Scorching May was the driest and sunniest on record
- Credit: Weatherquest
East Anglia has experienced its driest May since records began in 1862 – with just 4.2mm of rain recorded for the whole month.
Met Office data shows the region received only 9pc of its average rainfall for May, and the total was less than half the previous record of 9.6mm in 1989.
It was also the region’s sunniest month in records stretching back to 1929, with 314.6 hours of sunshine – more than 10 hours per day – representing 160pc of the May average.
Dan Holley, of Norwich-based forecasters Weatherquest, said monitoring stations at Marham in Norfolk, Cavendish in Suffolk, and Wittering in Cambridgeshire have all recorded just 0.4mm of rain for the whole month – barely 1pc of their long-term average.
It is now three weeks since Marham and Wittering last recorded any rainfall at all and, aside from Benson in Oxfordshire, they have been the driest locations in the whole of the UK, he said.
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Dr Mark McCarthy, the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, said: “The most remarkable aspect is just how much some of the May and spring records for these climate statistics have been exceeded.
“The sunshine figures for spring would even be extremely unusual for summer and only three summers would beat spring 2020 for sunshine hours.”
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While many have enjoyed the early onset of summer and sweltering temperatures, the weather has brought problems – tempting people to travel to Norfolk beaches and beauty spots before the lockdown restrictions were eased, and damaging crops in parched farm fields.
The increased number of people staying at home in their gardens during these unprecedented conditions is also putting pressures on water supplies. Industry body Water UK said water companies have seen a huge rise in domestic demand, particularly in the evenings, with use up 20pc and some areas seeing peak demand of up to 40pc above normal for the time of year – though the wet winter has left good supplies in reservoirs so there are currently no plans for hosepipe bans.
Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty said households could take steps to reduce water consumption including avoiding using sprinklers, taking shorter showers and reusing paddling pool water on flowerbeds – but she stressed people should keep following the guidance on protecting their health during the coronavirus pandemic, by making sure they wash their hands regularly.
“These are exceptional times and the record-breaking dry weather is a powerful reminder of what a precious, natural resource our water is,” she said.
“We need to keep washing our hands, but make other small changes to our water use, for example cutting back on paddling pools and sprinklers, particularly at the peak times in the evening.”
Weatherquest said cooler weather is expected to arrive in East Anglia on Wednesday which could bring some showers – with the chance of some more significant rain next week.