People who haven’t lived in the UK generally believe British weather is terrible, and prepare for any visit by packing everything from rain coats to ski jackets. But is it true? Not necessarily! In fact, the weather in the UK is as diverse as its local cultures, dialects and inhabitants – and a whole lot more interesting than you may think.
If you’re planning on studying in the UK or simply visiting for a weekend and have some ‘weather anxiety’, here are ten reasons you can rest easy (well, mostly):
1. It’s delightfully unpredictable
Yes, Brits are famed for always talking about the weather – which isn’t really true. But it’s true that it’s a topic that’s always of interest across the nation. To be fair to the British, they’re not wrong: it can be bright sunshine one minute and heavy rain the next. At least the weather’s not boring!
2. It gets hot… really hot
You might have heard the UK has rainy summers, but this isn’t true. Sure, some years could be better (it rains, but the rain is warm!), but Britain actually enjoys fairly dry and hot summers – particularly in the last few decades, where summers have regularly set records the the ‘hottest ever’. The south of the UK, including cities like London, Bournemouth, Brighton, Eastbourne, Bristol and Bournemouth are famous for their enjoyable summer climates, which are hot but not unbearable.
3. West to East, the weather is very different
Look at a weather map of the UK and you’ll see a pattern – the weather on the west coast is generally wetter than on the east coast. That’s because there’s a warm air stream called the Gulf Stream that brings hot air across the ocean from the Caribbean towards the UK. It mixes with the cold air from Iceland and Scandinavia in the north, and warm air from Spain and France in the south. The clash of air temperatures produces rain, which falls over the west as it’s the most exposed to the warm air currents.
4. The rain varies between different regions
You’ll find more rain on the north-west coast than down in the south-west. Although the central and south-eastern part of the UK gets less rain, it can also be more affected by extreme downpours. Rain can vary even within regions: some areas don’t get a wet because they’re sheltered by hill and mountain ranges!
5. There are around 100 words for rain
Although it doesn’t rain nearly as much as people think, if it does rain, you’ll have around 100 different words to describe it in English: take your pick from great suggestions like deluge, monsoon, downpour, drizzle, smattering, buckets… the list goes on.
6. There are over 10 regional climates
The Met Office, which monitors and forecasts weather for the UK, suggest there’s 11 distinct weather regions in Britain. But, since 11 is a lot to remember, let’s just stick to the four major ones: the north east, where the summers are cool and the winters are mild; the north west, where the summers are mild and the winters are cold; the south east, where the summers are hot and the winters are cold; and the south west, where the summers are hot and the winters are mild. This makes the UK and exciting and interesting place to explore, weather-wise as well (here are our top UK road trips, if you’re interested).
7. London has the most extreme temperatures
If you’re looking for warm weather, you’ll probably always want to choose the south of the UK, as it’s statistically warmer than the north. The south west region, which includes cities like Bristol, Torquay and Bournemouth, is warmer all year round – but London and the south east is the area with the both the hottest and coldest temperatures. That’s because it’s affected by the European continental winds that are hot in summer and cold in winter.
8. Looking for snow? Go north
The UK isn’t known for its snowy landscapes (even though Brits might hope for it) but there are in fact areas that get a lot of snowfall – they’re just all in the north! Scotland is the snowiest, which makes sense because it’s actually at the same latitude as Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Just don’t think about going to the south west to see snow, because it gets the least snowfall of anywhere in the UK.
9. It has gotten the occasional hurricane…
Because of its position on the Gulf Stream, the UK occasionally gets hit with the leftovers of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, which tend to avoid mainland Europe unscathed (boo). The last big storms to hit the UK were Ophelia in 2017 and Christian in 2013. Probably the worst storm was the infamous Great Storm of 1987 – especially because the weather forecast told everyone there was nothing to be worried about! But don’t worry, major storms are still rare occurrences in the UK.
10. … and it even gets tornadoes (and is, in fact, the tornado capital of the world!)
No, this isn’t a joke! Scientists studied the frequency of reported tornadoes per square mile, and the UK came out on top – more than any other country in the world. OK fine, so these tornadoes are very rarely destructive (you can breathe a sigh of relief), but it’s still an impressive and unexpected statistic.