The British weather in March

March winds ... In like a lion, out like a lamb ...

Averages for March (for Central England)

Overall average

5.7

Average maximum

9.0

Average minimum

2.2

Average highest maximum

15.4

Average lowest minimum

-5.2

Average rainfall

51

March is the first month of meteorological spring. In my mind it is always warmer and more spring-like than it really is. Spring really gets going after the vernal equinox around the 21st-23rd. The sun crosses the equator at the equinox. In principle day and night are the same length, but because of refraction by the atmosphere, this in practice happens a few days before. From then on, day is longer than night, and the net input of heat from the sun in the northern hemisphere is greater than the net loss (by radiatiave cooling) at night, and other things being equal, things start to warm up: with a succession of sunny days each will now tend to be warmer than the preceding.

March is often very showery, with northwesterly winds more common than in any other month. Hail falls more often in March than in any other month, although April is a close second. There can be pronounced temperature variations, presumably particularly towards the month's end. My ideal March is cold at the start, with frost and snow, but warming up in the last week. The daffodils come out and spring is on the road. The magic 70(F) should be reached near the end of the month. In fact the temperature has only exceeded 21C 17 times in the last century (up to and including 2011), and most (11) of those fell in 1938-1972 - during which westerlies were at the lowest frequencies and temperatures across western Europe were unusually low. (I remember the talk then was of the new Ice Age rather than global warming.)

There are supposedly some indications that March tends to start and with cold stormy periods (until the 9th, and from the 24th on), with a quiet anticyclonic spell in between. The last three days used to be known as the "borrowing days". They are supposed to be unusually stormy, and the idea is that March has borrowed them from April "to extend the sphere of his rougher sway". March is in fact not particularly windy.

Here is a useless fact: a cold snap in March is called a "peewit's pinch".

Extremes for March in the 20th century

Highest March average overall = 9.2C (1957)

Lowest March average overall = 2.8C (1962)

Highest maximum = 25.0 (1965, on the 29th at Wakefield and Whitby, Yorks; 1968, on the 29th at Thetford and Cromer, and possibly 1929, on the 29th, at Wakefield)

Lowest minimum = -22.8C (1958, on the 12th at Grantown-on-Spey, and 14th at Logie Coldstone, Grampian)


Some extreme weather events in March in the twentieth century

1900 Very dry.

1901 The lowest temperature for the last week of March was recorded this month: -17.2C at Braemar on the 29th.

1903 Very wet in Scotland.

1905 Mild and wet, with winds mostly from between the W and S. There was a destructive gale across the south on the 15th, with marble-sized hail at Teignmouth, Devon. The pressure fell to 945 mbar off Northern Ireland. Thunder and lightning too. On the 19th it was 19C in Leith.

1906 Warm westerlies at first. 19.4C at Norwich, and 19C at Lowestoft, recorded on the 7th: an exceptionally early date for such high readings.

1907 Very sunny - the sunniest on record. A very fine Easter, which fell at the end of the month. It was over 21C in parts on Maundy Thursday. On Sunday 31st, 22.7C was recorded at Wryde (Cambs.). London had about 10 hours sunshine on each day of the holiday. Tunbridge Wells saw 130 hours of sunshine between the 19th and 31st.

1908 Dull and wet, about average temperatures.

1909 Very unsettled. There were some heavy snowfalls and severe frosts in the first half of the month. There was heavy snow in the SE on the 1st; 20 cm reported at Walthamstow (north London). THe temperature fell to -17.8C at Marlborough on the 4th. The second half of the month was mild and very wet.

1910 Quiet, mild, and sunny; many places recorded no rain in the final two weeks. Only 9 mm of rain fell at Wakefield all month.

1911 Unsettled and windy until the 16th, then dry. A dry month overall in the NW, wetter in the SE.

1912 Unsettled and stormy.

1913 there was a severe gale in Southern England on the 22nd, with part of Worthing Pier blown down. Worst storm for eight years at Kew.

1914 A wet month. Flooding in East Anglia.

1915 Quite dry but with a notable snowfall over Scotland and the north and east of England on the 18th and 1th. 18C was then recorded in eastern Scotland on the 24th before it turned colder again.

1916 Very snowy in the Pennines, with 3m in places. A blizzard affected the east on the 27-28th. A very cold month overall.

1917 A very cold month, at 3.2C CET; only 1962 would be colder this century.

1918 A warm spell near the end of the month. 22C was recorded in parts of England on the 23rd and 24th.

1919 Dull, cold and wet, particular in the Midlands and Scotland. There was a heavy late snowfall in southern England.

1920 Changeable. It was often cold in the first half of the month, with some snow. 25 cms of snow fell in the Midlands on the 16th. It then became much milder, with over 20C (69F) recorded at Woking on the 20th and 20C (68F) at Cambridge on the 23rd.

1921 Mainly dry and fair in the SE. Wetter in the west. Very wet at Fort William. Generally a dull month too apart frmo the east and SE. 20C (69F) was recorded at Camden Square on the 25th.

1922 A severe gale battered the south coast on the 8th. The first three weeks of the month were mild but it turned colder in the final week, with hail, sleet and snow. A dry month but wet in the SW and South Wales.

