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Is the British weather unique in the world?


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Posted
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)

    An article just published by the BBC had me thinking and as the title suggests, is British weather unique in the world?

     

     

    It's often said by laymen that the UK's weather is unique. But what makes it so different from anywhere else? Whatever you think of the British weather, if you don't like it one day there's always a good chance you might like it the next.
     
    Weather, in meteorological terms, refers to the daily elements like temperature, wind and rain. And in Britain they can all change hour by hour and day by day. It's this diversity and changeability that makes British weather so distinct, say meteorologists. While temperatures are fairly mild and there are four distinct seasons, you can also get warm weather in the middle of February and freezing rain in the middle of August - or both in one day.
     
    "Other countries might have more dramatic weather," says Dr Liz Bentley, head of the Weather Club at the Royal Meteorological Society. "In India and Pakistan you get monsoon season, but you can usually predict the day it will start and the day it will finish. "In the UK you sometimes have to look at the weather forecast several times in one morning just to plan a trip out that afternoon. Things can change that quickly." Many meteorologists call the British weather unique, although some say you could argue the weather in all countries is unique because no two are the same geographically and geologically. But they agree it is hard to find another country in the world with weather that compares to the UK.
     
    So what makes it so distinctly variable?
     
    "Britain's unique weather is all down to the fact it is an island and where it's positioned on the planet, between the Atlantic Ocean and a large land mass, continental Europe," says Helen Chivers from the Met Office. "There is a lot going on meteorologically where we are." Britain is under an area where five main air masses meet. An air mass is a large body of air that has similar temperature and moisture properties throughout.
     
    Posted Image
     
    In the UK they are either polar or tropical, depending on where the air mass originated from, they are also divided into maritime or continental, depending on whether the air has passed over land or sea. They come from all directions and can bring all types of weather. When they meet it creates a weather front. The air masses fight it out and the one that wins dictates the weather. There is a sixth air mass, the returning Polar Maritime, which is a variation of the Polar Maritime.
     
    One more important thing to throw into the mix is the jet stream. It is a high-altitude ribbon of fast-moving air that drives all weather in the UK's latitude around the northern hemisphere. It is responsible for developing weather systems. All in all, it's quite a mix of atmospheric conditions battling it out. "It's what makes the British weather so fascinating," says Bentley. "Experiencing such big changes so quickly is unique." Fascinating or frustrating, the layman might argue, but no other country in the world gets the same weather, say experts.

     

    "Japan is probably the only other place that has similarities to the UK when it comes to weather," says Chivers. "It is similar to us but in reverse. It is an island and has the Pacific Ocean to the east and Eurasian continent to the west. Britain's variations in weather really are that rare." These variations pose problems, from when to have a BBQ to effective planning for businesses. Companies spend millions trying not to be caught out by the British weather.
     
    "From energy companies, supermarkets and insurance firms to banks, technology companies and local authorities, they all need to plan for the weather," say Richard Tipper, director of Ecometrica, which works with companies to get the climate and weather data they need to plan efficiently. "It's the amazing changeability in British weather that is unique, it also means planning for it isn't always easy."
     
    Subtle changes in the weather are happening and will continue, says Bentley. "We are starting to see more record-breaking weather, record droughts and record rainfall," she says. Last year is a good example. The dramatic switch from drought in early 2012 to the wettest April to June on record was of a magnitude never seen before, according to the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).
     
    Hosepipes bans were brought in early in the year but by early autumn levels groundwater levels were "well above" average. But the country's fascination with the weather probably won't change. Nor will some people's love for it. "There is a real beauty about the weather in the UK," says Bentley. "You might be guaranteed sun in other countries but constant sunshine can get dull. People move to other countries but often they end up missing the British weather and the seasons. "There are also some real up sides. When we get unexpected sunshine in the UK everyone's day is better. It just feels like we are getting a special treat and we are so much happier."

     

     

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24305230

     

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    Posted
  • Location: Leicester
  • Weather Preferences: cloudy in summer, sunny in winter.
  • Location: Leicester

    yeah its what I said in another thread, where we are the jetstream is all over the place, but the other side of the globe its stable.

     

    we seem to have constant high pressure blocks etc. and hot air fighting with cold air to be over us.

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    Posted
  • Location: Beccles, Suffolk.
  • Weather Preferences: Thunder, snow, heat, sunshine...
  • Location: Beccles, Suffolk.

    Also parts of NW America, are not dissimilar.

    Seattle and Vancouver come to mind.

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    Posted
  • Location: South Yorkshire
  • Location: South Yorkshire

    It's unique where I live against the rest of UK..... when all around are having fun with floods/massive thunderstorms/snowed under or 100mph winds, we've got 'mainly dry with sunny spells'.

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    Posted
  • Location: Shrewsbury
  • Location: Shrewsbury

    Japan: lots of snow and even sea ice in the north; distinct wet and dry seasons elsewhere with reliably hot summers- nothing like UK.

