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Good Weather in Our Younger Days

Many of us think we remember the weather always being better when we were young.

The cold Spring of 2013 and the contrasting but pleasantly warm dry start to June prompted me to dig into the archives and research the facts to put our memories into some perspective.

I have looked at the period of 100 years from 1913 to 2013 using the Central England Temperature series (CET) and Bradford and Rochdale sunshine records.


The Best Years

Five years stand out as being both sunny and warm.

They are in rank order – 2011, 1949, 2006, 1995 and 2003.

Some people may think “well what about 1996 and 1997, weren’t they good”?

Perhaps, but 1996 was overall on the cool side and both were far less sunny than the five winners.

The sunniest years were 1995, 1949 and 2003.

The warmest years were 2006, 2011 and 1990.

The dullest years were 1920, 1978 and 1937.

The coldest years were 1919, 1963 and 1917.


Sunshine; Ten Year Trends

The 1910’s and 20’s were dull with averages under 1,200 hours.

The 30’s were normal with averages around 1,200 hours.

The 40’s and 50’s were sunny with averages over 1,250 hours.

The 60’s and 70’s were normal with averages around 1,200 hours.

The 80’s were dull with averages under 1,200 hours.

The 90’s and 00’s were sunny with averages over 1,250 hours.


The Best Summers

Ten summers stand out as being both sunny and warm.

They are in rank order – 1976, 1995, 1975, 1949, 2006, 2003, 1933, 1947, 1959, 1989 and 1983.

The sunniest summers were 1976, 1949, 1975 and 1995.

The warmest summers were 1976, 1995, 2003 and 2006.

The dullest summers were 1987, 1954, 1982, 2012, 1958 and 1980

The coldest summers were 1922, 1920, 1954, 1956 and 1972.


Other seasons

The warmest spring was in 2011 and the coldest spring 2013.

The sunniest spring was in 2003 and the dullest 1991.

The warmest autumn was in 2006 and the coldest in 1919.

The sunniest autumn was in 1986 and the dullest 1941.

The mildest winter was in 1988/9 and the coldest 1962/3

The sunniest winter was in 2007 and the dullest 1921.


Seasonal Trends

Summer was getting warmer up until 2007 but has been significantly colder since. All the warmest summer months have been between 1975 and 2007. All the coldest summer months were before 1957.

Summer sunshine has declined since 1942.

The number of summers with more than 500 hours of sunshine was 50% in the 1920’s falling to 40% in the 1930’s. It rose to 60% in the 1940’s and 50’s but has since tailed off dramatically. 40% in the 1960’s, 30% in the 1970’s, 20% during the 1980’s and 90’s and only 10% in the noughties.

Bizarrely, this does not carry through into an annual trend where the number of years with over 1,340 hours of sunshine is highest in the noughties! But it does strongly support the view that our summers are not as good as they used to be.

Spring was cold from 1913 until 1944, warm from 1945 until 1961, cold from 1962 until 1991 and warm from 1992 onwards. All the warmest spring months have been since 1991.

Spring sunshine declined between 1952 and 1992 but has since risen higher than at any time in the 100 years.

Autumn has steadily been getting warmer, particularly in the last 20 years. All the coldest autumn months were before 1952 and the warmest ones since 1993.

Autumn sunshine has increased since 1942.

Winter has no clear trend except for a slight warming due to less extreme minimums.

Winter sunshine has increased quite steadily over the 100 years.


Periods of settled, dry and warm weather

Firm data for this part of the research is only available from 1974, but is still a total of 40 years.

There have been during these years 35 spells of settled, dry and warm weather lasting for 9 or more consecutive days.  In total 531 days out of 14,600 days (3.6% of the total time).

Of these 151 occurred in April, 100 in May, 67 in August, 62 in March, 56 in June, 49 in July, 32 in September and 14 in October. Spring is clearly King here!!


Conclusions

I think it can be justified for any one aged over 55 to claim that summers were better when they were young.

 

Just a foot note

The 21st June is the summer equinox making it the longest day.

It may be stating the obvious but perhaps worthwhile for the un-initiated, to point out that the equinox is an astronomical feature not a meteorological one.

Because the insolation from the sun only reaches its maximum after the equinox the atmosphere is at its warmest in the northern hemisphere during July and August.

Meteorologically then, mid-summer might be deemed to be around 15th July (St Swithin’s Day!).


Contributor: Edward Chetham Member: 75


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