Climate and Weather

Unfortunately, the maps we are using in this section are in farenheight. For this reason, you might want to have a temperature conversion scale.

The UK is almost entirely surrounded by the sea, and it is the state of the sea which has probably the most influence on the weather; however, to the South and East, the continental land mass of Europe is very close across a relatively small sea, so it can directly control the United Kingdom's weather in certain circumstances.

[January temperature map] [Temperature key] [July temperature map]

Scotland's climate then? Temperate western fringe. What this means is a little of everything through the whole year. Average temperatures never actually go below freezing, or zero Celsius (32 Farenheight) and never go above room temperature or 20 Celsius. Rainfall happens all year round, with most in the winter (an somewhat unusual feature, I was told in my school geography).

In the winter, the most important source of heat in the UK is the sea. The gulf stream, which originates in the Gulf of Mexico comes almost straight to the UK and totally controls the winter climate. To give some idea of the strength of the effect, other places in the same latitude range include Moscow, Edmonton (somewhat north of Calgary) and the Southernmost tip of Greenland (also Gulf Stream heated). For those of an upside down map persuasion, this is equivalent to the Southernmost tip of South America or Macquarie, far South of New Zealand. Within the country the parts furthest from the effect of the Gulf Stream become the coldest, which means the East (see the January temperature map)

What all of these averages hide is that variations in the direction of the wind can cause great variations in temperature. In particular, if winds come from Northern continental Europe or the Arctic, very cold weather can prevail (here, very cold means as much as -15 degrees. Well, we call it very cold..). Much much more detail, especially on the climbing aspects of winter weather, can be found on this in books such as Scotland's Winter Mountains by Martin Moran.

In summer, the major heat source is the sun. The seas surrounding the UK moderate the temperatures. This leads to a fairly straightforward pattern of more heat in the South than the North and cooler areas by the Sea than in the Centre of the UK. Remembering that the furthest that you can get from the sea in the UK is 40 miles, this effect is relatively weak. Again the direction of the wind is very important in controlling the weather.

[UK rainfall map]

Rainfall in the UK is a clearer story. Rain falls in the West; rain falls in Scotland; rain falls on the Mountains; rain falls on me... The warm water over the Gulf Stream gives up a lot of water vapour. Winds coming from that direction pass over the mountains of the West of Scotland, the Lake District or Wales. When they do this, they lose their water content as they go. Winds coming from other directions tend to cause much less rain. The South East of England is a surprisingly dry place. Rainfall is continuously available through the year, but some times are obviously worse than others. Have a look at at this comparison provided by