Forgive me for saying it, but I found the weather of November 2020 quite boring.
There were no extremes of temperature, no extremely wet days and even the normally strong and boisterous autumn winds had little to say for themselves.
The month began with low pressure in charge, dropping 10.1mm of rain in the first couple of days, but it was mild, and the mildness continued pretty much until the 18th. The actual maximum temperature occurred on the 5th of the month, when 16.7 degC was reached. The minimum came at the end, with the first air frost since Spring. Temps fell to -0.9 degC on the morning of 28th and suddenly things were a lot more seasonal.
The mean temperature for November 2020 was 8.1 degC, which is well above average (6.1). It was 2.3 degrees warmer than November 2019 for example.
The month had gotten itself into a bit of a rut in the first half however. Anticyclonic weather keeps the gales away at this time of year, but the payback is that the weather can often become cloudy and gloomy, and that is exactly what happened.
Although the month was ‘damp’ as usual for November, the rainfall total only amounted to 27.4mm and the 1st was the wettest day.
If you search for ‘Durham Weather’ in Google, you’ll likely get a mixture of results from the UK location and the one in the USA. In fact, it’s quite annoying and doubly so because optimising a website for traffic is difficult enough in the very competitive weather niche, but when there’s a competing site on the other side of the Atlantic with the same name it’s a complete pain!
However, I decided that trying to fight against it was futile, so I thought it would be fun to compare the weather (and other things) in Durham UK with that of Durham, North Carolina, USA.
I’ve got to admit, I didn’t know much about the American city, so took to Wikipedia to do some research.
North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina to the south, Georgia to the southwest, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean is 130 miles to the east.
The History of the Durhams
Obviously, Durham UK is a lot older than Durham USA. The Cathedral has been here since it was started in 1093 AD. Settlement around the Cathedral followed.
Durham, North Carolina didn’t really exist until a railroad depot was established by Bartlett S. Durham in 1849. It was known as Durham Station for it’s first 20 years of existence.
Both Durham UK and Durham NC are University cities. Durham NC has Duke University and North Carolina Central University.
Durham NC grew rapidly after the railroad came and the main employment at the turn of the 20th Century was Tobacco. The Bull Durham Tobacco Company and Duke’s Tobacco Company established a monopoly in the USA. By 1910, Duke’s was broken up under anti-trust laws. The Duke’s then moved their money into Electric Power Generation.
Durham NC was surrounded by smoky, dirty power plants, not unlike Durham UK in the first part of the 20th Century in fact. Today, Durham NC is a modern city (as can be seen in the main photo above), and a lot of the buildings from the Tobacco days have been renovated and brought back to use. The area is also a noted Research Triangle in the Medical Sector.
How far apart are Durham UK and Durham NC?
According to Google, there is a distance of 3,754 miles between the two cities. Durham NC is a lot further South than Durham UK.
This would lead us to believe that Durham NC is a much warmer place, and that is true. The climate of Durham NC is one which a lot of UK people would probably desire, but the humidity may well be the thing that makes it challenging for those accustomed to the British climate.
The Climate of Durham NC vs Durham UK
Durham NC has a Humid Subtropical Climate, with hot and humid summers, cool winters, and warm to mild spring and autumn. Durham NC receives abundant precipitation, with thunderstorms common in the summer and temperatures from 26 to 38 degC. The region sees an average of 6.8 inches (170 mm) of snow per year, which usually melts within a few days.
Obviously very different to Durham UK, which is classified as Temperate!
Looking at the average data here, the average high temperatures for Durham, North Carolina in summer would be regarded as extreme for Durham UK. In Winter, there’s not as much to choose between the two, although North Carolina is a little cooler due to the Continental Influence of Mainland USA.
Average High : 31.4 degC (July) Extreme High : 41 degC
The recent trend has been that winter months have been on the dry side. January 2020 was very much in that vein. It was also very mild for first week. On the 8th/9th there was overnight snow in the High Pennines, although only rain fell elsewhere. This was heavy in places. This was actually the wettest day in Gilesgate, Durham, with 13.6mm of rain recorded, the wettest day since 19th November last year.
It was very mild and wild on the 11th, and the strong winds continued until the 13th/14th as a depression passed through, with some snowfall in Scotland and some of the higher ground in the North. Still nothing in Durham.
From 16th the High pressure began to build and by the 19th of January an atmospheric pressure of 1048.9mb recorded in Durham. It’s rare to get anywhere near 1050mb, even in winter. Nationally, it was the highest barometric pressure since 1957. The official record wasn’t broken however, this remains as 1053.6mb, recorded at Aberdeen on the last day of January 1902.
On the 23rd of January the region was awoken by an Earthquake of magnitude 2.8 (on the Richter Scale) recorded on Teesside just before 6am. Some local wags reckoned it had done several million pounds worth of improvements.
Late in the month on 27th/28th there was snowfall in Northern Ireland and W Scotland from a Polar Maritime returning airstream behind a depression. The High Pressure was gone and we were back to wild and windy weather as the Jetstream powered up again. It became very mild again as the month closed.