     

    Seattle/Vancouver: reliable dry and sunny season in summer that the UK doesn't get (why?)

     

    New Zealand: much sunnier, especially winter and bigger contrast between west/east coasts.

     

    Southern Chile/Argentina: pretty similar in places. Mediterranean climates only go down to about 40S on the Chilean side, but south of 50S it seems to dry up quite a bit and again the rain shadow effect is much stronger than in the UK: these two are both drier than anywhere in England-

     

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punta_Arenas

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Natales

     

    and have average lows below freezing in winter, despite being on the coast- which the UK can't manage. This seems a half- decent fit for the NW of Britain though:

     

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyhaique

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    Posted
  • Location: Wellington, NZ, about 120m ASL.
  • Location: Wellington, NZ, about 120m ASL.

    As Summer of 95 says, NZ has much bigger difference between the east and west. The difference can be so huge as so be essentially impossible to replicate in the UK.

     

    I also think this statement below, if it really is a direct quote, is demonstrably incorrect. Plenty of places experience much bigger changes much faster. The Chinook winds being a good example east of the Rockies. Meanwhile, the changes in New Zealand are also generally faster and more dramatic, with an example being February 2011 when somewhere recorded a maximum temperature of 42C, then the following day reached only 15C. It's near-enough impossible for a change of that scale to occur in the UK.""Experiencing such big changes so quickly is unique." "

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    Posted
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
  • Weather Preferences: Sunshine, convective precipitation, snow, thunderstorms, "episodic" months.
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire

    I think what's most unique about the British Isles is our ability to get almost every known type of weather on the planet.  We can get wet and windy maritime type weather off the Atlantic and are exposed to the full variety of frontal systems, warm sectors and polar post-frontal airmasses, and frontal passages are capable of producing anything from a few wisps of high cloud to dramatic squall lines.  But we are also capable of getting continental type weather from anticyclonic, southerly and easterly types, which ranges from clear and sunny to grey and drizzly, and slack slow-moving lows and Spanish plumes can give significant convective events in summer.  Although we get mild winters, cold spells are capable of producing snowfalls and we can get frontal snow when cold airmasses meet warm ones, and "sunshine and snow showers" setups with cold arctic or continental air flowing over the warm sea, which are rarely encountered in continental interiors.

     

    I think it's easy to find parts of the world that get more dramatic fluctuations, and quite easy to find climates that are similarly changeable, but I can't think of another country that is capable of receiving quite as large a variety of weather.  That, for me, is the main attraction of the British climate, while the main downside is that some weather types occur too frequently for my liking and vice-versa.

     

    Vancouver's summers are different to ours largely because of atmospheric circulation.  They get a lot of high pressure in the summer, and their warmth and sunshine figures are also assisted by the lack of a North Sea to the east- a high pressure to the NW of the British Isles often brings stratus down the eastern side of Britain while an identical setup in Vancouver would most likely be cooler than average but still dry and sunny.

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    Posted
  • Location: Wellington, NZ, about 120m ASL.
  • Location: Wellington, NZ, about 120m ASL.

    I think what's most unique about the British Isles is our ability to get almost every known type of weather on the planet.  

     

    I think this is the most reasonable selling point, but does it distinguish the UK from Japan? 

     

    I agree that some weather types occur too often "for my liking". The UK can really flatter to deceive. Lots of potential, but scuppered by months of southwesterlies.

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    Posted
  • Location: Llanwnnen, Lampeter, Ceredigion, 126m asl (exotic holidays in Rugby/ Coventry)
  • Location: Llanwnnen, Lampeter, Ceredigion, 126m asl (exotic holidays in Rugby/ Coventry)

    Some similarities with Japan, especially Hokkaido, although that is colder and more reliably snowy in Winter, whereas the rest of Japan is much warmer virtually all year round and especially during Summer when average max are almost 10c higher. 

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    Posted
  • Location: Shrewsbury
  • Location: Shrewsbury

    One weather type we certainly can't get is true tropical weather- hot, humid (30C/25Td), with sunshine and thundery downpours alternating. The "tropical" air we get just brings temps in the teens/low 20s with loads of cloud, and only turns thundery if it hits cold air masses. Japan can get it, plus all the types we get.

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    Posted
  • Location: Wellington, NZ, about 120m ASL.
  • Location: Wellington, NZ, about 120m ASL.

    One weather type we certainly can't get is true tropical weather- hot, humid (30C/25Td), with sunshine and thundery downpours alternating. The "tropical" air we get just brings temps in the teens/low 20s with loads of cloud, and only turns thundery if it hits cold air masses. Japan can get it, plus all the types we get.

     

    Yes, fair point. "Tropical maritime" air is really from the subtropical Atlantic. Rare to get anything from much further south than the Azores. 

