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Britain / Weather
The British weather
  Daylight hours
  Rain and wind
  Weather forecasts


This section describes the weather in the UK

A rainbow over London. Some people
say that gold is buried at the end!

It isn't always sunny in Britain, but
you can enjoy watching the clouds ...

If you see cows lying down there is
an old belief that rain is coming

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The UK's weather is strongly influenced by the sea which surrounds the British Isles (Britain and Ireland). The sea warms up and cools down more slowly than land, keeping winters relatively warm but also making the summers cooler. Britain also benefits from a warm sea current called the Gulf Stream which originates in the Gulf of Mexico - this keeps the sea on the west side of Britain warmer (frosts are rare in these areas).

The graph below shows average daily maximum and minimum temperatures in London each month of the year. Remember that each of these monthly figures are averages (on any particular day the maximum and minimum will usually be within +/- 5°C of these values). If you compare these figures with similar statistics for your own country you will get a good idea about the kind of differences to expect.

Temperatures are cooler as you move further north or nearer to the coast (in Edinburgh average temperatures are on average 2°C below those in London) or as you move to higher land. For every 500 feet (150 metres) of altitute the average temperature falls by about 1°C.

You may be wise to bring something warm to wear in the evenings even during the summer months. Very hot days (over 30°C) are not common, so air conditioning is not as widespread as in warmer countries. If it is very hot when you are in the UK you may find it uncomfortable on underground trains or buses, and may want to carry some water with you.

During the winter people will often wear several different layers of clothing. This allows them to keep warm when walking outside, but to remain comfortable when inside a heated building. Most buildings use central heating during the winter, although the heating may only be on for a short time each morning/evening in some private homes (to save heating costs).

Temperatures in the UK are usually expressed in degrees Celsius (sometimes known as Centigrade). If you come from a country which uses degrees Fahrenheit instead you may find this conversion table useful:


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Days can seem very short during the winter. In London in late December the sunrise time is after 8am and sunset is before 4pm, so it is only light for about 8 hours. The day is even shorter further north - at the same time of year in Edinburgh it is light for 7 hours and in the Shetland Islands (off the north coast of Scotland) for just 6 hours.

The opposite effect is experienced in summer. In mid-June it is getting light in London as early as 4:30am (if you are a light sleeper you may be woken by the light or by the sound of the birds). Sunset is not until nearly 9:30pm, so it is light for 17 hours of the day. The day is even longer further north - in Edinburgh it is light for 18 hours and in the Shetland Islands for 19 hours.

Early in the morning on the last Sunday in March watches and clocks are put forward by 1 hour as the country changes to British Summer Time (GMT+1). Visitors need to be careful because they may miss their flight or travel connections if they forget to make the change. Early in the morning on the last Sunday in October watches are put back by 1 hour as the country changes back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). If you forget this time you may arrive 1 hour too early for appointments.


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In the UK the most common winds (known as the prevailing winds) are from the west or south-west. These winds arrive in Britain after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, from which they pick up moisture. The air rises as it reaches higher ground, cools and falls as rain. The map below shows the location of hills and mountains. To the east of higher ground it is drier. Some of the wettest parts of the British Isles are south-west Ireland, Wales, the Lake District (in north-west England) and the western islands of Scotland (for example: Skye).

Many people from overseas believe that it rains a lot in London, but in fact its rainfall is similar to that in other European capitals. Rainfall is evenly spread during the year, so even in summer a visitor is likely to experience some wet weather. In spring and autumn there are likely to be some heavy showers, often followed by sunshine. In winter the rain is usually lighter but may last for longer. In the summer if there are a few days of particularly hot weather these are often followed by a thunderstorm. It is because the weather can change very quickly that many British people carry an umbrella with them throughout the year, even when it appears to be a fine day.

Snow is not very common in London (expect snow to settle on the ground maybe two or three days during the year). It is more common away from the cities and coasts and in particular on higher land and further north. In the Scottish Highlands snow is common between December and February - this area has the only ski resort in the UK, at a place called Aviemore. Snow is most likely to fall when winds at this time of year come from the north (from the Arctic) or from the east (from Siberia).

Winds from the Atlantic can become strong, so gales can be quite common along the western coastlines, especially in the north. The area in East Anglia (around Cambridge or Norwich) can become windy, because the land is very flat. Coastal areas can also be quite windy at any time of year (the temperature difference between the sea and the land causes sea breezes). Extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes are rare. UK weather forecasts show average wind speeds (in miles per hour), but when there are strong winds there may be gusts of more than twice this speed.

A wind vane. The wind direction is a
key indicator for the British weather

Watch out for falling trees or fences
when there are strong winds

Wind turbines use wind power to generate electricity. These are
becoming a more common sight in rural parts of the UK

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For predictions of the weather in the UK (or another part of the world), see:

BBC Weather:
BBC 24-hour forecast:
BBC 5-day forecasts:
BBC Monthly forecast:
AccuWeather forecast (15-day forecasts available):

Met Office:
Sea areas (used in shipping forecasts):

Click for London, England Forecast
Click for Edinburgh, Scotland Forecast
Click for Cardiff, Wales Forecast
Click for Belfast, Northern Ireland Forecast

Some of the vocabulary used in British weather forecasts:

rain/water: (light/heavy/patchy/blustery, wintry) shower, (light/heavy/a band of/torrential) rain, drizzle, downpour, soggy, sultry, sticky, muggy, close, humid, humidity, damp, moist, dry, (flash) flood, drought; if it is raining you may need a brolly (umbrella) and a mac (raincoat)
ice/snow: (severe/hard/widespread/extensive/a touch of) frost/groundfrost, slippery conditions, black ice, icy, sleet, hail, hailstones, snow (flurry/shower/storm), blizzard
fog: (dense/patchy/hill/coastal/sea) fog, mist, haze, (poor/moderate/fair/good) visibility
wind/air: breeze, gust, squally, storm, gale, hurricane, (strong/blustery/light) wind, (high/low) pollen count
thunder: thunder and lightning, a rumble of thunder, thunderstorm
cloud: (low/high/broken/patchy/a blanket of) cloud, cloudy, grey, overcast
sun: clear, sunshine, sunny, bright
maps: a low/area of low pressure/depression/cyclone, a high/area of high pressure/anticyclone, weather system, warm front, cold front, isobars, satellite image
temperature: hot, warm, mild, cool, chilly, nippy, cold, wintry, (below) freezing, wind chill, heatwave, Celsius, centigrade (°C), Fahrenheit (°F)
seas: the Atlantic Ocean ("the Atlantic"), the Irish Sea, the North Sea, the English Channel ("the Channel"), the Bristol Channel
islands: Britain, Ireland, the British Isles, Channel Islands, the Scilly Isles, Anglesey, the Isle of Man, the Northern Isles
hills: Wales: Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons; England: Exmoor, Dartmoor, the Cotswolds, the Pennines, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Lake District ("the Lakes"); Scotland: the Highlands, Ben Nevis
regions: South-west England: Devon & Cornwall; East England: East Anglia; South-east England: the Home Counties; Central England: the Midlands; North England: Yorkshire, Merseyside, Northumberland; Scotland: the Borders, the Lowlands, the Highlands and Islands
forecasts: weather forecast, severe weather warning, unsettled, outlook, the Met Office (Meteorological Office)

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