The Lake District & Cumbria Weather & Climate

There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. – Sir Rannulph Fiennes

Well, maybe…  We have a LOT of weather in Cumbria, sometimes all seasons in the same day.

Forecasts are pretty good but if they say it’s going to rain, it may just mean at some point in the day so don’t be downhearted.  Check the right forecast for your altitude, if necessary pack some good waterproofs, some stout boots, read the safety advice page, and head out to enjoy our fantastic landscape.

Weather Forecasts

Weather Stations



A few tips

    • For kids, particularly, adding a pair of waterproof trousers will make the day so much more enjoyable.  They also keep out the wind and you can sit on the ground which is usually not dry.
    • The absolute “set in stone” rule to observe regarding Cumbrian weather is that the conditions on the fell tops WILL be different to those in the valleys.
    • Similarly conditions on the lakes will be affected by winds being funneled by the fells and around islands, so take advice from your place of embarkation if going out on the water.
    • In a cold winter a frozen lake is breathtakingly beautiful.  Those lucky enough to live on the lake shore can see the patches that freeze first, and those areas that are affected by currents and remain thin ice.  Once the lake is frozen there is no way of knowing where the ice is safe and where it is dangerous – it all looks the same!  Don’t be foolish taking risks – and don’t let dogs out on the ice, many lives have been lost in the UK rescuing dogs.
  • Cumbria is in general a little cooler than the south of England but the risk of sunburn is just as real.  Use suncream, particularly on children.

Whitehaven Harbour on a blustery day. Photo by Jan Fialkowski

Flooding

Despite having had the highest ever recorded UK 24 hour total rainfall in November 2009 at Seathwaite in Borrowdale, conditions which caused the floods at Cockermouth, Keswick, Workington etc, Cumbria is actually quite flood resilient.

 

While no region of the UK is really completely safe from all flooding, Cumbria is used to heavy rainfall periods and the fells and valleys drain swiftly through the well established river courses.  Unlike some other areas building on flood plains is not common.  In the years since 2009 extensive flood defense work has been carried out by the local authorities and individual properties previously at risk have added to this with their own alterations to satisfy the insurance companies stringent conditions. There has been no significant flooding in Cumbria from 2009 to date (January 2013).

Climate

Cumbria and its Lake District are on the north west coast of England. This is affected by the North Atlantic Drift which, together with the mountainous landscape, makes it the wettest part of England. Average annual rainfall is reported by the Met Office to be in excess of 2,000 millimetres (80 in), but this varies hugely by location. Although the whole county has above average rainfall, there is a wide disparity between the amount of rainfall in the Eastern and Western Lakes and the Coastal area.

 

Seathwaite in Borrowdale (the wettest inhabited place in England) averages some 3,300 millimetres (130 in) of rain a year. Sprinkling Tarn is even wetter, recording over 5,000 millimetres (196 in) per year.

 

Some sample average annual rainfall figures around Cumbria

 

March to June tend to be the driest months, with October to January the wettest, but at low levels there is relatively little difference between months.

 

Although sheltered valleys only experience gales about 5 days of the year, the coastal areas are generally very windy having 20 days of gales per year, and the fell tops considerably more with gales on around 100 days of the year .

 

Cumbria’s maritime climate means that it has relatively moderate annual temperature variations, however the lowest temperature on record was  -21.1c at Ambleside (21st January 1940) while the highest was 33.3c at Newton Reigny, nr Penrith (20th July 1901).

 

The Cumbrian fells are relatively low, meaning that although snow is common on the tops in winter (November to April) , they are also often entirely free of winter snow.  Helvellyn averages 67 days snowfall per year, with the valleys typically experiencing 20 days annual snow fall.   In 1888 snow fell on the higher Cumbrian fells on the 10th of July, and Skiddaw was white the next morning.

 

Looking along Bassenthwaite Lake to Keswick, and the fells beyond by St Johns in the Vale.

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