1923 Generally mild and unsettled, although not particularly wet. 21C was reached in parts of the SE on the 27th.

1924 Cold first few days, then dry and sunny but cool.

1925 March was the coldest month of the winter.

1926 Very dry.

1928 A changeable month with some interesting extremes. On the 4th, 19C was recorded in the SE, but on the 11th, a blizzard hit the country and -9C was recorded in the London region.

1929 Very sunny. A variable month, with two outstanding icy spells. This year also registered the earliest date on which 21.1C (70F) was recorded: the 9th, at Colwyn Bay, and 22.2C, at Keswick the following day. It has been claimed that the maximum March temperature was equalled this month, with a non-standard reading of 25.0C at Wakefield on the 29th. However, Philip Eden argues that the actual temperature was actually considerably lower than this, with nearby stations recording a still respectable 22.2C. The month was also extremely dry; the driest of the century, with no rain at all in NE London, and only 0.6 mm at Kew. It was also the sunniest March on record in Scotland (before 2003): Leuchars had nearly 191 hours.

1930 Cold easterlies at the start but then later in the month the wind changed to southerlies and southwesterlies, and it was much warmer in the final week. There were 19 cms of snow lying at Birmingham on the 15th. The coldest day of the winter happened on the remarkably late date of 20 March (-16.1C at Newport, Gwent) - a record. Sunny in the east, dull elsewhere.

1931 A very dry and sunny month, with some notable variations in temperature. -17C was recorded at Braemar on the 3rd. Snow in the SE on the 9th; two and a half inches of snow fell in an hour and a half in London. Some roads remained impassable until the 13th.

1932 One of the two heaviest snowfall of the year was 6-7 March, when parts of the country had 13 cm.

1933 Very sunny. There was no cloud cover at all over the country from the 23rd to the 29th. During the last two weeks many places saw 130-140 hours of sunshine.

1934 Unsettled and cool. The lowest temperature of the year happened on the very late date of 14 March: -12.2C at Braemar.

1935 After an unsettled start, it was mainly mild and dry. However, there were some cold easterly winds around the 10th, giving some snow - up to 10 cms in parts of the SW.

1936 Very dull and dry; mild during the second half.

1937 A cold month, with more heavy rain and snow following from February's, particularly in the first half. It was drier in the NW. On the first 14 inches of level lay at Macclesfield. There was severe flooding in the Fens midmonth; and a severe snowstorm in the north, affecting Scotland and Northern Ireland, from the 11-13th, and particularly on the 12th. March was the coldest month of the winter.

1938 The second warmest of the century (9.1). It was also very wet in the far NW: Kinlochquoich had a massive 252mm on the 29th.

1939 A dull month in England, but sunny in Scotland. Average temperatures over all, but a cold spell with NE winds between the the 25th and 29th. Dry in the SW but wet in southern Scotland and NE ENgland.

1940 Dry and cold at first but unsettled later. Milder than average.

1941 A cold month; wetter than average in England and Wales, sunny in the north and west but dull elsewhere. It was unsttled until then 10th, but then a strong anticyclone held sway midmonth, with the current dry and sunny with night fogs 11-16th. The notable winter persisted late in to the month, with a severe snowstorm in northern Scotland on the 27th (90 cm laying at Tain, Highland).

1942 It was a month with some extraordinary variations in temperature. There was a maximum on the 6th of only -3C in Birmingham. On the 8th it was -18C at Braemar, but on the 19th it was13C at Croydon. On the 22nd, a maximum of 3C was widely reported, but on the 25th, 18C was reported at south Farnborough. There was some snow, heavy in places, in the north in the first week. It was a dull month, with only 26 hours of sunshine in the first three weeks at Ross-on-Wye.

1943 Mild, dry, and sunny.

1944 A very dry month. Only 1 mm of rain fell in London (1.2 mm at Croydon, to be precise). There were some fogs and frosts at night, but also some sunny and mild days. 22C was recorded at a few spots across the south on the 26th.

1945 Generally dry, sunny, and mild: one of the warmest of the century in Scotland. There was an exceptional warm southerly spell in the last week; 21.0 at Lossiemouth in Highland. 22C at Edinburgh and Croydon on the 23rd; 22.2 at Milford (Surrey). 21C at Prestwick on the 24th.

1946 March started off very cold and snowy. A dry month. Warmer from the 20th onwards, with a notable warm spell started on the 25th, persisting into April. 21C on the 29th, and 20C was recorded in many plaves on the 30th, with 22C in Surry and North Wales.

1947 The severe winter continued into the first half of the month. There were some very low temperatures -21.1C at Haughall, Durham, Peebles, and Braemar, on the 4th; widespread flooding after a rapid thaw of the famous winter; ice storms, blizzards, heavy rainfall, and on average the wettest March on record (177mm , which was 300% of average). Heavy snowfall over England and Wales on the 4th and 5th, including several cms in the London area, caused more disruption. There were more readings of -20C on the 8th, including -21.1C at Braemar. Much of the country was covered in snow for the first part of the month, with drifts up to 5 m deep on the Pennines, and even up to 3 m at Whipsnade on the 9th. Warm air and heavy rain started to move in on the 10th. This led at first to a great snowstorm in Scotland on the 12-13th. 85 kn was recorded at Mildenhall, and a mean windspeed of 38 kn at Edgbaston, both in a severe SW gale on the 16th that affected south Wales and the south of England in one of the worst March storms of recent times. Flooding was particularly severe in the east, particularly the Fen country. More heavy sleet in Sussex on the 28th, as temperatures fell again at the end of the month. It was the coldest month of the century in Scotland, and the wettest of the century in England and Wales (177.5 mm, 292% - the highest percentage, too). Clearly this must be the most interesting March for weather of the century!

