The weather at Durham in 2022
2022 was the warmest calendar year on record at Durham (10.59 °C) since observations began in July 1843, easily beating the previous record from 2014 (10.21 °C). The maximum temperature at Durham Observatory on 19 July was 36.9 °C, a full 4 degrees higher than the previous record set on 25 July 2019. All in all, a year of remarkably high temperatures, beating previous records by a remarkable amount! It was also a very sunny year, the second sunniest on record.
January was mild, dry and sunny. It was the 15th equal warmest January since 1844 with the mean maximum the 7th highest on record; night-time temperatures were less exceptional. Following a remarkably warm New Year’s Eve, there was the warmest New Year’s Day on record, a maximum of 13.9 °C, easily beating the previous record from 2015 by four tenths of a degree. The minimum of 10.8 °C is the second highest January minimum since 1900. It was a very dry month too: the 16th driest January since 1850. It was the sunniest January on record since 1881. The estimate of 111.6 hours is well above the previous record of 94 hours in 1959, but the measured total of 132.6 hours is even more remarkable. As regular readers will know, the solarimeter is poorly exposed, but this is less of a problem in winter, given the site slopes to the south. Recently, trees have been lopped at the Observatory to improve exposure and this seems to have had an immediate effect in a winter month. Having used estimates since 2000 (when manual observations from a roof-mounted Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder ceased), I will continue to do so, but the measured total in January 2022 is notable and hopefully a sign of better things to come! Since other observers in the North East have also had record-breaking January sunshine totals, we can be sure that the high total at the Observatory is not just the result of tree work. The measured total of 132.6 hours is 53.8% of the possible January total and 214% of the monthly (1991-2020) average. January 2022 was sunnier than August 2020. It is worth noting the maximum gust on the morning of the 29th when Storm Malik passed through: 104 kph (63 mph). Note that this was recorded on the roof of the West Building, Lower Mountjoy Campus, not at the Observatory which is about a kilometre to the west.
February was exceptionally mild, with the fifth equal highest mean air temperature since 1844. Daytime temperatures were relatively higher than night-time temperatures, with the mean maximum being the 7th highest on record, whilst the mean minimum is equal 17th highest. There were only two air frosts: the equal lowest February total on record (with 1872 and 2011). There were only 10 ground frosts, the 8th equal lowest total since 1875. Rainfall was well above average, but still only the 29th highest total since 1850. It was nevertheless a sunny month, the 11th highest on record since 1881. For the second month in a row, the ‘measured’ sunshine (calculated by the Met Office from pyranometer records as 109.2 hours) was higher than the estimate based on regional statistics, again showing the value of tree pruning on winter sunshine receipt at the weather station. However, this is unlikely to have solved exposure issues for the summer half of the year when trees to the north of the Observatory will still likely continue to shade the site early morning and in the evening. It was also a very windy month: three days recorded gusts over 80 kph with a maximum gust of 90.1 kph at 0430 on the morning of the 21st (Storm Franklin).
For the winter as a whole, this was the 5th equal warmest winter since 1844 (5.4 °C), although not as mild as 2020. The mean maximum temperature (9.4 °C) was third equal highest on record and the mean minimum (2.7 °C) was 14th highest. There were just 18 air frosts, the 8th equal lowest total. There was the 11th equal lowest number of ground frosts (43) since 1875. Unlike last winter’s record-breaking amount, rainfall this winter was just below average. It was the 4th sunniest winter on record (253 hours): following a dull December, both January and February were exceptional. Of the ten warmest winters at Durham, only one is from the 19th century: 1863. There are four from the 20th century: 1935, 1975, 1989 (the warmest: 6.3 °C) and 1998. The other five are all from this century: 2007, 2014, 2016, 2020 and 2022. Of the ten sunniest winters, only 1907 and 1992 predate this century; 2015 is the sunniest winter on record with 270 hours of bright sunshine.
