October opened very wet. A total of 32.7mm of rain was recorded at Gilesgate on 3rd resulted in a rapid rise in the River Wear, overtopping the banks in places, and reaching 2.76m at 8:15am on the 4th. The river level fell back rapidly and had dropped a metre by mid afternoon.
It was the wettest day of 2020 so far.
Here’s what happened in September 2020.
After a wet day on the 2nd, September weather was quite decent until the 22nd. There was a short heatwave in mid-month when the temperature hit a lovely 26.6 degC. Towards the end of the month the weather turned very Autumnal indeed. Temps plummeted after the deluge on 23rd, and the maximum temperature on 24th was only 10.2 degC. Quite cold for September. In fact I’m told it was one of (bottom 20) the coldest September days since 1900.
This cold spell was due to a depression in the Southern North Sea dragging in North to North Easterly winds from the sea on the North side of the storm. Some wild seas were observed in coastal towns such as Seaham.
The cold spell dragged down the overall monthly mean, which had been running a degree or so above average until then, and it finished at 13.2 degC, which is almost bang on average.
The absolute minimum of 3.9degC was recorded on the morning of the 28th, as winds dropped behind the depression in the cooler northerly influenced airstream.
The total for the month finished around the long term average, but about half of that total came on the 23rd. The daily total of 28.5mm wasn’t exceptional for September, but was in fact the 5th fall of 20mm or more in the calendar year so far. Are these high rainfall total days getting more frequent? They certainly seem to be.
The total rain days of 16 was quite low for Autumn, although when anticyclonic weather dominates it can happen.
The most was identified as strongly anticyclonic, and the few cyclonic days were centred around the strong depression that hit around 23rd-25th. There were some very strong gusty winds around the low, which seemed to peak around 25th.
In this video we take a look at the science behind 5 of the weirdest weather phenomena.
Also known as dust devils, Willy willys are whirlwinds that can reach over 1000 feet in height. It is the dust and debris that get caught within them that makes them visible. They mainly occur in desert and semi-arid areas, where the ground is dry and high surface temperatures produce strong updrafts. In Navajo culture, willy-willy were thought to be the ghosts or spirits of the dead
A Brocken spectre is the large magnified shadow of an observer, cast onto clouds or mist. They are most often seen on mountain tops, when a person stands above cloud level. They can create the illusion of a giant shadowy figure seen dimly through the mist. Shifting water droplets in the cloud or mist can also make the shadow appear to move. Often the spectre will be combined with a circular ‘glory’, appearing as a rainbow halo around the shadow’s head.
Usually formed behind hills or mountains, where the air is stable and winds at different heights are blowing from a similar direction. The wind is interrupted, the airflow undulates and condenses into these disc-shaped clouds. They can sometimes be seen as far as 60 miles downwind of the mountains that formed them. They are also believed to be one of the most common explanations for UFO sightings.
Visible in the sky in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, usually near the poles, auroras are mysterious and beautiful natural light shows. They are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun and gas molecules such as oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere. Many cultures have myths relating to aurora – In Finland it was believed that the lights were caused by the firefox, who ran so quickly across the snow that his tail caused sparks to fly into the night sky.
Haboob began as a name for intense dust storms over the Saharan desert, coming from the Arabic word meaning “strong wind”. It is now often used to describe powerful dust storms that occur in arid regions throughout the world. Haboobs can grow to be around 10,000 feet high and the strongest can travel over 100 miles. They are caused by strong wind, flowing down and out from thunderstorms or strong showers. These strong winds stir up a thick wall of dust, which can move at up to 60 mph.
Most of us see clouds every day, but only very occasionally will you be lucky enough to spot one of these 7 particularly rare types – some of which can only be seen in very specific circumstances or locations.
One of the rarest and most beautiful of all cloud types. They are found at very high altitudes – up to around 250,000 feet Visible on clear, summers nights between 45 °N and 80°N latitude ,they appear illuminated by a blue or occasionally red or green light. We still do not know much about how they are formed, but they are thought to be made up of ice crystals.
They can sometimes be seen as far as 60 miles downwind of the mountains that formed them. An extremely rare phenomenon, where clouds form as a billowing wave pattern Occurs when there is a strong vertical shear between two air streams. This causes some winds to blow faster at the upper level, than at the lower level.
Bulge or pouch shaped, they’re usually seen emerging from the anvil at the top of cumulonimbus clouds. Formed by turbulence, they are one of the few clouds that come from sinking, rather than rising air.
Usually formed behind hills or mountains, where the air is stable and winds are blowing from a similar direction. These tall geographic features interrupt the wind, the airflow undulates and condenses into these disc shaped clouds.
