Overall a warm, dry, sunny year. A very dry and sunny start to the year. A dry March. A heatwave in April. Some places on the east coast had no measurable rain for 42 days, from 13 March to 23 April (as long as the 1995 drought, and the last one longer was in the 80s). February to April was the driest late winter-early spring since 1976. The first four months of the year were the sunniest since 1893. The average CET temperature for June and July combined has only been bettered by 1976 and 1983. In Scotland it was the warmest year on record. An amazing, record-breaking summer, with 100F exceeded in August. Summer as a whole was the fourth hottest on record (after 1976, 1995, and 1826). August to October was the driest such period since 1972. Apart from the summer heatwave, it was perhaps most notable for being the sunniest year on record (since 1961 at least) in England & Wales and in Scotland, with 1777 hours average in England, and 1387 in Scotland, almost beating 1995. The SE coast was the sunniest place of all, with Eastbourne seeing about 2170 hours of sunshine.


January. The month was slightly warmer than average, but contained some amazing contrasts. It was a very sunny month: in the south of England it was the sunniest January on record, with nearly 123 hours in Weymouth. The month had a cold beginning and end, but it was very mild in between (13-28th). The month started with some heavy rain, leading to widespread and severe flooding, particularly in the south. It then suddenly turned much colder, with frost and snow, and freezing of the floodwaters. It was -10.2C at Altnaharra on the morning of the 3rd. London had its first significant snowfall for years, and 20 cm fell in Northumberland, Durham, and NE Wales. The temperature fell to -18.9C at Grantown-on-Spey, as well as -18.3C at Aviemore, on the morning of the 7th, with a maximum of just -8.8C the next day. It turned milder on the 10th as mobile westerlies returned. There was an incredible contrast at the end of the month. It was exceptionally mild, with a maximum of 18.3C was recorded at Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, and Inchmarlo nearby, on Sunday 26th. This is the new highest January maximum for Scotland, and equalled the British record set in Aber in 1958 and 1971. On the 27th East Malling (Kent) recorded 17.4C - a new January record for England. Four days later there was an Arctic plunge, and on Thursday 30th snow and blizzards affected many parts of the country, accompanied by biting winds. There was more snow on the 31st. Transport was severely affected by the snow, particularly in NE Scotland, the S and SE of England, and the E coast. The M11 became blocked for many hours. Snow also caused delays on the London underground ... Amazing what 3 inches can do. The Thames barrier was closed 14 times, a new record.

February. A dry, sunny, mostly anticyclonic month, with only 60% of the expected rainfall (39 mm). It was particularly dry in the east: Stonehaven had only 8 mm of rain. Also a very sunny month: the sixth sunniest February on record. Hunstanton saw 133 hours of sunshine, and the average for England and Wales was 133 hours. The last month better was 2000, which won only because of the presence of a leap day. Average temperatures overall. A cold start, with some heavy snow in places. East Anglia saw 10 cm on the 1st, and 25 cm in the Scottish Highlands during the 3-5th. -10.9C at Tulloch Bridge on the 5th. There was a relative humidity of only 7% at Great Dun Fell on the 17th. It was 15.7C in London on the 26th.

March. Anticyclonic: dry, sunny, and warm. The middle of the month was particularly sunny. The first 12 days were quite unsettled, but then pressure rose. It was 21.1C at London on the 23rd, and -8.9C at Altnaharra on the morning of the 18th. On the 17th the range at Altnaharra was from -9C to 18C - a new March record for Scotland. The total rainfall averaged 37 mm; much of the country had no measurable rainfall after the 11th, and from the 7th in parts of the SE. E&W sunshine averaged 169.9 hours, about the same as 1929; the last sunnier month was 1907. It was the sunniest March on record in parts of Scotland. The sunniest place to be was Clacton, with 206 hours.