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    Posted
  • Location: Droylsden, Manchester, 94 metres/308 feet ASL
  • Weather Preferences: Dry/mild/warm/sunny/high pressure/no snow/no rain
  • Location: Droylsden, Manchester, 94 metres/308 feet ASL

    I'm 28 and have seen nearly all weather types here in my life apart from a proper tornado although I have seen a "funnel cloud", I've experienced hot, humid, severe thunderstorms, very cold, heavy snow, drought, very wet, extreme downpours, large hail, hurricane force winds.

     

    I would say the Manchester area has one of the more interesting micro climates compared with a lot of the UK - we're just south enough to get heat, north and east enough to get proper cold and inland enough to get convection in Summer.

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    Posted
  • Location: Sheffield South Yorkshire 160M Powering the Sheffield Shield
  • Weather Preferences: Any Extreme
  • Location: Sheffield South Yorkshire 160M Powering the Sheffield Shield

    It's unique where I live against the rest of UK..... when all around are having fun with floods/massive thunderstorms/snowed under or 100mph winds, we've got 'mainly dry with sunny spells'.

    Hold isn't that my line?????

     

    I wouldn't swap the weather in this country for anywhere else. Boring luckily doesn't last long (Dull grey rubbish anticyclonic gloom) luckily.

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    Posted
  • Location: Stockport
  • Location: Stockport

    I'm 28 and have seen nearly all weather types here in my life apart from a proper tornado although I have seen a "funnel cloud", I've experienced hot, humid, severe thunderstorms, very cold, heavy snow, drought, very wet, extreme downpours, large hail, hurricane force winds. I would say the Manchester area has one of the more interesting micro climates compared with a lot of the UK - we're just south enough to get heat, north and east enough to get proper cold and inland enough to get convection in Summer.

    Although our neck of the woods doesn't get the most of anything, weather wise, it's a prime UK location to get the extremes all in equal measure. Perhaps something to do with being almost dead central within Great Britain?
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    Posted
  • Location: Leeds
  • Weather Preferences: snow, heat, thunderstorms
  • Location: Leeds

    I think what's most unique about the British Isles is our ability to get almost every known type of weather on the planet. 

    Really? I'm sure there are plenty of countries that get almost every known type of weather on the planet, and then some.

    Edited by cheese
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    Posted
  • Location: N.Bedfordshire, E.Northamptonshire
  • Weather Preferences: Cool not cold, warm not hot. No strong Wind.
  • Location: N.Bedfordshire, E.Northamptonshire

    where my parents live they get the sun 365 days a year

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (it is delivered by the paperboy around 08:00)

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    Posted
  • Location: Droylsden, Manchester, 94 metres/308 feet ASL
  • Weather Preferences: Dry/mild/warm/sunny/high pressure/no snow/no rain
  • Location: Droylsden, Manchester, 94 metres/308 feet ASL

    Although our neck of the woods doesn't get the most of anything, weather wise, it's a prime UK location to get the extremes all in equal measure. Perhaps something to do with being almost dead central within Great Britain?

     

    Yep spot on, we seem to get weather events sort of spread out because of it and a mixture of everything.

    Edited by Gaz1985
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    Posted
  • Location: Outside Limavady.
  • Location: Outside Limavady.

    I would say that yes we are. Simply because we are on the edge of the European continent so basically we can get continental weather and oceanic weather. 

    I don't think there are many places like that, most of the places that are on the edge of continents experience more of a continental climate. There are alot of interesting things that we can get, for example, the low diurnal ranges or the extremely warm nights we get in the winter if the Azores comes up. Americans struggle to understand how we can have so low diurnal ranges. 

     

    In a way we are kind of lucky because we can get any type of weather at any time of the year. 

    Edited by smithyweather
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    Posted
  • Location: halifax 125m
  • Weather Preferences: extremes the unusual and interesting facts
  • Location: halifax 125m

    On a trip to Australia a few years ago I called to see a friend at port mcquarie.He took me and his family on a trip to a place called comboyne.It was maybe 20 miles inland from port and we seemed to drive forever up a twisty gravel road through a forest,then suddenly we were confronted with a landscape almost identical to west Yorkshire itself,except for fences instead of dry stone walls.I could never have imagined that especially in Australia!

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    Posted
  • Location: Ribble Valley
  • Location: Ribble Valley

    The British climate is awful for anyone whose a lover of weather, we have crap seasons of benign mildness with little in the way of excitable weather for much of the year, I envy those who either have tropical paradise or proper seasons with heat in summer and brutal cold in winter.

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    Posted
  • Location: Coventry
  • Weather Preferences: anticyclonic unless a snow storm
  • Location: Coventry

    There is no finer place on the planet than the UK during a fine May and June in my opinion. Yes there are far warmer places to visit but they tend to not be as green and pleasant as us. The UK is an overcrowded island which is a downside but if you know where to go you can leave the majority of the population behind and enjoy our blossoming wildlife in all of its glory at the beginning of a new season. It is something I look forward to once Christmas is done and dusted.

    There are tropical areas but they also come with mosquitoes etc. The only places that I have visited to rival us are maybe New Zealand and France.

    Edited by BlueSkies_do_I_see
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