Cone shaped clouds which extend from the cloud base, but never actually touch the ground. Formed in the same way as a tornado around a small area of intensely low pressure. If a funnel cloud reaches the land it becomes a fully fledged tornado and if the funnel cloud reaches the surface of a body of water, it becomes a waterspout.
Fallstreak Hole clouds
Also known as a hole punch cloud – they form when part of the cloud layer turns to ice crystals which are large enough to fall. Water droplets in the cloud, cooled below 0°C but not yet frozen, will freeze if they find a particle to freeze on to or are cooled to below -40°C. Aircraft can cause this to happen by making the air expand & cool as it passes through the cloud
Formed when warm air within a storm cloud is pushed up from the ground by the cold air exiting downwards. Unattached to the storm cloud they are known as roll clouds, but when attached they are called shelf clouds.
Durham Weather : August 2020
The weather in Durham in August 2020 was disappointing overall after starting out really well. It was typical of the summer really. There were no long settled spells as such at Durham, although some very warm weather was experienced in the south of the country, culminating with 36.4C recorded at Heathrow and Kew Gardens.
The 11th August (mean 24.0 degC) and 12th August (mean 25.1 degC) were the warmest recorded for those particular dates on the Central England Temperature series.
Thunderstorms were extensive across the country after that, but we escaped most of them in Gilesgate, although there were some near misses, with torrential rain.
It was actually pretty dry up to the 17th (12.2mm, 8 days with rain). The temperature reached 28.0 degC on the 7th, which averaged 21.3 degC. This was the high for the month.
Then from 17th it turned really wet and temps declined markedly, with 22.8mm on 17th and rain every day from the 13th to 30th.
The last week of the month was very wet, with 12.5mm on 23rd, 12.8mm on 25th, 13.8mm on 27th and 29.8mm on the 28th August. There was a cloudburst in Durham on Sunday 23rd which dropped 9mm in 10mins in the early afternoon. This was right in the middle of the wet spell.
Here is the chart for Tuesday 25th August. It was very wet and windy. The pressure was very low for August, falling to 986.4mb and the northern flank of this depression gave us the heavy rain driven in from the East.
This last week has become progressively colder and wetter, culminating in 13.8mm on 27th and 29.8mm on 28th. Total for the month is now 127.1mm .
Maximum temp on the 28th was only 13.5 degC with a keen NE wind. The 29th was cooler still at 12.7 degC.
As is frequent in August, the last few days can be quite cool, and the monthly minimum was 5.3 degC on the morning of 31st. This was a really nice late summers day.
23rd August 2020. Very heavy rain in Durham
Above is the scene from the Bandstand by the River Wear in Durham on Sunday 23rd August 2020. The heavy deluge dropped 9mm of rain in 10 minutes on Durham and it’s surroundings. That’s a rate of 54mm per hour, which is a proper dowpour.
In the town, the narrow streets were rapidly turned into rivers and driving visibility was virtually nil.
Thanks to Kev Allison for the photo via Facebook.
A welcome message from me
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July 2020 – Disappointingly dull with no real summer weather
July 2020 can best be described as ‘disappointing’. The hottest part of the year never really got going in Durham. It took until the 12th July for the 20 degC mark to be breached for the first time. When it did, it stayed in the lower 20’s. The only day it crossed the 25 degC threshold was on the last day which was phenomenally hot.
At 31.0 degC, the last day made it into the history books as the 3rd warmest day on record Nationally. The temperature rose to 37.8 degC at Heathrow Airport, just falling short of last July’s all time record. It is unusual for such a hot day to stand in isolation. Normally hot days develop as heat builds over a period of time, each day hotter than the last. Not this one. The max for the 30th was only 19.9 degC and the following day, August 1st only got to 22.3 degC. This day stands out like a sore thumb in the record. If I didn’t know any better I’d suspect it as an error, but it wasn’t, it was just stinking hot.
Photos from the hottest day of July 2020
The rainfall total wasn’t anything to write home about either. Rain on 20 days meant that the longest dry spell was only 3 days, between the 19th and 21st. The wettest day of July 2020 was 23rd. The total of 13.9mm wasn’t exceptionally high, but the overall feeling was of a month that never really dried out. There was an outbreak of thundery rain on the 31st as the hot weather departed. The total of 62mm was pretty average for July.
Although I don’t record sunshine totals at Gilesgate, my feeling was of lack of sunshine. Several days were just cloudy and overcast, when normally we’d expect the sun to break through the cloud at some point in the day. I think sunshine totals from elsewhere will confirm my feelings on this.
Atmospheric Pressure was mainly anticyclonic, as we’d hope for in July, but always seemed to be in the ‘wrong’ place for us, resulting in a predominance of winds from the SW-NW quarter. Quite strong winds at times too, with gustiness a feature. That’s not what we really want or need in July is it?