This was the 12th warmest March since 1844, with daytime temperatures especially well above average. The mean maximum of 11.8 °C is the equal 11th highest on record. The maximum temperature of 19.3 °C on the 25th is the 19th equal warmest March day on record since 1850 (n=5363) with 21 days having a maximum above 10 °C. The rainfall total was almost exactly average, a wetter March than either 2020 or 2021. Notwithstanding the average rainfall, it was the fifth sunniest March on record, with (from 4th to 1st) only 2012, 2003, 1907 and 1894 having received more (191.4 hours in 1894). The measured total of 173.6 is only a little below the estimate, again showing the value of recent pruning of trees and bushes at the Observatory site. It has been the sunniest start to a year on record, beating the previous record from 1907.
As is typical for April, there was a mixture of colder days, at the beginning and end of the month, with some warm days, in the middle of the month, although no day reached 20 °C, and the maximum of 18.0 °C is nowhere near the record for April: 24.1 °C on 17th April 2003. The mean air temperature is the 23rd equal highest since 1844. The mean maximum is the 24th equal highest since 1850; whilst much closer to average, the mean minimum is also the 24th equal highest on record. These rankings reflect the relative warmth of Aprils in recent decades. These relatively high April temperatures occurred despite the high preponderance of winds from the eastern quadrant, especially in the second half of the month, with maxima below 10 °C on the 27th and 28th. This was the 53rd driest April on record since 1850, with only half the expected amount. Rain fell on 10 days (4 less than average), but the wettest day received only 8.8 mm. This is the fourth April in a row with a rainfall total well below average, although three of these totals come nowhere near the 2020 ‘lockdown’ total of 3.8 mm, the 3rd driest April on record. The long-period totals reflect the fact that recent months have tended to be drier than normal. As expected for such a dry month, it was sunny too, almost exactly the same total as April 2019, but well below the amounts in April 2020 (218.2 hours) and April 2021 (229.5) – the fourth and second sunniest Aprils on record after 1914 (238.1 hours). This continues to be the sunniest start to a year on record: the current four-month total (579.4 hours) is 36 hours more than the previous record set in 2020.
Of course, no sooner than Durham weather and climate since 1841 (Burt & Burt, 2022) was published in early May, records were bound to be broken. Whilst there were no heatwaves – 79 Mays have had higher absolute maxima – the temperature was notably high, especially at night. The mean maximum is the equal 18th highest since 1844, whereas the mean minimum is the highest on record, beating the previous record set in 2017 (8.0 °C). Taken together, the mean air temperature is the equal 4th highest on record (with 1952). There were no ground frosts this May; the average number is four. Rainfall was close to average, but there were three more rain days than usual. All long-period rainfall totals are now well below average. There was less bright sunshine than normal.
This was the 4th warmest spring on record at Durham since 1844 (9.5 °C); only 2011 (9.7 °C), 2017 and 2004 (both 9.9 °C) have been warmer. Nevertheless, the absolute maximum was only 21.8 °C 14th May. The mean maximum (13.8 °C) was the equal 7th highest on record while the mean minimum (5.1 °C) was the equal 4th highest. Despite a duller than normal May, totals sunshine hours this spring were well above average (526.2; +64.5), the 9th sunniest spring since 1880. It was a dry spring (119.2 mm), but not exceptionally so, the equal 69th driest on record.
In the first heatwave of June, temperatures in Durham just failed to reach 25 °C, peaking at 24.2 °C on the 17th. In the second heatwave, the temperature reached 26.1 °C on the 22nd and exactly 25 °C the next day. Whilst these maximum June temperatures might seem modest on a national scale, they are still notable at Durham: 24.2 °C ranks equal 244th in a series of 5335 observations since 1844, so in the top 5%; 26.1 C ranks equal 74th, well into the top 2% therefore. Just three June days have ever reached 30 °C with a maximum of 30.4 °C on 10th June 1925. The lowest maximum was 14.2 °C on the 5th, the Sunday of the Platinum Jubilee weekend celebrations. The Queen’s coronation day (2nd June 1953, 7.2 °C) is the coldest June day on record at Durham, so Her Majesty’s celebrations seemed plagued by low temperatures and disappointing weather. Perhaps the most notable observation this month was the minimum of 16.8 °C on the 17th which is the 6th warmest June night since 1844. The mean daily minimum is the 10th highest on record since 1844 and the mean daily maximum is the equal 14th highest; the mean air temperature is the 10th highest on record. Even though there was an ‘absolute’ drought (no rain at all) between the 8th and the 23rd inclusive, it was not a particularly dry month, the 75th driest June in 173 years. As might be expected, there were 6 fewer rain days than normal. All the long-period totals remain well below average, a notable dry spell. It was, of course, a sunny month, with 21% more hours of bright sunshine than usual, the 30th highest June total in 140 years of record. This has been the second sunniest first half of a year since 1881 (941 hours), beaten only in 2020 (955 hours).
