United Kingdom: driest winter for 30 years

United Kingdom: driest winter for 30 years

Temperatures on average above seasonal norms, a surprising lack of rain during the month of February... The UK has just experienced another remarkable season.

A particularly dry winter

Rain has been a big absentee this winter, with the month of February 2023 displaying a remarkably low rainfall rate. The Azores high pressure system, much more powerful than usual, was to blame. It prevented on several occasions the usual arrival of active rainy disturbances, coming straight from the Atlantic Ocean. On our map of all the Sencrop weather stations in the UK, as illustrated, the south of England has been particularly affected by the lack of rainfall.

Legend: rainfall records, February 2023 - © Sencrop

According to the Met Office weather specialists, February 2023 is the 8th driest February in the UK. The driest since 1993, with an average of only 15.3mm of rainfall recorded during the third and final month of the winter season. This represents a shortfall of around 45% of the UK's normal seasonal rainfall.

Mildness, the second biggest winner

While the lack of rainfall is impressive, February 2023 was one of the mildest February's on record in the UK with an average temperature of 5.8°C. Even worse in Scotland, with February being the third warmest February on record, fourth place for warmest winters was Northern Ireland.

Legend: average temperatures recorded, February 2023 - © Sencrop

As with our French neighbours, the winter started cold with the first fortnight of December displaying freezing temperatures. Temperatures of between -10°C and -17°C were particularly observed. Not enough to prevent the winter of 2022-2023 from being milder than normal, with an average temperature of 4.3°C "or 0.2°C above average", confirm the Met Office weather forecasters.

Legend: average recorded temperatures, December-January-February 2023 - © Sencrop

The impact of this winter on agricultural production

This mild and dry winter has had a direct impact on agricultural production.

Mild temperatures have :

  • increased the risks associated with frost, particularly in arboriculture and viticulture. Indeed, these temperatures promote the early development of plants and the appearance of buds. It is the buds that are then exposed to frost. This risk remains very present during the spring and it is important to remain vigilant, despite the current mild temperatures.
  • favoured at certain times the presence of parasites such as aphids. These populations may have been regulated during cold spells.

Periods of drought have :

  • prevented groundwater recharge, serving as a water resource for summer irrigation. The risk, if the water tables do not recharge quickly, is that the precipitation during the spring is used directly by the roots of the plants and therefore does not manage to infiltrate in depth.
  • increased the risk of restrictions on the use of water resources.
  • increased the risk of lower yields due to lack of water.

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