Lockdown sun to Storm Bella - 2020 in weather

Norwich city centre during Coronavirus lockdown 31st March 2020. City Council building and Post Offi

Norwich city centre with bright skies back in March. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

Although 2020 was dominated by other news, the weather did occasionally make the headlines.

February was exceptionally wet, with nearly twice the average rainfall, and proved very challenging for farmers on the back of a very wet autumn and winter. It was also the windiest calendar month during the past 30 years, with a maximum gust of 81mph at Weybourne courtesy of Storm Dennis. 

A yellow weather warning has been put in place for Storm Dennis. Picture: Met Office

A yellow weather warning was put in place for Storm Dennis. - Credit: Archant

Skip forward to mid-March and, almost perfectly timed with the first national lockdown, the weather changed for the better. High pressure dominated for much of the spring, resulting in many days of uninterrupted sunshine and ultimately the sunniest spring on record. 

May alone recorded nearly 315 hours of sunshine, equating to around 10 hours per day, making it the sunniest calendar month ever recorded in East Anglia. It was also the driest May on record, with an average of just 4mm of rain across the region, exacerbating the challenging growing conditions for some farmers.  

June rainfall was near-average, but for a number of locations ended up being wetter than the whole of spring. Thunderstorms affected some western parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex during the middle of the month, while a heatwave towards the end of the month produced three days with temperatures close to 30C.  


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Clear skies in mid-July provided the perfect opportunity for catching a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE in the night sky.

Hot weather was rather lacking for most of the month, until the very last day when a quick burst of heat saw temperatures soar to 33C. This was soon followed by an intense heatwave in early August, with 34C or higher recorded on six consecutive days in the UK – the first time this has occurred since reliable records began. The highest temperature recorded in East Anglia was 35C on August 7, the fine weather a welcome boost to the tourism industry. 

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As is often the case, the heatwave ended with a bang as thunderstorms developed and caused flash flooding in parts of Sheringham on the morning of August 16, and in the afternoon the focus shifted to south Norfolk where more than 200mm of rain fell in just a few hours. 

August ended on a windy and chilly note, with the coldest August day since 1986 at a few locations, and a waterspout captured off the coast of Southwold on August 28. 

Effects of the rain and high wind in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Simon Luckman Weather Photography/Jaso

Effects of the rain and high wind in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Simon Luckman Weather Photography/Jason Silom/Paul Rice at Broads' Watch - Credit: Simon Luckman Weather Photograph

No sooner had schools returned than the weather settled down once again, with many parts of the region remaining completely dry for up to three weeks during September. However, by the end of the month it became much more unsettled, with heavy and persistent rain producing as much as 102mm at North Walsham in 48 hours between September 24 to 26, accompanied by the longest duration of gales to affect north Norfolk since 1996. 

Hundreds of trees were brought down, and significant drifts of sand buried Walcott on the northeast Norfolk coast. This marked the beginning of what was to become the wettest October since 2000 and, in stark contrast to the spring, the second dullest October on record. 

Flooding in Thetford, December 2020.

Flooding in Thetford, December 2020. - Credit: Paul Ovenden/Norfolk Drone Photography

Many parts of the region experienced some early season snowfall on December 4, although it was rather slushy and tended to melt fairly quickly. Freezing fog in mid-December created spectacular wintry landscapes as vegetation became coated in rime ice. During this spell, temperatures at some sites remained subzero all day, making it the coldest December day since at least 2012. 

As we approached Christmas for many it was wet rather than white, with a month’s worth of rain falling in 24 hours onto already saturated ground – leading to some of the worst floods experienced in parts of south Norfolk and north Suffolk for several decades

And so the year ends on a rather chilly and showery note. No doubt some further twists and turns in the world of weather as we head into 2021.

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