1948 Mostly dry and sunny, particularly in the south. It was very foggy early on. The month was however most notable for an exceptional early heatwave. The temperature reached 23.9C in Wealdstone on March 9 (by three weeks the earliest date on which such a temperature has been attained; in fact, the reading was 75F, which could mean anything from 23.6 to 24.2), but temperatures over 21C (70F) widespread across southern England on the 9th, the earliest date on which this has happened so far. 21C was reached from Totnes to Durham. Later in the month it was very warm in Scotland, with 21.7C at Strathy (near Thurso).

1949 March was the coldest month of the "winter" (which is defined meteorologically as December, January, and February). The first week was cold, with three or four inches of snow lying at places as far apart as Bolton and Whipsnade on the 6th and 7th. The month also started with a gale in the evening of the 1st. The month overall was dry, particularly in the east. Dull in the east but sunnier in the west.

1950 Very mild, and mostly dry. There was a warm sunny spell in the first week, with 19C recorded in parts of England on the 5th.

1951 Cold and wet.

1952 A remarkable late snowstorm. Blizzards hit southern Britain in the last week of the month, giving a widespread cover several cm deep. 25 cm fell at Whipsnade (Beds.) on the 29th, with several cm in central London, and spreading as far north as Lincoln. There were 8' high drifts in the Chilterns. The temperature remained beneath freezing all day. The cold came with 70 mph gale-force easterlies. Villages were cut off in the SE, and it then remained cold for several days, with a slow thaw in the sunny spell that followed. The University Boat Race, which took place in a blizzard, was apparently a classic.

1953 Very dry and sunny. Dominated by a persistent anticyclone. It overlapped with a spell of 36 consecutive dry days in eastern England. Some places in the NE had no rain at all between 20 February and 26 March, and at Lowestoft there was no rain between 18 February and 25 March (although it was probably beaten by a dry spell in spring 1893). It was foggy at the start of the month: persistent fog for the first six days in parts of England and Wales. The pressure reached 1045 mbars in central England on the 10th.

1954 A changeable month. Sunny everywhere but particularly in the west.

1955 Cold but sunny. The cold weather persisted from February until the 11th. A gale in the southwest on the 23rd caused much damage to shipping. It was very sunny in the far NW. It was the coldest March since 1916 in Birmingham. Dry until the 22nd, when five days of heavy rain brought flooding.

1956 Dry and sunny with northerly and easterly winds. Cold in the east.

1957 The warmest March overall (9.2) of the twentieth century, with mostly S or SW winds. The month started quietly, with cold foggy mornings and warm sunny afternoons. It then turned more unsettled. Then, in an exceptional mild spell, the Fohn effect (whereby winds flowing over hills or mountains lead to warming on the far side) led to a maximum of 23.3 C at Haydon Bridge (Northumberland) on the 12th, 22.2C at Elgin that day, equal hottest March reading for Scotland until 2012, and and 22.8C at Aber on the 11th. Even, Cape Wrath managed 20.6C on the 12th, which is a real achievement! 21C was recorded at Peebles on the 13th. The rest of the month was more unsettled but still warm. It was dry in the SE but wet in west.

1958 Some exceptionally cold nights. The record low was set: -22.2C, at Grantown on Spey on the 12th, only to be broken two days later, with -22.8C at Logie Coldstone (Grampian) on the 14th, over deep snow.

1959 Mild. Very dry in the NE but wet in the W and SW. A dull month, and changeable midmonth.

1960 Quite average.

1961 Very dry in the southeast: almost rainless in places. Very warm start, with temperatures above 15.9C on the 3rd-6th, and a heatwave towards the end, with temperatures above 21C (the low 70s in old money) during the 14-17th - and London saw 23C. On many days the warmest place in the country was east Scotland.

1962 The coldest of the century. At least it was however often dry and sunny. In the SE it was colder than any of the winter months preceding it. There were some heavy snowfalls particularly in the first week, and there was snow somewhere in the UK on most days. It was anticyclonic with predominately northerly winds until the 25th, when it became more changeable and milder. A cold front brought heavy snow to the north on the 1st; on the 2nd the snow depth was 15:: at Haydon Bridge; the same front brought heavy snow to the south on the 3rd.<>/P>

1963 The end of the Big Freeze. It ended gently, without widespread flooding, owing to a gentle thaw in sunshine during the first few days of the month. It still reached -16C at Braemar on the 2nd. Many places in lowland Britain lost their snow cover on March 4th - for the first time since December 26th. By the 6th it reached 17C in London. On the 2nd Cape Wrath recorded a humidity reading of only 6%.

1964 On the cool side: cold and snowy in the early part of the month. Snow lay over 8" deep in Rotherham on the night of the 15th.

