Wednesday, May 16th 2012, 5:32 PM EDT
Reports of snow showers in parts of the UK over the past 24 hours and the prospect of more on high ground tonight may seem a little out of context at this time of year, but is it unusual?
Snowfall at this time of year isn’t an annual event, so it’s not completely normal, but it’s fair to say it’s not completely unusual either. We last saw snow in May all the way back in… 2011, just last year, and we also saw more snow in 2010.
If we look back through the records dating back to 1910, the snowiest May on record was most likely in 1979 when 342 weather observation sites reported snow on 2 May.
This snowy spell lasted through the whole of the first week of that month. The light snow showers we’ve seen this May seem slight in comparison.
Besides these wintry showers, much has been made in the media of the ‘cold spell’ which is ‘gripping’ the UK this month and the rather unsettled weather we’ve had.
While many people associate May with the start of summer weather, it can actually be a month of very mixed and variable conditions – with wide contrasts possible.
This is borne out by the piece of old weather lore:
Ne’er cast a clout,
Until May is out.
While this rhyme is a bit ambiguous and open to interpretation, one view is that this means don’t throw out your winter clothing (from clout – which means thread or cloth) until May is over – presumably because you can expect virtually any type of weather at this time of year.
So, unsettled and cool weather – even with snow or frosts – isn’t out of context in May despite perceptions that it’s typically a warm and sunny time of year.
This week really sums that up. We are expecting some night-time minimums which are below average – isolated areas in Scotland and northern England could get down to freezing or just below.
During the day, however, temperatures in places could get to 15C or above in parts of southern England – and it may even feel quite warm when the Sun is out, particularly in spots sheltered from the wind.
There will also be some rainfall this week, but many places will see sunny and dry spells too.
So, don’t throw away your summer wear yet – nor your winter woolies.