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March 2005

The averaging period used for the following assessment was 1961-1990.

UK overview

Mean temperatures were again well above average, despite a rather cold and wintry start to the month. Rainfall and sunshine were generally below average across the UK. The November to March rainfall was the driest for England and Wales since the same period in 1975/1976, and was the 5th consecutive month with below average for England and Wales.

Snow drifts of up to 30 cm over the Downs (south-east England), caused transport disruption and school closures in Kent and Sussex. Boltshope Park (Durham) reported 40 cm of snow lying on 3rd, with the last day of snow lying reported on 14th.

England and Wales diary of highlights

A cold and wintry start with some significant snowfall and sharp overnight frosts. Turning milder with some heavy rain during the second half of the month. Notably warm temperatures during the third week. Mist and fog, both inland and along some coasts, became a feature later in the month.

1st to 8th: The first week or so was cold and wintry with winds blowing in mainly from the north or north-east. There were frequent outbreaks of snow, giving some significant accumulations, mainly over the hills and mountains in the north, as well as across parts of East Anglia, Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Forty cm of snow was reported at Boltshope Park (Durham), much of which fell in February, while there were drifts of up to 30 cm over the Downs in south-east England. Some significant transport disruption as well as school closures occurred across the Kent and Sussex area, which saw its snowiest March spell for at least 10 years. Even central London had temporary slight accumulations of snow on the morning of the 4th. Sharp overnight frosts were recorded, especially where there was snow cover. Western parts were generally milder, drier and brighter with over 10 hours of sunshine recorded at Torquay (Devon) on the 6th.

9th to 13th: After the prolonged cold spell, which started in mid-February, it at long last began to turn milder. Temperatures slowly recovered to near average and any snowfall became the exception, rather than the rule. However, the cold North Sea still gave some cold days along parts of the east coast, especially around the Kent coast, with Langdon Bay barely reaching 5 °C on the 10th. There was some overnight frost.

14th to 20th: A mild and damp Atlantic south-westerly airstream set in, bringing some wet weather, especially across the Welsh and Cumbrian hills and mountains. Capel Curig (Gwynedd) recorded over an inch of rain on the 14th, while Shap Fell (Cumbria) recorded 1.5 inches on the 15th into the 16th. An area of high pressure then settled across the south of England on the 18th, bringing a period a dry, sunny and warm weather to many areas. However, some coastal parts were plagued by plenty of misty low cloud as well as some thick sea fog. This led to a notable contrast in maximum temperatures on the 19th, with 21.6 °C recorded at a sunny Wisley (Surrey), but only 8 °C at a gloomy Portland Bill (Dorset). Overnight frost was very localised.

21st to 31st: The final third of the month saw a return to more unsettled weather. It generally remained mild, especially early in the period, with winds blowing from the south or south-west. Rain or showers affected many areas, giving some places their first significant rainfall of the year. Quite a few locations reported an inch or so during the closing days of the month. Thundery showers were reported across parts of East Anglia on the 26th, while Exmouth (Devon) recorded almost 1.5 inches of rain on the 29th into the 30th. Despite the changeable theme, parts of the south coast experienced some fine sunny weather over the Easter holiday weekend. Some coastal areas continued to be affected by low cloud and mist, especially in the east, and this led to rather chilly daytime temperatures. Some dense fog patches developed across inland parts overnight, mainly in eastern districts.

Scotland diary of highlights

Rather cold first half, very mild second half.

During the first six days cold northerly winds blew across Scotland between a large anticyclone in mid-Atlantic and depressions moving south from the Norwegian Sea into Europe. There were sunny periods in most places with snow showers in the north and east and 17 cm of snow lay at Carterhouse on the morning of the 3rd.

The anticyclone moved closer to Ireland from the 7th to the 10th and introduced less cold air to Scotland. It was rather cloudy in the north but sunny periods continued in the south.

A depression moved into Scandinavia between the 11th and 14th and directed another burst of Arctic air south across Scotland. Much of the country was bright but Caithness and the Northern Isles experienced a blizzard on the 13th.

A complete change in the weather took place on the 15th as a deep depression in mid-Atlantic pushed very mild south-westerly winds across Scotland. The temperature reached 17 °C at Aberdeen but heavy rain fell in the West Highlands with 4-day totals (14th to 17th) exceeding 140 mm at Dalmally, Tyndrum and Sloy.

High pressure extended north from France into Scandinavia between the 18th and 20th, bringing drier and brighter weather, with the temperature rising to 19 °C at Glenlivet on the 20th.

A complex area of low pressure in mid-Atlantic introduced more unsettled conditions between the 21st and 25th. South to south-westerly winds brought brief spells of rain and much bright weather and it continued very mild, with temperatures reaching 17 °C in places.

From the 26th a humid easterly airstream covered Scotland between an anticyclone over Scandinavia and low pressure near the English Channel. It was dull and gloomy over most of the country with any brightness restricted to the west coast. A band of rain covered the central lowlands on the 28th and affected the northeast the next day.

Northern Ireland diary of highlights

Another warm month, despite a cold and rather wintry start.

The first week to ten days were often bright with some sunshine but it stayed cold with some wintry showers and night-time frosts. Temperatures on the mornings of the 2nd and the 5th were widely down to between minus 3 and minus 5 °C. Daytime temperatures climbed into double figures between the 7th and the 11th, but it was cloudier with some patchy rain at times.

Colder weather returned overnight on the 11th and by the morning of the 12th, some places had a light snow cover with rather icy conditions. The next few days were rather cold with some wintry showers and night frosts.

A major change occurred around mid-month as weather fronts brought some rain but a rapid rise in temperatures. From the 15th through to the 20th temperatures were frequently in the mid-teens inland and some areas recorded record high night-time temperatures for March. The best of the sunshine over the weekend of the 18th to the 20th occurred in western areas while an easterly breeze kept eastern coasts and parts of east Down and Antrim much cooler. The month's highest temperature of 18.7 °C was recorded at Ballykelly on the 19th while the same day at Helen's Bay in north Down, the thermometer only made 9 °C.

Another abrupt change took place on Monday the 21st with active weather fronts bringing a very wet day and almost incessant rain. Many areas had 5-10 mm of rain and upland areas of the Mournes and parts of Co Fermanagh received 25-35 mm of rain. It was easily the wettest day of the month. The following days became brighter and it remained mild, though with further rain or showers at times.

Good Friday and Easter Saturday were two pleasant spring days with some sunny spells and just odd showers. Temperatures by this time had again recovered to the mid-teens. Easter Sunday through to Tuesday was often characterised by cloudy skies and some occasional rain. It was notably cooler again with day-time temperatures struggling between 8 and 10 °C. The closing two days of the month were often cloudy but mostly dry.

Temperatures overall were a good couple of degrees above average, thanks to the exceptional warmth around mid-month, this totally cancelling out the cold and often wintry feel during the first two weeks. It was also a dry month with some places seeing only around half of their normal monthly rainfall.

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