1965 A month with some very interesting extremes. In contrast to the high maxima at the end of the month, a very low temperature of -21.7C was recorded in the same month at Corwen (Clwyd) on the 3rd, during a cold and snowy beginning to the month. This was the coldest day of the year - and an interestingly late date for this. We had to wait until 2001 for a lower temperature in March. The month began with cold NE winds, with some snow. It cleard on the night of the 2-3rd to give the low minima. There was then a notable blizzard in southern England on the 3-4th. It snowed for almost 24 hours at Heathrow, and there were over 20 cm of level snow on the Hampshire Downs and Salisbury Plain, and 35 cm in central Wales. There was deep snow and traffic disruption in north Wales and on Anglesey. There was even 10 cm on the Hampshire coast, although I don't remember this at all. There were 60 cm drifts in the centre of Birmingham. There was widespread traffic disruption. Then close to the equal highest maximum for a March day was set on the 29th: 25.0C at Wakefield and Whitby (although this record is more suspect than the 1968 one). At Whitby it was the hottest day of the whole year - this is the earliest date for the hottest day of the year at any location in the country. Wakefield is obviously the place to be in March. Strachan (Kincardinshire) saw the equal hottest March day (until 2012) of 22.2C. There were also some interesting extremes within 24 hours during this "heatwave": in East Anglia there was a range of 28C between frost at daybreak and the afternoon maximum. The possibility of such range in such a short time is one of the things that makes this time of year so interesting. The strength of the March sun played an important role in this heatwave, rather than the source of the air (hence the large diurnal variation.) The month had a sunny first half, but it was very dull from the 15th to the 21st, with only 2 hours of sunshine at Bracknell. It cleared on the 27th as pressure built, giving a sunny end to the month, with those very high maxima.

1966 A mild start, but there was a series of cold spells starting on the 11th, with snow showers, and more snow in the final week. Dry overall.

1967 An unsettled month with mainly westerly winds. It was the wettest of the century in Scotland. It was very stormy at times in the north and west. A gust of almost 144 mph was recorded on Cairngorm on the 6th.

1968 There was widespread snow in Scotland on the 17th, with up to 15cm. Then all change as there was a notable warm spell at the end of the month. The equal record maximum temperature for March, 25.0C, was reached on the 29th at Cromer and Santon Downham (Thetford) in Norfolk, and 24.9C was recorded at East Dereham (Norfolk). Indeed 25.6C was recorded at Mepal (Cambridgeshire) that day, although there is some question about the reliability of this figure. The high temperatures resulted mainly from a warm southerly airflow. Unlike the heatwave of three years earlier, this one stayed mild at night. (Four days later it was snowing in London!). The record daily rainfall for the month of 164.3 mm was set at Glen Etive on the 26th.

1969 Very cold (3.3C CET) and dull. There was heavy snow across the north on 12-14th; roads were blocked in Angus and Perthshire. There was an ice storm in the Midlands and the north on the 16-18th. A TV transmitter at Emley Moor, Huddersfield, collapsed under the weight of the glazed ice on the 19th.

1970 Very cold (3.7C CET) overall. The month started with northerly winds. There was a major and unexpected snowfall on the 4th, heavy enough to bring down power lines in Kent. Some parts of Northants. and Beds. reported about 40 cms of snow, with the deepest being nearly 48cm near Northampton. Snow fell heavily for twelve hours across a wide part of the south. In parts of the north southeast (if you see what I mean) and the East Midlands it was the heaviest snowfall since 1947. Near Bedford 36 cms of snow lay after 24 hours of snow. The snow was followed by some low temperatures in a northerly air flow, with -15C recorded. The snow covered lasted for more than a week, in sunshine. I don't remember this at all, although I must have been going to school at the time. I don't remember missing Mr Openshaw's French lessons because I was snowbound, but you never know.

1971 209 mm of rain fell in 4 days on the Isle of Man.

1972 On the mild side.

1973 Mild, dry, sunny, and anticyclonic. There were some warm days but also some night frosts. There was a particularly warm spell mid-month, with 19C reached in parts of the SE on the 23rd.

1974 Average temperature overall (5.8C). It was a mainly easterly month, and was consequently dry and cloudy. There was heavy snow in the north on the 1st, and snow in the south during the 9-12th. It was unsettled midmonth. There was a sunny warm spell at the end of the month, with 20C recorded at Kinlochewe in NW Scotland on the 31st.

1975 Famous snowy Easter. There was 15 cm of snowfall in Birmingham on Maundy Thursday, and the whole holiday saw snow cover. The cold weather persisted from the 27th into April.

1976 Generally very dry. It had a sunny start with some mild days and frost by night. It became more unsettled in the west midmonth, and very wet in the SW around there 22nd, when there was snow over Wales.

1977 A mild first half, with SW winds. 20.2C was recorded at Exeter (airport) on the 2nd, the earliest date such a high temperature has been recorded. 19C was widely reported in the SW. The month was dry in the SE, often wet in the N and W. There was a well-documented shower of hazelnuts in Bristol on the 13th.

1978 An unexciting month: slightly milder than average (6.7). Easter was windy and thundery.

1979 A stormy, wet month, with some heavy snow in the Midlands and North midmonth. The NE was particularly badly affected in the third week. Snowstorms cut off Newcastle: five days of snow gave 46 cm of cover. 175 mm of rain recorded in the first week at Fort William: three times the monthly avrage!

1980 A cold, dull, wet month, which was sometimes stormy. There was some snow midmonth, accompanied by strong, biting easterlies on the 19th. 20 cm of snow closed Aberdeen airport on the 17th.

1981 Second wettest of the century in England and Wales, with widespread flooding. 125 mm of rain fell in Snowdonia on the 21st.

