Weather and seasons

Students having a snowball fight outside St Catherine's School in Bramley

You might have heard that it always rains in the United Kingdom. It’s fair to say that it does rain a lot, and it can be cloudy, but it is also said that London is drier than Rome, New York, Brisbane, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo!

The reason people associate the UK with rain is because the weather here is so unpredictable. The rain doesn't come all in one season – it can come at any time of year, and on any day. You might experience beautiful sunshine, blustering winds and drizzling rain – all in one afternoon!

But with the right clothes and the right attitude, you can enjoy the UK, whatever the weather. There’s not much better than lazing by the river in the sunshine, dancing in the mud at a music festival, or heading out for a snowball fight.

Variations in weather

Although UK weather is unpredictable, it is rarely extreme. In summer, the average temperature ranges from 9–18 degrees Celsius (48–64 degrees Fahrenheit). On occasion, it can reach around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in a heatwave, but this is rare.

In winter the average is between 2 and 7 degrees Celsius (36–45 degrees Fahrenheit), but temperatures often drop to just below 0 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit). Thankfully, most houses, buildings, trains and buses have good heating systems.

In general there is little difference between the regions of the UK, but you will experience more snow, rain and wind in mountain areas.

For weather reports and statistics, visit the Met Office website or the BBC weather website, or listen to local radio stations.

The seasons

  • Spring (March, April and May) is a time for sudden rain showers, blossoming trees and flowering plants. See Six reasons to love spring in the UK

  • Summer (June, July and August) is the UK's warmest season, with long sunny days, occasional thunderstorms and, in some years, heatwaves.

  • Autumn (September, October and November) can be mild and dry or wet and windy. It's the season when the leaves fall from the trees and the temperature dips.

  • Winter (December, January and February) is the UK's coldest season, with freezing temperatures, icy conditions and sometimes snow. See The top 10 places to spend a snowy day in the UK!

Daylight

There is a big difference in daylight hours throughout the year in the UK.

  • The longest daylight hours are on 21 June each year. On this day, the sun rises just before 05.00 (5am), and sets just after 21.00 (9pm).

  • The shortest daylight hours are on 21 December. On this day, the sun rises around 08.00 (8am) and sets around 16.00 (4pm).

On the last Sunday in March, the clocks go forward by 1 hour (at 1am), and they go back again on the last Sunday in October (at 2am). The period when the clocks are 1 hour ahead (meaning there is more daylight in the evenings) is called British Summer Time (BST). Find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Be prepared

Even though the weather in the UK is generally mild, you need to look after yourself.

  • On sunny days or in the heat, wear sun cream or cover up with light clothes. Although it might not feel hot, unprotected skin can burn quickly in the sun. It’s also a good idea to wear a hat to avoid sunstroke and drink water to avoid dehydration.

  • On cold, icy or snowy days you should consider the following:

    • Wear several layers of clothing, a thick coat, and a scarf, hat and gloves to stay warm.
    • Invest in a warm duvet or blankets for your bed.
    • If you have washed your hair, dry it before leaving the house. Wet hair can make your body temperature fall.
    • Roads and paths can be icy. When walking, wear shoes with good grip (for example shoes with rubber soles and an uneven surface).
    • Driving a car in snow or ice can be dangerous. Have a look at these tips. In severe weather it is advisable to take public transport or avoid travelling.
    • Public transport in the UK is generally good all year round, but in heavy snow, ice or fog there can be delays or cancellations.
  • In the countryside you need to prepare for all types of weather. Even if the forecast is sunshine, you might suddenly have to cope with heavy fog, wind or rain. Make sure you have comfortable, water-resistant footwear, a waterproof jacket and a warm jumper (sweater).

If you are camping or hiking in remote areas, take a compass, a proper map (look for an Ordnance Survey map) and some food supplies, and tell others where you are going.


Read more... Dressing for the weather: What to wear in the UK (and what to pack for your first term!)