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Record-breaking spring

1 August 2011

An unusually warm and dry March and April across England and Wales followed a drier than average winter. The dry conditions had a direct effect on agriculture and also contributed to significant problems with wild fires across the UK. Our forecasts helped people prepare for the dry conditions and deal with the impacts of the driest spring for over 100 years.

Less than half the normal rainfall fell across the UK in March. April was the warmest on record with many parts of the UK experiencing temperatures 3 to5 °C warmer than normal. It was the sunniest April in the UK, England and Wales, in a series from 1929. Together, March and April were the driest in the100-year series in East Anglia, and the second driest in England and Wales. In contrast, rainfall in Scotland was 110% above normal levels. The wet conditions ruined crops including soft fruit, potatoes and peas.

In drier parts of the UK, plants flowered earlier, bees and butterflies appeared earlier, and the ground, normally warm and wet from April showers, was parched. At the end of April, exceptionally dry vegetation contributed to wild fires breaking out across the UK. High winds and dry conditions hampered fire fighters and emergency services dealing with the various blazes which caused extensive damage to a variety of woodland, heath and farmland.

The dry weather caused concern for many livestock and arable farmers, with growers irrigating where water was available. Despite some losses, the sunshine blessed strawberry farmers with a bumper crop. Growers of asparagus harvested the crop earlier than ever before. Winemakers in the South West are hoping the unusually warm and dry spring could result in a bumper season for vineyards.

Runners and spectators at the London Marathon in April had mainly dry and fine conditions and many parts of the UK also enjoyed fair weather over the Easter weekend. The weather even stayed dry for the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

May began mostly settled and warm, but temperatures gradually fell towards normal for the season, and it became more unsettled over the late May Bank Holiday.

June had generally average temperatures, although the highest temperature of the year, and the last five years, 33.1 °C, was recorded at Gravesend on 27 June.

The Met Office website received 173,000 page views for the Glastonbury forecast, Wimbledon only experience a few interruptions to play having mainly good playing conditions.

New online pollen forecasts

suffering from hayfever This spring's hot, dry weather made things worse for those suffering with hay fever. We made our pollen forecasts available on our website in April helping millions of people across the UK to better manage their condition.

Our pollen forecasts use current pollen data collected from around the UK in conjunction with current weather information. Ultimately, weather affects the amount of pollen produced and how it's distributed. Rain stops pollen spreading, while wind blows pollen from the countryside into more populated areas.

Use our daily pollen forecast  to plan your activities and better manage your condition.

Grímsvötn volcano eruption

The Icelandic Grímsvötn volcano erupted on 21 May and caused some limited disruption to flights over northern Europe during the following week.

As the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) for the north-east Atlantic region, we use state of the art computer modelling and real-time observational data such as satellite imagery and airborne measurements, to provide routine advisories and guidance on the subsequent movement and dispersion of the volcanic ash.

The aviation industry uses the VAAC advisories and guidance to help inform flight safety decision making during volcanic ash events.

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