1982 A gust of 100 mph was recorded at St Abbs Head on the 3rd.

1983 Quite a dull and wet month. Cold from the 21st on, with snow showers in the north.

1984>Cold and cloudy. Wet in the east, dry in the west. Dull, with wintry spells, and very dull in the east.

1985 Mild early in the month with some rain. There was a cold, snowy spell midmonth, and particuarly snowy over the north at the end of the month. The temperature fell to -15C at Aviemore on the 18th.The maximum was only -2C at Lerwick on the 28th. There was a mild end to the month.

1986 Cold and unsettled with strong winds later in the month. The biting cold easterlies of February persisted for the first few days. There were blizzard across England on the 1st. Aviemore recorded -16C on the morning of the 1st, and over much of the south and east temperatures were beneath freeezing all day, giving the coldest March day on record in many areas. Atlantic fronts started to encroach on the 3rd as high pressure retreated to the south, and the thaw reached all areas by the 4th. We could flush our toilet again. The first day in the year it came close to 15C was the relatively late date of 18 March. Very stormy, with gusts of 110 mph in Edinburgh on the 20th, with people literally blown off their feet. The all-time UK wind speed record was set on the 20th, with a gust of 173 mph on Cairngorm Mountain. The Severn Bridge was completely closed to traffic for the first time ever on the 24th. A poor, windy, thundery Easter.

1987 Very cold (CET 4.1C) - the coldest since 1970, and there hasn't been a colder one since. It was extremely cold in the first half, as cold continental air covered the country. Heavy snow in central regions on the 6-7th. Drifts several feet deep reported in Staffs. There was another heavy snowfall on the 19th over the south: 30 cm on Salisbury Plain. There were some severe frosts. It became milder form the 22nd, as winds turned more towards the NW, but it was wet. It was very stormy on the 27th.

1988 Record-breakingly wet in places in Northern Ireland, and very wet across most of the country.

1989 Warm spell at the end: London recorded 19.9 on the 31st. Elmstone (Canterbury) recorded 20.7C on the 28th. A warm, sunny early Easter.

1990 Very mild overall (8.3C CET) - the mildest since the record-breaking March of 1957. There was a notable warm spell midmonth with temperatures in lows 20s C. 22.3C at Cambridge on the 18th, and 22.2 at Enfield and 22.0 at Heathrow on the 17th. I remember it was very pleasant to be able to sit out in the garden so early in the year; it was a weekend, too. Frosts at the end of the month caused cereal damage. Very wet at Fort Augustus (729 mm at Kinlochewe), but the driest over England and Wales since 1961.

1991 Dull, mild after cold start. Dense fog on the 13th resulted in a pile-up on the M4, killing ten. Dustfall of Saharan origin.

1992 Generally warm and dull. Indeed, some places along the south coast had the dullest March of the century. A cold snap with notherly winds in the north midmonth brough blizzards to the Scottish Highlands on the 13th and 14th. The maximum at Lerwick on the 14th was -3.3 (a new March record). Heavy rain and flooding in southeast Scotland and northeast England. Dry in the southwest, and wet in the northwest.

1993 Dry, warm, and sunny, particularly in the SE. On the 15th it was 19.7C at Northolt - the highest temperature in the London region in the first half of the month since 1961.

1994 Warm. Wet and dull in the west, but dry and sunny in the east. Just 1 mm of rain fell in south London, and it was the sunniest March in Aberdeen since 1929. On the 14th, a rainbow was reported as being seen over Sheffield for 6 hours, from 9 am to 3 pm, easily beating the August 1979 record for the longest-lasting rainbow, although that seems awfully long to me.

1995 Very sunny; over England and Wales only 1907 and 1933 were sunnier. Yet the heaviest snowfall of the year in southern Britain fell on the evening of March 2, particularly around Birmingham. 15cms over Wales, the Midlands, and the outskits of London. Another Arctic plunge resulted in a snowstorm on the 28th, causing disruption NE England, with the Pennines badly hit: 35 cm at Holmfirth in Yorkshire. After the snow, -9.8 C was recorded at Altnharra in northern Scotland early on the 29th. The month ended with mild SWs. There were 227 hours of sunshine at Southend.

1996 The most easterly March since 1969, and consequently the coldest March since 1987 (CET 4.5), and in some places since 1970. It was also very dull. Snow in the east on the 11th.

1997 March was very warm (at 8.4, third warmest in the CET run for this century after 1957 and 1938, and indeed since 1659), and very dry, except in north-west Scotland. Some dense fogs led to major motorway pile-ups: e.g. on the 10th four people killed early in the morning on the M42. The reading of 20.8 near Snowdon on the 11th was the highest temperature recorded so early in the year since 1948. It was the sunniest Easter since the war, and the warmest since 1989, with a highest temperature of 17C in the south on Easter Monday (Easter this year fell 28-31 March).

1998 March was overall warm (7.9), wet, and dull (but not as dull as 1986). A cold surge at the beginning gave snow over Scotland. Altnaharra recorded -17.0, the lowest reading of the winter. The night of the 29th/30th was exceptionally mild - widely 12 or 13C, perhaps as high as 15.0 at Rhyl (north Wales), following a very warm day (19C in East Anglia).

1999 Slightly warmer than average, but the coolest since 1996, with almost average rainfall and sunshine. Dry in the southeast, wet in the northeast, particularly Yorkshire, where about 120mm of rain fell on the North York Moors on the 5-6th, causing severe flooding of the Derwent. Apart from this flooding in Yorkshire, outstanding events were rare: a cold snap early on, with snow over northern England on the 6th; and warm spells in the southeast on the 17th (22.1 at Kensington) and the 31st (22.0 at Rickmansworth).

