The Weather at Durham in 2016

A warm year, a little wetter than average but lacking in sunshine

January was a mild month: it was equal 24th highest mean air temperature, warmer than last year but 2014 was warmer. There was the equal 39th highest mean maximum since 1900 and the 7th highest mean minimum. The 24th was the warmest January day since 2003. There was the lowest number of ground frosts since 2008. There were 5 days with a maximum above 10°C but this is nowhere near the record of 17 in 1916. There were 10 nights where the minimum was above 5°C; only 1898 and 1916 have had more (11). It was a very wet month, almost twice the January average; it was the third wettest January since 1850, the wettest January since the record-breaking January 1948 (192.1mm). The 3-month total to the end of January was the 10th wettest 3-month period since 1850 (n=1991) and the wettest three months since autumn 2000. Whilst January 2015 was record-breaking for sunshine hours, 2016 was by stark contrast the 12th lowest total, but still well above the desperate total of 7.6 hours in 1996, the last time a January was less sunny in Durham.

February was equal 68th warmest on record, exactly the same as last year. Both mean maximum and mean minimum were above average, the former more so. Like the previous four Februaries, rainfall was below average. Even so, long-period totals remained well above average. Not surprisingly, given the lower than expected rainfall, the hours of bright sunshine were above average. It was the 3rd equal warmest Winter on record (5.6°C, with 2007), beaten only by 1998 (5.7°C) and 1989 (6.3°C). Despite below-average rainfall in February, it was the 6th wettest winter on record since 1850-51, the highest total since 1979. Winter sunshine was very close to average.

Although March did not feel particularly mild, it was in fact well above average temperature, the 55th equal warmest in 168 years, and there were fewer ground frosts than usual. Rainfall was just a little above average but the long-period totals remained well above average. There was less sunshine than usual but only two days with no recorded sunshine at all. Shallow soil temperatures were now above 6°C so spring growth should have started, but April was a disappointing month. Mean air temperature was well below average, 49th equal lowest since 1850, the coldest April since 1989. It was the first below-average month since the previous July. It was the 17th wettest April in 167 years but only the wettest since the very wet April of 2012 (134.4mm). Period totals for the last six and twelve month periods remained well above average. As expected, sunshine was a little below average. Following a disappointing April, May was a warm month, equal 29th warmest in 167 years. Minimum temperatures in particular were well above average; the mean minimum was equal 12th warmest since 1900. The best of the temperatures came early in the month with a welcome maximum of 22.2°C on 8th. Rainfall was below average, but all long-period totals remained above average, the 6-month and 12-month totals especially. Despite lower than average rainfall, hours of bright sunshine were below average too, by nearly an hour per day, reflecting the predominance of cloudy conditions with a generally easterly air flow off the North Sea.

June was another disappointing month: average temperature and average rainfall and much less sunshine than usual. Daytime temperatures were below average but the reverse was true at night, no doubt because of the generally cloudy skies. It was not a wet month and half the days were dry. Sunshine was well below average, the 8th least sunny June on record since 1882. There were five days with no sun at all. There were 2 hours less sunshine per day than normal, but it was still much better than 2012 when Durham only received 72 hours of bright sunshine in June. July experienced above-average temperatures, at night especially. There were nine days with maxima above 20°C, from the 16th to the 24th; with a maximum of 28.9°C on the 19th. For an unknown reason, the concrete thermometer failed to operate for four days but when it started to work again, the concrete surface temperature was 43.8°C (11:00am on the 19th)! Rainfall was below average but so too was sunshine. Nevertheless, despite the lack of bright sunshine, overall it was a very pleasant summery month! August was very similar in terms of temperature to July and, whilst not exceptionally warm, it was warmer than the previous two Augusts. Overall, it was the 18th warmest August in 167 years. Rainfall was just over average and sunshine hours just below average. The 3-month and 6-month cumulative rainfall totals were close to average but the 12-month total remained well above average. The wettest day was Bank Holiday Sunday with a total of 16.8 mm. Even though there was less sunshine than normal, it was the sunniest August since 2007.

For the Summer as a whole, it was the 29th equal warmest in 167 years (14.9°C), 0.7°C warmer than the 1961 – 1990 average but by no means exceptional. The warmest summer day was 19th July when a maximum of 28.9°C was recorded. Summer rainfall (152.4mm) was just below average, with only August being (slightly) above average. Even so, it was the driest summer at Durham since 2006. In terms of sunshine, it was a dull summer, the 9th dullest on record since 1882 (367 hours). Even so, three summers since 2000 have had less bright sunshine, the most recent in 2012. According to the Davis index of summer weather (which combines temperature, rainfall and sunshine), summer 2016 was just better than average, ranking 59th best in 136 years: pleasant but unexceptional.