April. Warm (9.6C CET), sunny, and dry. The first three weeks were very settled and dry; the final week was wet and unsettled. The minimum at Hawarden (Flintshire) on the 10th was -7.5C. There was a memorable early heatwave. The warm weather began on Monday 14th. The temperature reached 27.4C (81.3F) at Stratfield Mortimer (Beds., near Reading) on the 16th - the third highest April temperature for the country ever recorded, and the highest since 1949. There were more very high temperatures to the west and north of the country on the 17th (Maundy Thursday): it was 26.9C at Lochcarron (Wester Ross) - a new April record for Scotland, 27C at Prestatyn (the highest Welsh record since 1893), and even 22.1C at Orkney. Unfortunately it was much cooler on the east coast. The southerly airflow was accompanied by a substantial and widespread Saharan dustfall originating from the west Algerian desert from the 13th to the 21st. The daily range at Altnaharra on Good Friday, the 18 April was an enormous 28.2C (from 24.5C maximum to -3.7C minimum the next night). The whole of the British Isles was cloudless on Good Friday. The hot weather was suddenly replaced by much colder easterlies over Easter (18-21st), starting on the Saturday, with some marked temperature decreases. The drought ended in the third week: some places on the east coast, near Loftus, Redcar, and Whitby, had had no measurable rain for 42 days, from 13 March to 23 April. There were some heavy showers at the end of the month. On the 30th, south of Manchester, 25 mm of hail fell in 3 minutes, containing some 12 mm hailstones. Average sunshine was 182 hours, but Torquay saw 254. Overall the month was the warmest since 1987 (and before that 1961; it was the eighth warmest on record), the sunniest since 1990, and the driest since 1997.

May. A changeable month. A warm beginning, cool middle, and hot end, with some heavy rain, particularly in the west. Overall slightly warmer than usual. Severe thunderstorms in the Berkshire area on the 13th, with 1.6 cm hailstones. There were some damaging frosts midmonth: -4.3C at Loch Glascarnoch on the 16th. There was a heatwave at the end of the month, with 29C at St Helier (Jersey) on the 29th, and 29.1C in London on the 31st - the highest May maximum in the London region since 1953. There was a severe thunderstorm around Selkirk in the Borders on the 30th, leading to serious flooding. The England and Wales average rainfall was nearly 20% above normal, although Capel Curig (Snowdonia) saw 262 mm, but parts of the Isle of Wight only 25 mm. A sunny beginning and end of the month cancelled out the dull middle.

June. Exceptionally warm; also sunny and dry. With a CET of 16.1C, it was the warmest June since 1976 (and only 1970, 1950, and 1940 have been warmer in the last century); it was also the sunniest since 1996. Because of a few heavy rainfall events it was slightly wetter than usual in the south, and drier in the NE. It was consistently warmer than average because a persistent region of low pressure over the north Atlantic, leading to frequently southerly winds. In the south there were only two days when the temperature failed to exceed the expected average (and at Heathrow the maximum failed to reach 21C/70F on only one day), but there were only 6 days above 25C. The month started hot, with 26.1C at Lossiemouth, Moray. Thunderstorms during the night of the 1-2 led to local flooding: 60 mm fell at Hastings. The highest temperature was a maximum of 30.5C near Loughborough on the 22nd.

July. Very warm. The month had a cool start and unsettled second half, but after the first 5 days it was always warm. There was a heatwave mid month. 33.6C at Wisley (Surrey) on the 15th, the country's highest July maximum since 1989, and it even made 30C at Prestwick in Scotland on the 16th. There were four consecutive days above 30C. Although it turned unsettled and cooler it was still quite warm. The heatwave was followed by some thunderstorms, particularly in the west, with flooding. Heavy rain fell in the SW and Wales, with around 50 mm, on the 24-25th; and 42 mm fell at Aspatria (Cumbria) on the 29th. The month was slightly wetter than average in the south and west, but drier in the east and north. Sunshine was above average.

