Wettest March in over 40 years for England

England has had its wettest March since 1981, with Wales and Northern Ireland also seeing one of their wettest Marches on record.

According to early provisional Met Office statistics including data up to 30 March, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have all so far had one of their respective top ten wettest Marches on records which go back to 1836.

While it has already been England’s wettest March since 1981, the record figure of 147.2mm in 1947 won’t be troubled this month.

Northern Ireland’s record figure of 160.7mm set in 2019 also won’t be eclipsed and Wales’s figures so far haven’t yet overtaken 1994’s figure of 198.6mm, with its record figure sitting at 287.5 in 1981.

With further rain on 31 March, the final positions will be confirmed on 3 April.

March 2023 UK Statistics - Wettest March since 1981 for ENgland. Top ten wettest March for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Below-average sunshine.

A rain-filled month

This content references figures from 1-30 March 2023 and will be updated on 3 April when the full month’s provisional figures are available

England, Wales and Northern Ireland will see rainfall totals for the month in their respective top ten, they’re not expected to break national records. Up to 30 March, Wales had 197.5mm of rain, some 91% more than its long-term average.

For England, 111.3mm of rain has fallen so far in the month, 91% more than its average. Northern has seen 137.4mm of rain falling, which is 58% more than average.

Scotland, however, saw rainfall totals more in line with its average, with 128.7mm of rain being just 3% more than average.

The Met Office’s Dr Mark McCarthy is head of the National Climate Information Centre. He said: “Although the month started cold and dry for many, moist, milder air soon pushed up from the south bringing frequent heavy periods of rain, this being longest-lasting in the southern half of the UK.

“Overall this has been an unsettled month dominated by Atlantic low pressure weather systems. many parts of southern and central England and south Wales have received more than double their average rainfall for March, which is in stark contrast to the dry February England experienced.”

Rainfall map of the UK in March 2023. The map shows a wetter than average month.

Environment Agency Executive Director and National Drought Group chair John Leyland said: “Rainfall in March has helped water levels improve, but it follows on the heels of a very dry February so there is a need to remain vigilant – especially in areas that have not recovered from the drought last year.

“We cannot rely on the weather alone, which is why the Environment Agency, water companies and our partners are taking action to ensure water resources are in the best possible position both for the summer and for future droughts.

“As ever, it is important that we all continue to use water carefully to protect our precious rivers, lakes and groundwater, and the environment and wildlife that depend on it.”

A lack of March sunshine

The majority of the UK has had a duller than average month in terms of sunshine hours, with only some counties in the northwest of Scotland seeing figures above their respective long-term averages.

Although final positioning won’t be confirmed until the full month’s figures are in, Wales will have one of its top ten dullest Marches on record in a series which goes back to 1910 and the UK will have a duller than average month. Scotland, however, will be closer to average.

Several counties, including Devon, Somerset, Hampshire and Wiltshire are in contention to see one of their dullest Marches on record, though much will depend on the final day’s figures.

Sunshine map of the UK for March 2023. The map shows a duller than average month.

A month of two halves for temperature

March started cooler than average, with a northerly plunge of air bringing associated snow and ice for many. Across northern Scotland, lying snow cover resulted in some particularly low minima, with –16.0 C recorded at Altnaharra, Sutherland on 9 March, and daytime temperatures struggling to rise above freezing.

Further south, a mild second half of the month brought temperatures back more in line with long-term averages. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are all set to close the month close to their average temperature for the month. Scotland, however, has been cooler than average.

Dr Mark McCarthy concluded: “March 2023 will be remembered for being a dull and wet month, especially for those in the south of the UK. While the rainfall has been notable in England and Wales, it hasn’t been enough to fully recover the deficit of rain over the last 12 months. People will also look back on the snow that arrived mainly for northern areas, but, while disruptive for some, this was a fairly typical snow event for the UK in March.”

Mean temperature map of the UK for March 2023. The map shows a near-average month, with the north slightly cooler.

This content references figures from 1-30 March 2023 and will be updated on 3 April when the full month’s provisional figures are available.