The rainfall total was surprisingly low at only 31.4mm. There were 15 dry days, which is good fot January. This was the second winter month in a row this has happened. It’s quite welcome after the wet June-November spell last year.
The Weather of 2019 in Durham was quite noteworthy, particularly because there were some very warm temperatures and also the second half of 2019 was very wet.
Some very mild temperatures in February
Once again, the winter was on the mild side, especially in February when the 20 degC mark was breached in the UK for the first time. In Durham, the maximum was 17.1 degC and we were lucky enough to spend the time it occurred in York, sitting by the river in T-shirts as if it were a Summer’s day.
Warm Easter weekend
Easter was in April and once again the Bank Holiday was blessed with great weather. Unbroken sunshine over the weekend made it a very memorable holiday. Once again we were away from home, up on the East Coast at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. The kite festival was on and we came back with a suntan (in April!).
July had record heat
The summer featured some very warm temperatures, peaking in July when the UK record was broken at Cambridge Botanical Garden. The temperature of 38.7 degC beat the old record by 0.2 degC. In Durham, I recorded 33.7 degC, which compared to the 32.9 degC at the official station at Durham University Observatory on Potter’s Bank.
Very wet in the second half of the year
The biggest feature of the second half of the year was it’s intense wetness. From June until November, rainfall was well above average. The wettest month was June itself (129.7mm), closely followed by November (129.3mm). Durham got away without any major flooding, but other parts of the country weren’t so lucky, with a dam close to collapse in Derbyshire and serious flooding in Sheffield later.
The overall rainfall total for the year was 806.1mm, which is about 150mm above normal for a year in Durham. The wettest day was 8th June with 31.8mm, but there were 25 days with more than a 10mm fall, which is high.
After 6 months of way above average rainfall, December has finally stopped the rot. As has been previously mentioned, the wet sequence started in June and ran all the way through to Novemeber.
What usually happens when December is dry is that it’s also frosty. This time, it’s been both mild here and on the dry side. There have only been 4 air frosts, spread equally across the month. (1st, 2nd, 18th and 31st).
The atmospheric pressure was pretty low and cyclonic from the 6th all the way to the 23rd, but all of the rain seemed to fall in southern areas (indeed some places down south were flooded) and largely bypassed Durham. Even though there were 23 days with measurable rain, the total for the month was only 31.2mm. The wettest day was the 10th, coming in with a total of 6.3mm. That was the only day with more than 5mm of rainfall in the month.
Temperatures were also pretty unremarkable, with the highest temperature a modest 11.5 degC on the 6th, right at the start of the cyclonic period. There were mentions of high temperatures in Northern Scotland around the 30th, with air coming around the anticyclone being further warmed by the Föhn Effect, but it didn’t affect Durham. Snow was none-existent in Durham City, although there were falls in the Pennines in mid month.
The mean maximum was slightly above the 1981-2010 average, but the mean minimum was nearly 2 degrees above normal, making the month 1.2 degC above average overall.
A new high temperature for the UK in December was recorded in Scotland on 28th. Warm air coming around the top of an anticyclone was further warmed by the Fohn Effect. The temperature hit 18.7 degC at Achfary in the Scottish Highlands.
This was a very wet day, but most of the rainfall fell after 8pm on 22nd. We were travelling back home and had to pull the car over in Tudhoe as we couldn’t make out where the road was!
Rainfall became absolutely torrential and 49.3mm was recorded in about 3 hours by the rain guage in Gilesgate. The Durham University met station recorded 39.2mm, which they say is the 50th wettest day ever recorded in Durham since 1850.
From Tim Burt:
November was warmer than average, but not exceptionally so. All three ‘mean’ measures were above average. Even so, the number of ground frosts (17) was also above average. It would have been a dry month too, except for the exceptional downpour on 22nd when a total of 38.2mm was recorded, the equal 58th wettest day on record at Durham since 1850. If we use the ‘meteorological day’ (starting 09:00), then the total was 39.2mm, equal to the total on 28th July 2013, the 50th equal wettest day on record and thereby the equal wettest day since 16th April 2005. There were some exceptional hourly intensities: 9.4mm in the hour ending 20:00 GMT; 9.2mm in the hour ending 22:00 GMT and 7.2mm in the hour ending 23:00 GMT. The number of rain days (12) was well below average (18). It was a sunny month, the sunniest November since 2013 and the 7th sunniest November at Durham since 1882.
2016 was the 17th warmest year (9.4°C) at Durham since 1850, 0.1°C warmer than last year. Of the 16 warmer years, nine have been since 2000; in a stationary series, only two would be expected. Only two months fell below the 1961 – 1990 average temperature: April and November. Whilst the decadal running mean for annual temperature has fallen slightly from a peak in 2002 (9.7°C), it remains higher than at any stage before 1998. As a result the number of ground frosts was well below average, the 3rd equal lowest total since 1931 (beaten only in 2000 and 2014). The annual rainfall total (698.9mm) was 49.9mm above average but this is not an exceptional total, ranking 58th highest in 168 years. It was a dull year (1160.2 hours), only 89% of the normal amount of sunshine, the 10th least sunny year since 1882.