2000 Mild, dry (50% of expected rain) and sunny. A high pressure month, anticyclonic from 6th-23rd.. Snow in places in the north around the start of the month. 20C at Torquay on the 13th and -7C at Topcliffe (West Yorks) on the 19th. Very dry in the SE, with many places experiencing a drought between the 2-22. Notable pink dustfall across the south on several occasions throughout the month as a result of a major Saharan dustfall on 24-25 February. It is now sixteen months since a really cold month, and seven consecutive sunny months.

2001 A cold, easterly month - the coldest since 1996. A very cold, snowy start. After a heavy fall of snow, particularly in the north, clearing skies and no wind gave some remarkably low temperatures: -19C at Aviemore on the 2nd, and then -21 at Altnaharra on the morning of the 3rd, and a reported -22C at Kibrace (Caithness), the same morning - the lowest March temperature since 1958, and not far short of the record. The maximum was -4.6C at Cassley, Sutherland on 2nd, a record low maximum for March. Things warmed up quickly, with 17C recorded in Cardiff on the 7th. After a mild spell, there was more snow. 10 cms of snow fell on Powys on the 17th; the maximum that day at Sennybridge was 0C. There was significant snowfall in the south on the 20th, accompanied by biting easterly winds. Several centimetres on Exmoor led to roads being blocked. The SWs returned at the end of the month, with 17C reached in East Anglia. It was a very dull overall month in the south (just 66 hours in Hampstead), very sunny in the NW (170 hours on Tiree - the sunniest since 1955). Wet over much of the country, with the southern England and East Anglie getting twice the average, and places in the SE coast getting three times the average. Overall, it was the wettest March since 1988. It was dry and sunny in the NW, though.

2002 Warmer than average overall. Dull first three weeks, very sunny final week. Wet in SW Scotland, but dry over much of England, particularly the SE. A prolonged dry period started on the 20th. Some dense fog on the mornings of the 27th and 28th.

2003 Anticylconic: dry, sunny, and warm. The middle of the month was particularly sunny. The first 12 days were quite unsettled, but then pressure rose. It was 21.1C at London on the 23rd, and -8.9C at Altnaharra on the morning of the 18th. On the 17th the range at Altnaharra was from -9C to 18C - a new March record for Scotland. The total rainfall averaged 37 mm; much of the country had no measurable rainfall after the 11th, and from the 7th in parts of the SE. E&W sunshine averaged 169.9 hours, about the same as 1929; the last sunnier month was 1907. It was the sunniest March on record in parts of Scotland. The sunniest place to be was Clacton, with 206 hours.

2004 A mixed month, ending up close to average overall (although relatively cool for recent years). Cold start, with lying snow and -12C at Aboyne (Aberdeenshire) on the 2nd, cool first half, mild third week, and then cold again, but with warm end, seeing 20.6C at Rickmansworth on the 31st. Apart from places in the NW it was drier than average, and quite dry in the east. Sunny in the west and north but quite dull in the southeast. There was a fierce gale on the 20th, with a gust of over 100 mph recorded in North Wales.

2005 Overall slightly warmer than average, but yet another month of two halves. The first two weeks were cold with northerly winds. It suddenly became much warmer around the 14th. Snowy particular in the north and east. The winds then turned southerly. The minimum of -11.5C at Boughton-under-Blean (near Canterbury, Kent) on the 4th was the lowest in southern England in March since 1970, while the maximum of 21.6C at Wisley (Surrey) was the highest temperature in March since 1990. Slightly drier than average. The winds turned easterly for the final week from Easter on, making it very dull and foggy along parts of the east coast. It was the dullest March since 1998, but in parts of East Anglia the dullest since 1984.

2006 Cold and wet. Northerly winds in the first week, prolonged easterlies in the middle, but a mild end with southerly winds in the final week brought the average temperature. A cold start with snow showers in the east. The minimum at Altnaharra on the 2nd was -16.4C. Several places remained beneath freezing for more than 24 hours in the first four days and midmonth. The maximum at Fylingdales (North Yorks.) on the 4th was only -1.3C. There was more heavy snow in central Scotland on the 11th and 12th, standing many motorists in the Glasgow area. The winds turned more SW and it became more mild from the 24th. The highest temperature of the month was 17.8C on the 25th. Indeed, this was the first time 15C was exceeded this year - the latest date this has happened since 1980. The final week was particularly wet: 240 mm of rain fell at Capel Curig in the final week of the month alone. It was quite dull in the north. The CET was the coldest since 1996.

2007 Very sunny - the fifth sunniest on record. With an average of 166 hours of sunshine, in England and Wales, there was 50% more sunshine than average. Weymouth saw 218 hours. The temperature was slightly above average (7.1C CET). After a wet first week it was generally very dry, resulting in quite a dry month overall The highest temperature of the month was 18.6C at Herstmonceux (Sussex) on the 27th.

2008 A cool, northerly month, particularly cold in the north. The highest maximum of the month is just 15.4C at Gravesend on the 11th, and the lowest minimum -11.4C at Braemar on the 26th. It was a wet month, 37% above average rainfall, making it the wettest in England and Wales since 2001. It was particularly wet in parts of East Anglia. Although slightly sunnier than average, it still wasn't as sunny as February. Many places in the north and east have a "White Easter", with frequent snowfalls from Friday 21st on. We do!

