We have been having some hot and sunny weather recently as I write, but we will soon forget all about it. Most years are not memorable for the weather. We may think they are at the time, but could you recall any weather event about 2002 for instance? Only major events, like the long cold winters of 1947 or 1963, are etched on our consciousness; I am too young to remember 1947 which was apparently a very severe winter, although I doubt it was worse than 1963. Perhaps it was made harder to bear by the post-war shortages of essentials like coal. It takes a major event such as the hot dry summer of 1976 to make much impression on people. Even the floods of earlier this year will not be remembered in East Anglia, because they did not affect us. Even the tidal surge of December 2013 which inundated much of the eastern coast was not as memorable as that of 1953, although in some areas it was more extreme. No one was drowned. The water deluges of a year ago that caused floods in many parts of the country are already fading from the memory.
On the whole our weather does not have any catastrophic effects; there are no hurricanes or tornadoes here. There are few blizzards, floods, gales or even droughts, although this area includes one of the driest parts of England (in Breckland). The east of England has lower rainfall than the west, and the driest part of the country is St Osyth in Essex. Despite its being so dry Essex did not suffer from a hosepipe ban in 2012. Obviously this is not because of the plentiful rainfall (because it wasn’t plentiful at all) but because much of our water supply comes from aquifers (bore holes). In the early part of the 2012 there were dire warnings of water shortages in future, with these aquifers drying up due to climate change; in the latter part of that year we had unprecedented amounts of rain, with the bore holes full to overflowing. We are now told that climate change will make floods common. The climate may be changing, but not as fast as ‘expert’ opinion!
Weather forecasting over the short-term has improved greatly since satellites have provided masses of data, but beyond about a week we remain pretty much in the dark. In general terms the weather follows a predictable seasonal pattern. January is pretty certain to be the coldest month of the year and February ‘fill dyke’ the wettest in most years. But some years the February rains may fail and fall instead in August (as they did in 2012) or in January as happened in 2014. March is traditionally windy, and April showers are as much a part of the yearly round as they were in Chaucer’s day (remember the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales begins ‘When April with his showers sweet’). With the hours of sunlight steadily increasing May is usually sunny although not always warm. June is the sunniest month and July and August the warmest. Fog is a reliable feature of November.
The climate of East Anglia is made equable by the North Sea which surrounds us on three sides; in fact there are coasts of Norfolk and Suffolk which point to all points of the compass except the south west. When you stand in a bitter easterly wind looking out at the grey waves this may sound hard to believe, but the whole of Britain enjoys the effects of being a maritime nation. We do not get the extremes of hot summers and cold winters. The waters that lap our shores do not change temperature as rapidly as land masses do, added to which the Gulf Stream bathes us in tropical warmth. This may be only a degree or two warmer than it would be but the result is far preferable to those parts of the world which receive their coastal current from the arctic or antarctic. Britain shares its marine temperate climate with Western France and Belgium.
According to the Met Office the sunniest place in the UK is the south coast around Sussex. In general the hours of sunshine increase as your altitude decreases, so Norfolk ought to score well on that count; its highest point is Beacon Hill near Sheringham. Its 103 metres makes Norfolk the least elevated county in Britain but this does not meant it is flat. Apart from the Fens at the west of the county it is characterised by gently rolling countryside. As for the weather, although rain clouds may be relatively few, the North Sea often produces mist and low cloud which makes it feel damp.