September was an exceptionally warm month, the 4th warmest September on record since 1850, beaten only in 1865, 1949 and 2006 (which holds the record – 16.0°C). The mean maximum temperature was the 12th highest on record and the mean minimum temperature was the 3rd highest (beaten only by 2006 and 1949). The maximum temperature exceeded 20°C on seven days, whilst the mean minimum was above 10°C on a remarkable 19 days (26 in 2006!). The maximum on the 13th was the 12th-equal warmest September day since 1850, the warmest September day since 1959; 1st September 1906 holds the record – 30.0°C! Both rainfall and sunshine were slightly below average. October was dominated by easterlies for much of the month, which gave a damp, dull feel to the weather. Even so, temperatures were above average, minima rather more so than maxima. The mean air temperature was only 0.3°C above average but nevertheless in the top quartile, equal 33rd warmest. Of the 32 warmer Octobers in Durham since 1850, eight have been this century. The rainfall total was just below average, but clearly the accumulation of many small events, the wettest day having a total of only 6.6 mm. Sunshine was again below average with a disappointing average of only 2.5 hours per day. After the very mild November in 2015, this November was the complete opposite, equal 41st coldest in 167 years and the coldest since 2010. There were a couple of very mild days in the middle of the month, with maxima of 14.8°C (14th) and 15.2°C (15th), but overall, the maximum only exceeded 10°C on five days. Notwithstanding the generally disappointing temperatures, there were only eight ground frosts, a sign of generally cloudy conditions at night under an often north-easterly air flow. As last year, November had well above average rainfall, this year being the 35th highest November total since 1850 (but lower than the 100.8mm total in 2015). There were 12 rain days but only one day with a total above 10mm. There was torrential rain on the evening on the 21st, with the hour ending 2000 GMT recording 9.6mm. [This was not Storm Angus, but its unnamed partner which followed immediately afterwards]. Whilst this was indeed a remarkable rainfall intensity for Durham, investigation of hourly rainfall data since 2000 showed this was “only” the 21st highest hourly total in 16 years (this record has some gaps; n=157800). The highest recorded hourly total at Durham was on 19th June, 2005 when 21mm fell in an hour (my report for June 2005 indicates the rain fell in about 40 minutes, in fact). Notwithstanding the high rainfall, there was more bright sunshine than normal, the sunniest November since 2005 and the 12th sunniest since 1882.

December was very mild, but even so, rather cooler than 2015’s record-breaker. The mean air temperature was the 12th warmest since 1850. The mean maximum was 12th equal highest and the mean minimum the 6th highest, both since 1900. There was a warmer day last December, but other than that, the maximum of 14.8°C on the 7th was the warmest December day since 2001. December was a dry month, with only two thirds of the normal amount of rain. Not surprisingly therefore, December was sunny month, the 15th sunniest December since 1882.

2016 was the 17th warmest year (9.4°C) at Durham since 1850, 0.1°C warmer than last year. Of the 16 warmer years, nine have been since 2000; in a stationary series, only two would be expected. Only two months fell below the 1961 – 1990 average temperature: April and November. Whilst the decadal running mean for annual temperature has fallen slightly from a peak in 2002 (9.7°C), it remains higher than at any stage before 1998. As a result the number of ground frosts was well below average, the 3rd equal lowest total since 1931 (beaten only in 2000 and 2014). The annual rainfall total (698.9mm) was 49.9mm above average but this is not an exceptional total, ranking 58th highest in 168 years. It was a dull year (1160.2 hours), only 89% of the normal amount of sunshine, the 10th least sunny year since 1882.

January February March April May June July August September October November December Year
Mean air temperature 4.7 4.2 5.8 6.6 11.1 13.2 15.8 15.7 14.9 10.1 4.9 6.1 9.4
Difference from average 1.7 1.0 0.8 -0.4 1.2 0.2 0.9 1.0 2.2 0.3 -0.8 2.2 0.8
Mean maximum temperature 6.8 7.3 9.1 10.2 15.1 17 19.6 19.6 18.7 13.3 7.8 8.4 12.7
Mean minimum temperature 2.6 1.0 2.4 3.0 7.0 9.3 12 11.7 11.0 6.9 2.0 3.7 6.1
Absolute maximum temperature 14.1 12.0 13.0 16.9 22.2 25.6 28.9 24.3 26.8 17.9 15.2 14.8 28.9
Absolute minimum temperature -2.6 -3.1 -1.8 -1.2 2.8 5.4 6.2 7.0 6.2 2.0 -3.2 -3.1 -3.2
Number of ground frosts 13 18 11 12 0 0 0 0 0 1 8 8 71
Rainfall total 116.6 28.0 58.0 81.4 41.7 49.2 35.2 69.8 44.2 50.4 87.8 36.6 698.9
Difference from average 57.2 13.6 6.8 34.1 -10.5 -2.6 -16.4 2.7 -11.4 -2.2 25.8 -20.9 49.9
Rainfall % 196 67 113 172 80 95 68 104 79 96 142 64 108
Highest daily rainfall 28.4 6.8 15.2 11.2 11.8 8.6 6.6 16.8 10 6.6 31.4 10.4 31.4
Number of rain days 23 13 13 20 9 14 14 14 10 18 16 12 176
Sunshine hours 32.3 86.3 87.1 119.4 137.6 106.2 114.1 142.8 112.1 72.8 81.5 68 1160.2
Maximum daily sunshine 7.3 7.4 8.5 4.1 11.5 11.3 10.4 9.7 9 7.2 8.6 10.7 11.5

Professor Tim Burt
Department of Geography
Durham University