April 2021 was the sunniest on record, say Lancashire scientists

This April was the sunniest since records began, scientists from Lancaster University’s Hazelrigg weather station have shown.

Scientists have been taking daily weather recordings at the University’s site at Hazelrigg, just outside Lancaster, since 1966.

They have used the same piece of equipment, called a Campbell-Stokes recorder, to measure sunshine during all of that 54-year period. It uses a glass sphere to magnify the rays of the sun and scorch marks on special record cards. The instrument shows we have just experienced the sunniest April in all the years those measurements have been taken.

This year’s record-breaking April, which provided an average of nearly eight hours of sunshine each day, smashes the previous record set 47 years ago in 1974 and follows-on from last year’s very sunny April, which is now the third sunniest on record.

A Campbell Stokes sunshine recorder at Lancaster University’s Hazelrigg weather station. It uses a magnifying glass which burns a card when it is sunny to leave a recording. Researchers from the university say April 2021 has been the sunniest on record

This year also saw Lancashire experience one of the driest Aprils on record, with only 10.7mm of rain falling during the month – well below the 58mm average:

Dr James Heath, from the Lancaster Environment Centre and who is one of the scientists who records the weather at Hazelrigg, said: “We have recorded more sunshine in April 2021 than in any previous April, significantly exceeding the existing record set 47 years ago. It’s also only one year since April 2020 fell narrowly short of beating this record, and Spring (March-May) 2020 went on to become by far the sunniest ever recorded here, as well as one of the driest.

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“Whether this is part of a trend would require further analysis and this dry, fine, chilly spring weather has always been a typical pattern at this time of year in the North West; however, it does seem to be getting more pronounced or noticeable. All the more so because in contrast, winters are without doubt getting warmer and wetter; and, while there’s no doubt that there is an increased likelihood of extreme summer temperatures, such as we saw in 2018, there has also been a tendency towards more extreme rainfall events during the summer itself, as we experienced last year in July and August.”

Temperature readings at Hazelrigg show that average annual temperatures have risen by around 0.2°C per decade, which is in line with global mean trend in recent decades..

Sunniest Aprils:

2021 – 238.2 hours of sunshine

1974 - 213.5

2020 - 211.9

2011 – 209.8

1984 – 209.4

2007 – 196.2

(Average - 152 hours)

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