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It’s official: May 2020 was UK’s sunniest month on record

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Photo source: Zwaddi/Unsplash

According to the Met(1) Office May 2020 was the sunniest calendar month on record in the UK.

There was a total of 266 hours of sunshine in May in the UK(2) - which surpassed the previous record of 265 hours in June 1957. This comes immediately after a particularly wet winter, with record rainfall in February. The sudden change from extremely wet to extreme dry weather has astounded(3) meteorologists, who say it is not "British" weather.

The UK gets 436 hours of sunshine, on average, from March to the end of May. This 500 hour mark has only been reached ten times since 1929, and 555 was the previous record figure. Scientists say the recent weather in the UK has been unprecedented.

This year we've been roasting in an extraordinary 626 hours - surpassing the previous record by a “staggering” amount, according to one Met Office worker. It is because the jet stream has locked the fine weather in place, just as it locked the previous winter rainfall in place.

Speaking to BBC News, Professor Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said this: “We’ve swung from a really unsettled spell with weather systems coming in off the Atlantic to a very, very settled spell. It’s unprecedented to see such a swing from one extreme to the other in such a short space of time. That’s what concerns me. We don’t see these things normally happening with our seasons.

“It’s part of a pattern where we’re experiencing increasingly extreme weather as the climate changes.”(4)

A representative of the Met Office, Mark McCarthy, said:

“The sunshine statistics are really astounding. The stand-out(5) is by how much sunshine has broken the previous record - set in 1948. There’s been more sunshine than most of our past summer seasons. It's quite remarkable."

Scientists are reluctant to say that this year’s climatic conditions are an indicator of the future, because the behaviour of the jet stream is unpredictable. It is becoming generally accepted that the change in climate is man-made, but it is too soon to tell whether this year’s extreme conditions are a direct result of man’s(6) activities.

Also speaking to the BBC, Professor Joe Smith, chief executive of the Royal Geographical Society, stated: "For many people, the recent long sunny spell is simply 'nice weather'. In a wider context it’s a signal of the increasing unpredictability of the UK’s climate. Planning for the growing season is starting to resemble a night at the gambling tables.

“The fact remains that bold early actions to slash emissions can still cut the larger risks associated with climate change in the UK and around the world”.

Notes and questions

1. The Met Office

This is an abbreviation of The Meteorological Office, the UK government department that has responsibility for the study of weather and climate, including making predictions.

Question: The Met Office is located in Exeter, which is in Devon. Where in the UK is Exeter?

a. Northern Ireland b. Wales c. South-west England d. On an island to the west of Scotland

2. The UK

This is an abbreviation of the United Kingdom, which consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Question: Is this just another way of saying Great Britain (GB)? If not, what is the difference?

3. Astounded

Synonyms: astonished; knocked for six; greatly surprised; flabbergasted; rendered speechless; gobsmacked

Question: Two of the words in this list are rather less formal than the others, and two are more formal. Can you say which ones?

4. Climate vs weather

Weather can also be used as a verb, especially in the idiomatic phrase “to weather the storm”, which means to overcome difficulties.

We also use “the current climate” as a reference to the current mood, or psychological state of the population

Some weather sayings:

J All of us could learn a lesson from the weather: it pays no attention to criticism.

J Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it. Mark Twain

J If you don’t like the British weather, wait twenty minutes.

Question: Is climate the same things as weather? If not, can you explain the difference?

5. Stand-out

This is a good example of a noun that comes from a phrasal verb. The noun will usually take a hyphen (-) in the middle.

1. He is the best footballer in his school, he really stands out. Yes, he is the stand-out player.

There are many other examples:

2. They went to prison for holding up a bank. The staff had been trained about what to do in a hold-up situation.

3. I think the rain is letting up. Good! There has been no let-up for days!

Question: This verb in No.1 above also has a related adjective, meaning “extremely good”. Can you think what it is and rewrite the sentence to include it?

6. Man-made; man’s activity...

It is becoming less and less acceptable to use masculine nouns in this way. There are possible alternatives, which some people find clumsy, but most now agree it is preferable to use the more modern and “sensitive” version.

Artificial, synthetic, manufactured...

Human activity

It is no longer usual to say policeman/policewoman, but rather: police officer

Similarly: a fireman is now called a firefighter, and actor now applies to both men and women. The word actress now sounds old-fashioned.


· How might you refer to an air stewardess these days?

· Is your own language becoming more sensitive to political correctness?


1. C

2. Great Britain is the island comprising England, Wales and Scotland. The United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland as well

3. Less formal: knocked for six; gobsmacked

More formal: rendered speechless; greatly surprised;

Neutral: flabbergasted; astonished

4. Climate: (noun) the weather in a location, averaged over some long period of time

Weather: (noun) the atmospheric conditions. Basically: whether or not it is raining?

5. He is the outstanding player in his school.

6. Cabin crew

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