2009 Warm, dry, and sunny middle but with cooler and more unsettled first and last weeks. Overall March was slightly warmer than average. The highest temperature was 18.5C at Altnaharra on the 20th, and the lowest -9.6C at Braemar on the night of the 4-5th. The weather was particularly fine and warm from the 15th to 22nd. It was drier than average, with 46.6 mm of rainfall average in England and Wales, 64% of the long-term average, making it the driest since 2003. It was the sunshine that excelled though; the England and Wales average of 171 hours was 149% of the long-term mean, making it sunniest March since 1929 - and before that in the records only 1907 and 1893 were sunnier. It was also sunnier than average in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

2010 Overall rather average. Quite cold and settled first half, mild and less settled second half, but with cold snowy end to the month in the north. The highest temperatuer of the month was 18.0C at Weybourne (Norfolk) on the 18th, and the lowest -18.6C at Braemar on the night of the 3rd-4th. In the cold snap at the end the maximum at Dalwhinnie on the 30th was -0.1C. Snow lay 40 cm deep at Aviemore on the 31st. It was very slightly drier than average in England and Wales (66.4 mm, 90%), but slightly wetter than average in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It was quite a sunny month across the country (137 hours, 135% of the mean); Jersey airport saw 157 hours.

2011 Very dry, quite sunny. Largely anticyclonic, cool beginning, unsettled end. The third week was quite warm; the temperature reached 19.6C at Chivenor (Devon) on the 25th. Some warm days and cold nights, as is common with anticyclones in the less cold months. Overall a little warmer than average, but it was warmer than average in the east and southeast, but cooler than average elsewhere. The lowest temperature of the month was -7.5C at Braemar on the morning of the 18th. At Dalwhinnie the maximum on the 12th was just -0.5C. Sunshine in E&W was 134% of the average, with 152 hours; Weymouth saw 199 hours. It was the dryness that was most noteworthy, qith an average of 26mm, 35% of the 1971-2000 average, making it the 10th driest of the last century, and the driest since 1990. Cambridge was the driest place of all, with just 2 mm of rain; there was a drought of 31 days there ending on 20 March.

2012 Overall very warm, dry, and sunny, although sadly not record-breakingly so. It was particularly warm in eastern Scotland, where it was 3.0C above average. With a CET of 8.3C, in the last 100 years only 1938, 1948, 1957, 1990, and 1997 have been warmer. In a fine warm anticyclonic spell the new highest temperature for Scotland is reached on Sunday 25 March; 22.8C at Fyvie Castle, Aberdeen. The record lasts one day, with 23.2C reached at Cromdale, near Grantown on Spey, on Monday 26th. That record in turn lasts until the 27th, when Aboyne records 23.6C, the highest temperature anywhere in the UK in this month. The lowest temperature of the month was -8.5C at Braemar early on the 19th. Northern Ireland came close to beating its 1965 record when 21.4C was recorded on the Giant's Causeway on the 27th also. The rainfall average was 30.8 mm, just 43% of the average. It was also very dry in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Lossiemouth and Kinloss both recorded only 4.8 mm. England and Wales sunshine totalled 187 hours, 160% of average and making it the sunniest March since 1929 (1907 was also slightly higher). Southampton saw 210 hours, Lerwick just 68 hours.

2013 Very cold; on the CET series, at 2.7C the coldest since 1883. (Although depending which measures you take exactly for the CET series, just since 1962 or 1892.) It was the first time March was the coldest month of the "winter" (defined meteorologically as December, January, and February) since 1937. There were several periods of heavy snowfall and heavy showers, with for example heavy snow on the 11th and 12th disrupting the south coast and even the Channel Islands. The month was let down by a relatively mild beginning; it reached 17.5C at Trawsgoed (Ceredigon) and 17.1C at Swanscombe (Kent) on the 5th. Amazingly there were 9 days where the temperature failed to climb above freezing at some official site in the UK. The coldest day was the 24th, where the maximum was -3.3C at Lake Vyrnwy (Montgomeryshire). The coldest night was the 11th, with -12.9C at Kinbrace and Aboyne. Rainfall (mostly as snow!) totalled 73.9 mm, which is very close to the long-term average. Snow fell on up to 20 days in parts of the Midlands, north, and Scotland. Given it was an extremely easterly month, pulling in air from the cold continent, it was unsurprisingly a very dull month, averaging just 87 hours; in parts of the east it was the dullest March since 1984. Easter Sunday fell on 31 March, and it was the coldest four-day Easter holiday since 1883. In NW Scotland however the month was glorious!

2014 Mostly warm, dry, and sunny. It was particularly warm in the SE. Temperatures ranged from 20.9C in St James's Park, London, on the 30th, to -6.8C at Redesdale (Northumberland) on the 24th. Rainfall of 49.1 mm (69%) average made it the driest month since June. Monthly rainfall totals ranged from 353 mm at Cluanie Inn (Skye) to just 9.9 mm at Boulmer (Northumberland). England and Wales sunshine averaged 156 hours (134% of the long-term average).