The maximum temperature at Durham Observatory on 19th July was 36.9 °C, a full 4 degrees higher than the previous record set on 25 July 2019. Usually, records are broken by just a few decimal points, so this is an astonishing difference! The minimum temperature on the morning of the 20th was 17.7 °C, the 5th highest on record for any month, but there had already been two higher minima this month, including 18.4 °C on the 12th, the second highest on record, and 18.1 °C on the 18th, the 3rd equal highest. Not surprisingly, 19th July 2022 is easily the warmest day on record at Durham (mean air temperature: 27.2 °C, the average of the days’ maximum and minimum temperatures; the average of the hourly observations was 27.0 °C) with the day before the second warmest (25.1 °C), both surpassing the previous record of 24.4 °C on 3rd August 1990. There were 4 days in a row with maxima above 25 °C, thus constituting a ‘heatwave’ (which must have at least three days in a row above 25 °C). The warmest 7-day spell on record is 4th-10th August 1975 (20.8 C); this was equalled for both 16th-22nd and 17th-23rd July 2022. Given such high night-time temperatures, it is not surprising that the mean minimum air temperature is the highest for July since 1844. The absolute minimum of 9.0 °C is the 3rd highest for any July, exceeded only in 1983 and 1846. The mean maximum temperature is equal 5th highest on record. The mean air temperature is third equal highest on record (with 1989), exceeded only in 2013 (18.0 °C) and 2006 (18.3 °C). There was the highest mean grass minimum temperature for July since 1874. Up until the last ten days, it had been a dry month, but the total is only a little below the 1991-2020 average, ranking 66th in a series of 173 years since 1850. Like rainfall, sunshine was close to average, not at all exceptional despite the hot weather.
This was the 2nd hottest August since 1843, beaten only in August 1975 (17.6 °C). There was the 4th highest mean maximum and the equal 13th highest mean minimum. 1857 holds the record (12.9 °C) for the mean minimum. There were 25 days above 20 °C, a total only exceeded once before in August, in 1947 (28). As in July, 6 days had a maximum of at least 25 °C, the same total as in August 1868; seven Augusts have seen 7 days at or above 25 °C, but the top two are way ahead: 13 days in 1995 and 16 in 1975. The maximum of 30.6 °C on the 11th makes it the third warmest August day on record, and the equal 9th warmest day of any month (albeit only the 3rd warmest day this year!). This was the 3rd driest August since 1868 (13.0 mm), with just 10 rain days and only 3 ‘wet’ days. All long-period totals are well below average, just 81% of normal rainfall in the last year. Given all the warm, dry weather it is not surprising that this was the 4th sunniest August on record, 48% of possible, a third above the expected amount. For the first eight months of this year, the total sunshine received (1345 hours) is the highest since the first full year of recording in 1881.
For the summer as a whole, given the 10th hottest June, the 3rd hottest July and the 2nd hottest August, not surprisingly 2022 has experienced the hottest summer on record at Durham since the first full summer of observations in 1844 (16.7 °C, 1.7 °C above average). The mean maximum temperature (21.5 °C) is 2.2 °C above average, also the highest on record. While the mean minimum seems less remarkable: 11.8 °C, ‘only’ 1.2 °C above average, it is nevertheless the third equal highest value on record for a Durham summer. For the extended ‘Eglise’ temperature series back to 1784, this is the 2nd warmest summer, surpassed only in 1826 (17.3 °C). Summer 1826 was clearly exceptional, although little is known about it in terms of meteorology. For the Central England Temperature record, 1826 is the second warmest summer behind 1976; summer 2022 ranks 4th. It was also a notably dry summer at Durham (102 mm), just 54% of average. It was the 8th sunniest summer on record since 1880, with almost 20% more sunshine than usual, nearly 100 extra hours and just two sunless days! Using the Davis Index of summer weather, which combines mean maximum temperature, rainfall and sunshine totals, 2022 ranks as the third best summer, behind 1995 and 1976.
