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The Weather

The British love talking about the weather. Mainly because it is so hard to predict with any accuracy. I get my weather forecasts from three different providers and then work on using the average of all of them. If you are looking for the forecast for today, tomorrow or the day after then you have a good chance of being fairly close. Anything beyond that and it's all guesswork. However I have been caught out more than once when a fine day turned into a freezing downpour. As the saying goes there is no bad weather just bad clothing.

What can we say about the weather other than its unpredictable? Looking back at historic weather records we can see how the averages for the months worked out and use that to make long term plans. If you know that you are working on a new development and you will need photographs for the planning application in December then get them taken in August or September when the weather is nice. If you wait for December when the deadline is approaching you will have to make do with whatever is available and hope that it's not raining.

If the time frame is "We need them this week" then it's much harder to pick a nice day to take them on. With more warning you can have a much nicer set of photographs, with nice light and fine weather.

Looking at the historic data from Heathrow between 1967 and 2016 we can extract some interesting information such as the minimum and maximum temperature each month or the number of days with frost. These numbers aren't really that surprising, the average rainfall per month throughout the year is between 39.4mm and 61.3mm averaging between 1.4mm and 2.0mm per day.

Monthly RainfallJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Minimum10.3mm2.4mm5.7mm2.4mm4.1mm6.1mm6.9mm0.3mm3.1mm1.6mm8.2mm8.9mm
Average55.6mm39.4mm41.8mm43.1mm48.1mm49.2mm47.4mm53.3mm50.8mm61.3mm61.0mm56.2mm
Maximum162.4mm100.4mm95.3mm101.5mm102.1mm127.7mm115.2mm150.3mm140.0mm174.8mm151.2mm119.3mm
Daily average1.8mm1.4mm1.4mm1.4mm1.6mm1.6mm1.5mm1.7mm1.7mm2.0mm2.0mm1.8mm

What is interesting is the number of hours of sunlight each month.

We know that winter days are shorter than summer days. In the winter sunrise and sunset are only eight hours apart (08:02 - 15:59 gmt), of which photographically we can't easily use the hour after sunrise or before sunset as the sun is too low and the shadows are very long. So for December and January the shooting day is at best just under six hours long.

In the summer you get nearly fifteen hours of sunlight to work in (04:49-21:20 bst) after you have avoided the hour either side of sunrise and sunset.

The other interesting thing you can find from the historic weather data is the amount of sunshine you actually get. Not just how much day you get but how much sunlight actually breaks through the clouds and shines. A good photograph needs light, with light you get shadows, with shadows you get depth and texture. On overcast days you get nice colours but flat photographs.

I extracted the following information from the historic data collected by the Heathrow weather station. The Daylight column lists the time between sunrise and sunset on the 21st of each month, Usable Daylight avoids the hour either side of sunrise and sunset where the sun is low and you have very long shadows. The percentages that follow are the average amount of time as a percentage of the day length that a Campbell-Stokes recorder registered bright sunlight. These are grouped by decades, and the far right column is the average for the decades as a percentage and as number of hours per day. So if your requirement is bright sunshine in December then you should leave plenty of time as only 20% of the six usable hours of daylight are clear. However of the usable fourteen and a half hours of daylight in June 41% are sunny.

Another way of looking at it is that in December (on average) you have under 6 hours of sunny weather between Monday and Friday, in June (on average) you get almost 30 hours of sunny weather between Monday and Friday.

MonthsDaylightUsable Daylight1957-19661967-19761977-19861987-19961997-20062007-2016Average/day
January8h-41m6h-41m19%16%22%21%26%21%21% = 1h-24m
February10h-25m8h-25m20%24%23%27%30%25%25% = 2h-6m
March12h-12m10h-12m29%32%27%31%31%36%31% = 3h-10m
April14h-10m12h-10m32%37%36%39%39%43%38% = 4h-37m
May15h-47m13h-47m41%39%37%45%43%37%40% = 5h-31m
June16h-31m14h-31m44%46%36%41%42%35%41% = 5h-57m
July15h-50m13h-50m36%41%39%44%44%38%40% = 5h-32m
August14h-13m12h-13m38%41%40%49%47%36%42% = 5h-8m
September12h-17m10h-17m39%37%38%37%43%37%39% = 4h-1m
October10h-23m8h-23m32%31%33%36%36%31%33% = 2h-46m
November8h-41m6h-41m22%26%25%27%29%22%25% = 1h-40m
December7h-56m5h-56m18%18%19%19%22%21%20% = 1h-11m


The view from Stubbing's Wood in Hertfordshire


Interested in learning more?

If you've looked through my site and have any questions, I'd be glad to help you. You can contact me on my mobile on 07801 103635 or send me an E-mail and I will get back to you as soon as I can.