East Anglia shivers in coldest April for decades but also one of the driest on record

April 2021 was one of the coldest, driest and sunniest on record in East Anglia Credit: David Anderton & Craig Williams (Top) Stephen Squirrell & Richard Moss (Bottom)

The sun may have been shining and the cloud and rain drifted away but still April 2021 was one of the coldest ever seen in the East of England.

Temperatures were more than 2°C below average - the lowest they have been in April in East Anglia since 1986 when they were only a little lower.

It was actually warmer during March 2021 than in April although it was April nights that were particularly cold and dragged the overall monthly average down.

The Rothamsted agricultural research unit at Harpenden in Hertfordshire has been recording rainfall for 107 years and has never had a drier April.  The station had 1.6 mm (0.06 inches) or 3% of the long-term average of 54.1 mm (2.1 inches).

The lowest temperature of the month was -5.5°C measured at Santon Downham on the Suffolk-Norfolk border in the early hours of 17 April.  That was the coldest April night in the Anglia region since 2013.

There were a record number of air frosts during April with an average of 12 nights where where the temperature dropped below freezing point. That was the same number as February and March combined this year.

The Anglia region notched up only 4.3 mm (0.2 inches) of rain throughout the month which was less than a tenth of the normal amount.   April has seen less rain on only two other occasions since Met Office records started in 1862.

An average April in the Anglia region would normally see 45 mm (1.8 inches).

Top five driest Aprils in East Anglia

  • 2007 with 1.0 mm

  • 1893 with 3.6 mm

  • 2011 with 4.3 mm

  • 2021 with 4.3 mm (provisional figure)

  • 1912 with 5.8 mm

Ely Cathedral in the Cambridgeshire Fens on Friday 23 April 2021 Credit: Jan Brown

Many of the rainfall totals for April across the Anglia region are yet to be confirmed but the wettest place so far noted was Pitsford in Northamptonshire with 19.3 mm (0.8 inches) of rain although 17.0 mm of that fell in a single day on the 27th. Stowe in Buckinghamshire recorded 11.8 mm (0.4 inches).

Writtle in Essex recorded only 1.2 mm of rain which is just 2% of normal. Andrewsfield in Essex recorded a provisional month rainfall total of 1.6 mm, which is just 4% of normal.  Hitchin in Hertfordshire recorded its driest April on record with 2.7 mm of rain.

April was also one of the sunniest on record in the East of England but was still put in the shade by last April's sunshine total.  April 2020 holds the record for the sunniest April ever in East Anglia with 257.6 hours.

April 2021 managed more than 210 hours of sunshine although the final monthly total is yet to be confirmed.  That is around 30% more than average.

Sunrise over the North Sea coast at Caister-on-Sea near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk on Friday 30 April 2021 Credit: Denise Duneclift