August. Hot and dry. The first two weeks were hot; the third week warm; the final week cool and unsettled. A phenomenal heatwave smashed the British record high temperature record. The month started with an anticyclone, and temperatures starting building throughout the early part of the month until 36.4C was recorded at Wisley on the 6th and 36.9C at Enfield on the 9th. The 9th also saw the highest temperatures on record in the Channel Islands, both Jersey and Guernsey seeing record temperatures on this day. Guernsey Airport saw temperatures of 34.3C on 9th (beating the record of 33.7C just set on 5th August). Jersey (St Helier) saw 36.0C on 9th which was an all-time Channel Islands record high. The 9th also saw Scotland's highest ever maximum, with 32.9C recorded at Greycrook (near St Boswell's) in the Scottish Borders - the previous record had stood since 1908. Sunday 10th was an extraordinary day in many ways, with 100F broken for the first time, and a new record maximum for the country. Measurements available on the day saw a new record of 38.1C at Gravesend (that's 101F) - but it was also 37.9C at London Heathrow, 37.8C at Wisley (exactly 100F) and 37.7C at Northolt. Later an even higher temperature was known to have been recorded - 38.5C [101.3 F] at Brogdale, near Faversham, the same day.) [Note that there is still some debate about the certainty of these figures: the highest agreed maximum is 38.1C at Kew Botanical Gardens (on the 10th; although the Met. Office accept the Faversham figure; see "Weather", September 2004 and the Letters column thereafter for details of the debate).] Whichever, the bookmakers lose £500,000. The same day, a cold front swept south accompanied by some violent thunderstorms. In one thunderstorm at Carlton-in-Cleveland (near Middlesbrough), a new reliable short duration rainfall record was set, when 30 mm fell in 5 minutes (a record hourly rainfall equivalent of 360 mm/hr). 49 mm of rain fell in 15 minutes, giving an hourly rainfall rate of 196 mm. 47.2 mm of the rain fell in 12 minutes, and 45.3 mm in 10 minutes (270 mm/hour) - the last of these figures also broke the previous 10 minute rainfall record set at Leeming, July 1968. Most of the rain fell from 9.35 - 9.47 am GMT. Along with large hail, there was a 9C temperature drop in just 1/2 hour, and a 3 mbar pressure jump. Trees were blown down, and there were reports of tornadoes.There were 10 consecutive days between the 3rd to 12th inclusive where somewhere in the country exceeded 30C, the longest such run since 1976, and 27 ºC was exceeded between the 2nd and 14th - the longest run since August 1997. 32C was exceeded on 8 days (with runs of 3 and 5 days). Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were some very high minima in the south (particularly along the south coast), although not as high as in 1990. At Ventnor (Isle of Wight) the minimum on the 9-10th was 23.2C, and many other locations saw temperatures not dipping beneath 22C. The weather became cooler from the 14th, although it was still pleasant and anticyclonic. The final week was cool and unsttled, with ground frosts in the north. There was some heavy rain in places between the 27th and 29th. Overall it was the warmest August since 1997, and only 1947, 1975, 1995, and 1997 have been hotter; and the with 20 mm, 23% of the expected rainfall, the fourth driest of the last hundred years (beaten only by 1940, 1947, and 1995).

September. The sunniest September since at least 1964, with England and Wales averaging over 6 hours of sunshine a day. It was also a dry month, as you might expect from the sunshine totals: 47% of the average, with some places on the south coast seeing much less, and some places hardly any. It was also warm at the beginning (with 5 consecutive days over 80F from the 13th). There was also a notable late heatwave, from the 13th to the 22nd, particularly in the southeast, peaking with 28.4C at Gravesend on the 17th (the latest reading over 80F since 1985). It was much cooler and unsettled from the 22nd. There were also some cool nights: -3.5C at Strathardle (Perthshire) on the 24th, and temperatures close to -3C in southern England - the lowest September minima here since the famous September of 1919. The month's maxima were the highest since 1959, and the minima the lowest since 1993.

October. 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.

November. Very mild (8.4C CET, making it the eighth warmest in the last century). Quite wet in the south, but dry in the north and east. There was a warm spell early in the month, with 20C recorded at Lochcarron in Wester Ross on the 7th (exceeded nationally only in 1997, 1946, 1938, and 1906), and 18.8C at Northolt in the London region on the 6th, with warm southerly winds and two days of unbroken sunshine. The lowest reading of the month was -8.3C at Altnaharra on the 23rd. There were very heavy rainfalls in the south and east on the 22-23rd and 25-26th. At Gatwick 125 mm of rain fell between the 21st and 26th - 6 weeks' rain in 6 days! It was sunny in the north and west.

December. Quite cold; some mild spells mixed with cold ones. Temperatures ranged from 15C in Aberdeen on the 5th and in Exeter and Gloucester on the 11th, to -15.8C at Altnaharra on the 31st, after a minimum of -14.9C the night before, and a maximum of -9.1C. The same night it reached -16.1C at Kinbrace (the lowest December reading since 1995). There was widespread fog in England on the 9th and 10th. Christmas was particularly mild. There was a notable snowfall, with blizzards in places, in the north and east on New Year's Eve. (Indeed, we were snowed in for three days.) Rainfall was about average in most places, although it was very wet along the central south coast. The month was generally sunnier than average.


2003