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April weather


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The classic April day has scudding clouds, blue sky, and the odd sharp shower. Driving this weather is the power of the sun drawing moist air off the cold sea (where temperatures are not much above their annual low point). It is this that causes the typical April pattern of cloud bubbling up after a sunny start and then fading away towards dusk.

Despite this changeable picture, there is generally a good amount of sun during the month, and when it shines it feels just right: warm and pleasant, without being too hot. Temperatures in the sun are in the mid to high teens centigrade, perhaps rising into the low twenties if one is lucky. Except possibly right at the end of the month, when shade and suntan cream can start to look welcome, it is generally still a delight to sit out in the sun even in the middle of the day. Breezes also mean the air stays fresh and the sky a deep blue.

Westerly winds or airflows off the North Sea can bring more continuous clouds, however, and under them it can feel distinctly cool. Early in the month such weather can have you reaching for winter coats and pullovers, and even looking lingeringly at woolly hats. The central heating may even go back on again but not for extended periods.

Nights usually avoid frost, however (though see exceptions below) with night temperatures typically around 5 to 8 degrees. One still needs warm bedclothes but the wind has lost its cutting edge and winter coats, hats and scarfs have been returned to the cupboard.

Hotter years

Recent years have shown a trend towards more static high pressure in April, however, producing hotter, drier conditions. In both 2007 and 2011, for example, high pressure kept the weather sunny with temperatures regularly into the low twenties for much of the month. With the thermometer reaching 26 degrees on 22 April - which happened to be Good Friday - 2011 was the hottest April on record. This was also a rare Easter when all four days were sunny.

In neither year was there significant rain in April. In 2007 the first three weeks were completely dry and even when westerlies returned from 23 to 27 April there were only a few scattered and very short showers. Following on from a very warm January to March, this this seemed to suggest a hot summer was in store. But in fact the rest of the spring and summer in fact turned out to be unusually cool and rainy.

In 2011 lows in the first five days produced one day of rain and there were a few spots on 11 April, after which the weather remained cool and cloudy for another three days. Otherwise hot sun predominated, producing some isolated thundery showers to the south of London on the 23rd and 29th, but no rain north of the Thames. Only in the last few days of the month did easterly winds take the edge off the temperatures.

April 2010 also saw high pressure set in from the 8th onwards after a wet Easter. However, though the rest of the month saw plenty of sunshine, a cool north easterly wind kept temperatures down in the low teens until the 23rd, after which they soared up to a  21 degrees. Rain was welcome when it finally arrived on the evening of the 29th, and the same was true in 2003, when rain came mid month after a dry March and sunny start to April. The rest of the month then alternated rain with sunny days.

April 2017 saw high pressure in charge until the last three days of the month: centred to the south west, it brought plenty of sunny weather - 9 full sun days and 14 days of sun and cloud - and no rain to speak of apart from very small amounts later on the 14th and 16th (inevitably Good Friday and Easter Sunday). A north west wind kept temperatures pegged to the mid teens, however. Night time temperatures were around 5-6 degrees but dipped to zero on the 18th and 19th, and again from the 25th to 27th, when the high moved west, bringing in north winds: it was also chilly by day on these three days with highs of around 11 degrees. In the last three days of the month low pressure edged south, bringing some rain later on the 30th - much needed, though the countryside had just about avoided tipping into drought due to reasonable rainfall in March. Early May also brought further showers.

2014 was fairly benign with 9 sunny days and good amounts of sun on 11 others. There was high pressure from the 1st to the 3rd and 8th to the 18th, the latter producing a two week drought, though with moderate rain before and after it. Temperatures also remained moderate - 13-16 degrees even on sunny days, with just a handful excursions into the high teens (though night time temperatures were dipping into the low single digits as late as the 20th). Easter, from the 18th to the 21st, was pleasantly sunny apart from a wet Easter Day.

In 2015 high pressure set in on late on the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 5 April, after a cold grey start to the Easter weekend. The weather was then largely sunny until the 23rd, with temperatures in the high teens, though often tempered by a cool easterly breeze. On 14 to 15 April (a Tuesday and Wednesday) the wind turned southerly and temperatures on the 15th rose to 25 degrees, the hottest April day since 2011. In the last five days of the month westerly lows set in, bringing welcome rain.

Colder exceptions

A complete contrast to these relatively benign years was 2012. Late March that year saw hot dry weather and temperatures that peaked at 23 degrees on 30 March. But temperatures then dropped to 11 degrees on 1 April and a 16 day drought ended on 3 April, the Tuesday before Easter. The entire rest of the month was then characterised by very heavy showers and temperatures in the 9 to 13 degree range (at times down to 3 or 4 degrees at night), though most days had some sunny periods too. In all the month saw more than twice its normal rainfall, a fact that did not stop official drought warnings after a second dry winter.

In 2016 the month started with high pressure but with showers mixed in and unexceptional temperatures of 13 degrees. Three sunny days from the 12th to the 14th, when temperatures got as high as 17 degrees, seem to herald the start of more normal April conditions, but on the 18th high pressure then set in to the west bringing cool easterly winds, albeit with reasonable amounts of sunshine. Night time temperatures dipped to the low single digits. On the 23rd the same high made the winds turn northerly, bringing a wintry blast of air with daytime highs of just 8 to 9 degrees, and night times down to zero. With cloudy skies it felt more like February than late April. Only on the 30th did the north wind abate and temperatures edged up to 12 degrees.

Other Aprils started unseasonably cold but soon warmed up, such as 2008 when highs to the south west and over Greenland brought north winds and 5 inches (12 cm) of snow overnight on the 6 April, a Sunday. It had melted by the afternoon but the following day also brought some snow overnight. However, by the 9th daytime temperatures were up to 14 degrees - warm enough to walk in shirtsleeves in the sunshine.

In 2013 the first week was very cool, following a bitterly cold March of east winds and grey skies. The 4th saw snow across the south east, which settled in Kent and Sussex. But the clouds also started to break up, and in the second week westerlies finally moved daytime temperatures into double digits and night time temperatures above freezing, raising them to 7-8 degrees by the 11th. On Sunday 14 temperatures surged to 22 degrees and winter was finally banished. The rest of the month was sunny, albeit alternating between temperatures in the mid to high teens, and others of just 10-13 degrees. In all the month saw 13 days and 10 with substantial amounts of sun.

Goodbye to mud

Paths can still turn muddy if it rains in April, but they dry increasingly rapidly - within an hour or two after a light shower, but potentially in a day or two after heavier rain. Patches of deeper mud do still linger in hollows and depths of woods, but even they are drying out, and grass is no longer squelchy underfoot. An exception to all this was 2012 when cool temperatures and twice the normal rainfall left the paths at the end of the month as muddy as in the depths of winter. In 2014 there was plenty of mud still in the first week but it dried gradually thereafter despite wintry weather at the end of the month.

One stops thinking about what time it gets dark, although lighting up time in fact advances from 7.35pm to 8.20pm during the month, meaning that by its end it is light till nearly 9pm. The longer days mean that one can once more get up late on Sunday, dawdle around and then suddenly decide to go out, and still have time for a good long time out in the countryside.

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