow low travelled SE across the country bringing down some very cold air. There was more snow on the 29th. The snow was three centimetres deep on higher ground and lay for three days in places. It was perhaps the most widespread snow in October in the south since 1880. Northern Ireland had its first snow in October since the end of October 1934. On the 30th a localised heavy thunder storm brought a foot of hail stones to Ottery St Mary in Devon in just a couple of hours in the early morning. As the hail melted severe flooding followed. The rainfall total for the 29-30th at Dunkeswell (Devon) was 78 mm.

2009 Dry and quiet; overall slightly warmer than average. The first three weeks were cool but the final week was very mild. The highest temperature of the month was 21.2C at Coningsby (Lincs.) on the 6th, and the lowest -4.0C at Tyndrum (near Crianlarich) on the night of the 16-17th. England and Wales rainfall was an average of 65 mm (68%). A 31-day drought in parts of the east and East Anglia was broken on the 6th. Thurliegh (Beds.) had only 23 mm of rain all mnth. Sunshine average for England and Wales was 96 hours, 86% of average, making it the dullest October since 2005.

2010 Wet start, then warm and fine, with a cold final two weeks. Temperatures overall were very close to average. The highest temperature of the month was 23.1C at Chivenor (Devon) and Valley (Anglesey), and the lowest -6.6C at Sennybridge (Brecon) overnight on the 24-25th. Rainfall was 85% of verage (80 mm). It was a dry month in Northern Ireland (49 mm, just 47% of the long-term average). It was slightly sunnier than average across the country.

2011 Overall a very warm but changeable month. It was the seventh warmest October on record (beaten only by 2006, 2005, 2001, 1995, 1969, and 1921). Most notably, the heatwave at the end of September continues, and a new record high for October is set on the 1st: 29.9C at Gravesend (Kent). On the same day a new Welsh record of 28.2C was set at Hawarden (Flint). The lowest temperature of the month was -3.3C at Lynford (Norfolk) early on the 20th. Rainfall overall was a little lower than average, with an England and Wales average of 68 mm (94%). It was wetter in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Cambridge saw only 13 mm all month. There was some very wet weather in the final week. Casement (Northern Ireland) was the wettest in the UK, with 86.0 mm in a 24 hour period ending on 25 October. WIth 122 hours, it was slightly sunnier than average (109%). Kent was the sunniest place to be with, with Manston seeing 163 hours, and good old Eskdlaemuir seeing just 30 hours.

2012 A very wet, cold, and dull month (the coldest since 2003, the wettest since 2005, and the dullest since 2009). It was particularly cold in northern and eastern Scotland. The highest temperature of the month was 19.2C at Langdon Bay, near Dover, on the 22nd, and the lowest -7.8C at Braemar early on the 17th. England and Wales rainfall was 124 mm, or120% of the 1981-2010 average. Sunshine averaged 101 hours, 90% of the average.

2013 Unsettled. Overall quite a mild month, with a cooler, dry second week. The highest temperature of the month was 23.0C at Skegness on the 8th, and the lowest -3.6C at Dalwhinnie on the 12th. Rainfall was 127% of the long-term average, with the south being particularly wet. It was a dull month with just 83% of long-term average, with northern England and central and eastern Scotland particularly dull. There was a notable destructive storm across the south on the 27-28th, nicknamed the St Jude's Storm.

2014 Quite warm, wet, windy, and unsettled, but not extraordinarily so. The highest temperature was on the 31st (Hallowe'en), reaching 23.6C at Kew in London and Swanscombe March (Kent) - a record maximum for so late in October. The lowest minimum was -4.5C at Aviemore on the morning of the 5th. Total England and Wales rainfall averaged 117.8 mm (124%). Achnagart (Wester Ross) recorded 392 mm in the month, with 96.7 mm falling on the 27th. Sunshine averaged 99.6 hours (91%).

2015 A largely anticyclonic month, but more unsettled at the end. About average temperature, but a dry month, with only 57% of the average rainfall, making it the driest October since 2007. It was particularly dry in the west and north. There were some spells of heavy rain though 5-7th causing flooding in Cornwall and Yorkshire. It was also sunny in the NW but duller than average in the SE. The highest temperature of the month was 22.7 at Braemar on the 1st, and the lowest was -5.0C on the 17th, also at Braemar.