The first few days of September reflected the warmth of summer: for the first time since 1999, all the first seven days of September had a maximum temperature above 20 °C; this also happened in 1939 and 1947. Thereafter, autumn set in, with cooler days and nights, and prospect of a record-breaking September soon receded! Nevertheless, it was still a very warm month, the 13th equal warmest September since 1843. There was the 29th equal highest mean maximum and the 12th equal highest mean minimum. There were no very warm days but the absolute maximum on the 5th (23.1 °C) is nevertheless the 124th equal warmest September day on record. The minimum of 15.4 °C on the 4th is the 19th equal highest absolute minimum on record for September (n=5388). The mean grass minimum is the 12th equal highest on record since 1874. This was the 13th month in a row to be warmer than average. September was a wet month: the 22nd wettest September since 1850, the first month since May to record above-average rainfall. Sunshine was just below average, the least sunny September since 2017.
The mean air temperature is the 6th highest on record for October since 1843. The mean maximum is the equal 9th highest. Fourteen days had maximum temperatures above 15 °C but the absolute maximum was only 17.7 °C; 220 October days have been warmer, with the maximum of 25.3 C on 1st October 2011. Reflecting such a mild month, the mean minimum temperature is the equal 8th highest on record since 1850; the absolute minimum (2.6 °C) is also the 8th highest in the annual series, with 8 absolute minima exceeding 10 °C this month. There were no air frosts and just one grass frost. This was a wet month with six more rain days than normal, the equal 11th highest total of October rain days on record. It was the 40th wettest October on record (n=173) so just into the upper quartile. Nevertheless, it was a sunny month, well above average, the 7th sunniest October on record since 1880.
Despite three cold days at the end of the month, this was still the 5th mildest November on record, a touch warmer than last year but just a bit cooler than November 2020.
The night of 11th November is the warmest on record for the month (14.4 °C), easily beating the previous record-holder, 11th November 2015 (13.7 °C); only three days were warmer this month! That night was followed by a maximum of 16.9 °C, the 9th warmest November day since 1843. There was the 3rd highest mean grass minimum for November since 1874, exceeded only in 2011 and 2021, with 7 fewer ground frosts than usual. It was a wet month and, whilst nowhere near as the record holder 1965 (186.1 mm), it was nevertheless the equal 19th wettest November since 1850. Not surprisingly, it was a dull month, the equal 19th dullest November since 1880.
For autumn as a whole, this was the fourth warmest on record (11.3 °C), beaten only in 2011, 2021 and 2006. The mean maximum temperature (14,5 °C) is the 5th highest on record whilst the mean minimum (8.1 °C) is 2nd equal highest. There were just 4 air frosts, 7 fewer than normal and just 5 ground frosts, 12 fewer than normal, the 2nd lowest autumn total on record. The minimum on the night of 11th November is the equal 4th highest for autumn, remarkable for so late in the year. It was a wet autumn (292.6 mm), 150% of the average, the 11th wettest autumn on record. There were 65 rain days, the 5th highest autumn total. The sunshine total (298.4 hours) was just 24 minutes below the average!
December was the only month in 2022 to record below-average temperatures. This was the coldest December since 2010, and the first December to include an ‘ice day’ (when the maximum temperature remains below zero) since 2010. The maximum air temperature on the 12th only reached -1 °C. The next night was also very cold (minimum temperature: -6.3 °C), the equal 150th coldest December night since 1850 (n=5310). The mean maximum was the equal 70th lowest since 1843 and the mean minimum the equal 55th lowest since 1843. Despite the low temperatures, the absolute maximum on the 13th is the 76th mildest December day on record. As might be expected, there was the lowest December mean grass minimum since 2010. It was an average month for both rainfall and sunshine.
For the year as a whole, the record temperatures have already been noted. It was also the second-sunniest year on record, sunnier only in 2003. Sunshine was 116% of normal, with a particularly sunny start to the year. August and October were also well above average and only May, September and November especially were below average. Rainfall was a little below average (654.4 mm).
Emeritus Professor Tim Burt
Department of Geography
Stephen Burt and Tim Burt, 2022. Durham weather and climate since 1841. Oxford University Press. 580 pp.