2015 Slightly warmer than average overall, but with some cold snaps. The highest temperature of the month was 17.5C at Murlough (County Down, Northern Ireland) on the 17th, and the lowest -7.4C at Aboyne (Aberdeenshire) on the 14th. It was a dry month: England and Wales average was 41.0 m, just 40% of the averagel Goudhurst (Kent) recorded 3.8 mm. The westtest day was the 6th. It was also very sunny, with an average of 146.2 hours (134%). There were gales on the 31st.

2016 Low pressure at the start and end of the month sandwiching a ten-day anticyclonic spell from the 13th to the 23rd. The named Storm Katie brought strong winds to the south on the 28th. Overall temperatures were close to average, although it was colder in the south and more mild in the north. Rainfall was close to average (91%), although it was wetter in the east and drier in the north. It was sunnier than average, with 115% of the long-term average, particularly in the west. The highest temperature of the month was 18.7C at Braemar on the 17th, and the lowest -8.1C at Altnaharra on the 10th. The snow cover at Malham Tarn (North Yorkshire) reached 17 cm on the morning of the 4th.

2017 Very mild with frequent SW winds; it tended to be finer and more settled the further SE one was, although the third week was generally settled, with much sunshine. With a provisional CET of 8.8, you have to go back to 1957 (9.2) for one warmer, and it was the third warmest since 1900. The highest temperature of the month was 22.1C at good old Gravesend (Kent) on the 30th, and the lowest -8.6C at Dalwhinnie on the 22nd. Some northern areas saw snow in a colder snap 20-22. There were some large ranges in the third week, the largest being 22.3C at Altnaharra on the 26th (-3.3 to 19.0). The last four days saw more rain. It was wettest in the NW and driest in the E and SE. 325 mm of rain fell at Capel Curig (with 47 mm on the 17th); with 104% of rainfall overall. England and Wales had 112% of average sunshine (120 hours), and Scotland 125%.

2018 A cold month, but not as cold as 2013. There was a very cold start to the month as the Beast from the East lingers in the north and Storm Emma hit the cold air in the southwest. There was deep drifting of snow, with roads closed, and communities cut off. The 1st was the coldest spring day on record, with a maximum of just -4.7C at Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, Wales, beating the 2001 record for a low high in March. There was another easterly outbreak midmonth, and another, and a less severe one at the end of the month over Easter. Rainfall overall was 110% of the long-term average, but it was very wet in parts of Devon, the Midlands, and the east, and it was relatively dry in parts of the west. It was a dull month, particularly in the east, with 83% of average. The higest temperature of the month was 16.6 Cat Colwyn Bay (Clwyd) on the 10th, and the lowest a miniumum of -10.7 C at Cawdor Castle (Nairnshire) on the 1st. The deepest snow depth was 57 cm at Little Rissington (Gloucestershire) on the 4th.


March in history

1113 On the night of March 17th, 30 pilgrims were killed when they were struck by lightning while celebrating St Patrick's Day on the summit of Croagh Patrick in Ireland.

1667 Very cold, average temperature less than 2C. According to Pepys, the 6th was one of the coldest days ever known.

1674 The coldest March on record, with an estimated average temperature of just over 1.0.

1740 The severe winter continued into March; the shortage of vegetables it caused led to an outbreak of scurvy.

1774 The worst flood of the eighteenth century in the Thames valley, following frost, snow, and heacy rain. The waters reached their highest on the 12th. 50 acres of land destroyed by a landslip at Selbourne (Hants).

1781 Very dry (with 5.6mm average, the fourth driest on record, and the driest March).

1785 Very cold, average termperature 1.2.

1878 "The Eurydice squall" - famous gale of March 24 which sank HMS Eurdice off the Isle of Wight with loss of all hands (366 lives).

1818 Easter fell on the earliest possible date this year (March 22nd); the next time this will happen will be in 2285.

1883 A very cold month. The lowest recorded temperature over Easter: -14.2C at Braemar on Good Friday (23rd). Overall it was the coldest Easter period on record.

1891 After a very mild and dry February, March must have come as bit of a shock. The winds turned to the north on the 7th, and then there was much snow in the south. This time saw the great west country blizzard: one of the most severe snowstorms of the century on the 9-13th, perhaps one of the most severe snowstorms ever. The southwest and Kent were particularly badly affected. 220 people died as many ships were lost at sea. Apparently sheep were blown off Devon cliffs in their thousands and also lost at sea. Snow drifts were reported 20' deep, created by the heavy snow combining with a NE gale.

1893 Very dry (only 36% expected rain). London (Mile End) had no measurable rain between March 4 and May 16; this is a record-breaking 73 days, although there are some doubts about the accuracy of this record. Just before the drought began, however, with the Sandgate (Kent) disaster, where heavy rain in February led to a large landslip that damaged about 200 houses in the town.

Further information

All temperature averages are based on an aggregate measure known as the Central England Temperature index for the twentieth century. The CET series begins in 1659. I have cobbled these data together from as many sources as possible, but particularly Bob Prichard's weather column in the Guardian on a Wednesday, Philip Eden's in the Sunday Telegraph, Philip Eden's indispensable book Weatherwise (MacMillan, 1995, ISBN 0 333 61610 3), the BBC Ceefax service, and Philip Eden's Weather Log in the journal Weather. Many thanks to them all. All temperatures in Celsius (F = (9xC/5) + 32). If there is no decimal place I only have the data to the nearest degree.

If you believe these data to be inaccurate in any way, or you have additions to the list, please let me know by email to t.a.harley@dundee.ac.uk

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