2016 A very anticyclonic month, with high pressure centred over Scandinavia, so generally a very easterly month. The end of the month was very mild. Overall very slightly warmer than the long-term average, but very dry, with 38% of the average rainfall. It was wettest in places most affected by showers from the east. It was sunnier than average (117%), particularly in the west; northern Scotland recorded its sunniest October since records began (only in 1929). The highest temperature of the month was 22.2C at Trawscoed (Dyfed) on the 31st, and the lowest -5.0C at Tulloch Bridge (Invernessshire) on the 25th.

2017 A very westerly and southwesterly month. Ex-hurricane Ophelia brought some very windy and warm conditions around the 16th. Overall it was warmer than average, particularly in the east. It was dry except for the NW, and very dry in the SE (under 25% of average). It was a dull month; the equal dullest October on record in Northern Ireland. The highest temperature of the month was 23.5C at Manston (Kent) on the 16th; the lowest -5.0C at Tulloch Bridge (Invernessshire) on the 30th, in a brief northerly outbreak.


October in history

1091 A candidate for the most violent - and earliest recorded - tornado on record in Britain struck St Mary le Bow, central London, on the 23rd (some sources quote 17 October, depending on your calendar; it was a Friday). Estimated at T8, it might have involved winds as strong as 240 mph. It killed two men, demolished 600 houses, and ""a number of churches". Planks of wood were driven 20' into the ground by the wind. The old wooden London Bridge was swept away a surge in the river driven by the tornado, described as "a dreadful whirlwind".

1114 A very dry month in a dry year. Rivers ran so low that men could reportedly "ride and walk over the Thames east of London Bridge".

1250 A great storm affected the southeast of England on the 1st, drowning many. The Romney Marsh area was particularly badly affected.

1638 A violent tornado caused death and destruction at Widecombe-in-the-moor in Devon. There was much damage to the church, which was also struck by lightning.

1672 October was warmer than September this year.

1697 A great storm along the north sea coast on the 1st and 2nd led to widespread flooding on the east coast with much loss of life.

1740 Snow was reported in the south on the 1st.

1781 The driest October on record (8.8 mm).

1807 The last time that October was warmer than September (11.4C vs 10.5C).

1817 The coldest since records began (6.4).

1829 There was snow in the southeast on the 7th.

1831 The warmest before this century since records began (12.7C).

1836 The last week of the month was very cold, with some sharp night frosts. There was a remarkable snowfall in the east and southeast on the 29th. There was an inch of snow in London, and five inches (eleven inches claimed in places) lay at Bury St Edmunds for five days. At Leatherhead there was a minimum of beneath -5C and a maximum of -0.5. Snow lay in the streets of October. The snow didn't thaw until the 3rd November. They don't make Octobers like they used to.

1859 A storm at sea on the night of the 25th-26th sank the SS Royal Charter off the Welsh coast with great loss of life (and a lot of gold bullion). According to Philp Eden, this tragedy led a year later to official gale warnings for coastal waters; and the first gale warnings started from June 1860.

1877 Extensive and destructive flooding in Skye 14-16th October. Storm on the 14th. At the same time there was a substantial snowfall in the Highlands and northeast Scotland.

1880 The earliest recorded snowfall in the London district happened on the night of the 19th of this month, after which Londoners awoke to three inches of slushy snow; six inches fell in Surry and Kent. Then -11.4C was recorded at Braemar on the 20th - one of the lowest October readings on record there.

1881 A severe gale caused damage in NE England on the 14th. The month overall was cold.

1890 There was an exceptional severe early frost: widespread low temperatures on the morning of the 28th, e.g. -8.9 near Leicester and Derby.

1894 Exceptionally severe flooding in the southwest, particularly Devon and Cornwall, following prolonged heavy rain from the 23rd on.

1896 There was a snowfall in Northern Ireland on the 24th.


Further info

All temperature averages are based on an aggregate measure known as the Central England Temperature index for the twentieth century. The CET series begins in 1659. I have cobbled these data together from as many sources as possible, but particularly Bob Prichard's weather column in the Guardian on a Wednesday, Philip Eden's in the Sunday Telegraph, Philip Eden's indispensable book Weatherwise (MacMillan, 1995, ISBN 0 333 61610 3), the BBC Ceefax service, and Philip Eden's Weather Log in the journal Weather. Many thanks to them all. All temperatures in Celsius (F = (9xC/5) + 32). If there is no decimal place I only have the data to the nearest degree.

If you believe these data to be inaccurate in any way, or you have additions to the list, please let me know by email to t.a.harley@dundee.ac.uk


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