Record sunshine and lack of rain prompts ‘save water’ warning in the Anglia region

The driest and sunniest May ever recorded in East Anglia topped off the sunniest spring ever seen in the East of England. And it was pretty warm too.

As reported by Anglia Weather on this website and television last week, the region was heading towards the sunniest spring on record. And so it came to pass, as May closed and the summer months began.

The spring months of March, April and May totted up more than 720 hours of bright sunshine in East Anglia, which is nearly 250 hours more than normal for the season. The previous spring sunshine record was 644 hours set in 1990.

If the sunshine had been evened out equally across every day this spring it would have resulted in more than 2½ hours of extra sunshine each and every day.

Sunny skies over Holland-on-Sea near Clacton, Essex at the end of March 2020. Credit: Marie Stansfield

An average summer in East Anglia gets 588 hours of sunshine so spring 2020 beat that by more than 130 hours.

Sunny skies over Finedon in Northamptonshire in March. March saw less than 60% of normal rainfall, April had 65% of normal and May had only 5% of what is expected. Credit: Susan Drake

It was also the driest May ever in East Anglia and that’s dating back to when Met Office rainfall records started in the region in 1862.

Normally the region would expect 50 mm (2 inches) of rain in May. This May the Anglia region had only 2.2 mm (0.09 inches) of rain which is less than 5% of normal.

The Met Office said: “Northamptonshire – the driest county so far – for example has only recorded 1.5mm (0.06 inches) of rain during May.

“To put that measurement into context 1.5mm is less than the thickness of a 20-pence coin – you could lay the coin flat in the month’s rainfall and the Queen’s head would remain dry!”

After a very wet February in the Anglia region with twice the normal rainfall, it didn't take long for the soil to dry out in March. This is Stopsley in Luton. Credit: Lisa Shepherd

Rainfall totals in the Anglia region in May 2020

  • 0.2 mm in Pitsford, Northamptonshire

  • 0.4 mm in Cavendish, Suffolk

  • 0.4 mm in Marham, Norfolk

  • 0.4 mm in Wittering, Cambridgeshire

  • 0.8 mm in Wattisham, Suffolk

  • 1.6 mm in Cambridge

  • 1.6 mm in Charsfield, Suffolk

  • 2.0 mm in Santon Downham, Suffolk

  • 2.2 mm in Lt Paxton, Cambridgeshire

  • 2.6 mm in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire

  • 2.8 mm in Harpenden, Hertfordshire

  • 2.8 mm in Stowe, Buckinghamshire

  • 3.8 mm in Cromer, Norfolk

  • 5.0 mm in Weybourne, Norfolk

  • 6.0 mm in Woburn, Bedfordshire

Clear blue skies over Hunstanton cliffs in Norfolk on 27 April 2020. Credit: Mike Griggs

After April was the sunniest ever recorded in East Anglia, the month of May was keen to repeat the feat.

May is also likely to be the sunniest ever in East Anglia as provisional figures suggest there have been more than 300 hours of sunshine across the area.

The record for May in East Anglia is 298.8 hours set in 1989.

By mid May the lack of rain was beginning to show in farmers' fields across the Anglia region. Credit: David Hughes

The drought has prompted warnings from water companies.

Affinity Water, which supplies parts of Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, says there has been an increased demand for water because more people are at home because of the pandemic, combined with recent hot weather.

The company has ruled out the need for restrictions on water usage but are encouraging customers to think how they might make savings.

A ship leaves King's Lynn port in Norfolk under the setting sun on 24 April 2020. Credit: Will Mac

Just weeks after many parts of England and Wales were deluged with floodwater, the spring drought has seen gardens wilt, farmers fret over parched crops and reservoir levels drop.

The Environment Agency said on Thursday that most water companies have"appropriate" reserves, and it stressed its calls for people to use waterwisely should not deter anyone from regular hand-washing as part of the fight against Covid-19.

Met Office rainfall maps for March, April and May - the brown areas are where there has been least rain compared to normal levels. Credit: Met Office

The spring months of March, April and May 2020 will be among the ten driest on record in East Anglia with a rainfall total of around 57 mm (2.2 inches), which is less than half the normal spring rainfall.

But it will still be the driest spring for only nine years as the current dry record-holder is 2011 with only 27.8 mm (1.1 inches) of rain.

The spring will also be among the ten warmest on record in East Anglia. The highest temperature reached during the season was 28.2°C at Santon Downham on the Suffolk-Norfolk border on 20 May 2020.

  • The weather data used in this report is currently provisional and subject to verification as more weather readings are collected, collated and analysed