When I first moved to here in 2004 I thought the rumour about Manchester’s increased rainfall was a myth. I’m from a small village in West Wales where the annual average sunlight is considerably higher than the British average, but when I first came to Manchester I noticed very little difference; the winters were wet and the summers were sunny. What I didn’t realise at the time though was that Britain was experiencing a run of its hottest summers on record and that had I been back in Wales, or down South or ANYWHERE else, the summers were a lot sunnier, dryer and hotter than they were here.
When I used to hear people grumble about Manchester’s weather, I would dismiss what they were saying as a case of “the grass is always greener” and accepting it as the British tendency to moan about the weather; it’s always too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry or too humid. However, the advent of social media and then the summer of 2012 taught me differently.
Most summers, my friends and I like to spend sunny Saturdays sitting in a green-space, having a barbecue or drinking or just lying out for a couple of hours. Normally we get about 10-12 appropriate weekends for this a year. In 2012 it happened once. And while I initially assumed that the rest of the country was suffering the same miserable summer, I discovered through Facebook that it was to a much lesser degree. Friends in London and Wales and even in Newcastle were posting about the sunny days they were having, posting photos of cocktails and beaches and sunsets. Meanwhile, in Manchester, the rain was only broken by overcast blandness.
Why is Manchester so wet? Why is it so grey? Unfortunately it also appears that it’s getting worse; for the last few years, Manchester has been recording around half an inch extra of monthly rainfall every month, year on year, while the national average hasn’t altered at all. That is an enormous increase!
However, despite our first hand experiences of the terrible weather over the last few years, data suggests that Manchester’s long-term higher-than-average rainfall is actually a myth. It would appear that in actuality, Manchester gets no more or less total or average rainfall than anywhere else in the UK, or even in comparison with other Northern European cities. Reputation has it that it is actually the industrial towns in Lancashire that receive increased rainfall and due to the city’s proximity to them, Manchester receives the same press. Data from weather stations in towns north of the city confirm that they do, in fact, receive considerably higher rainfall than that recorded on the large plain on which Greater Manchester sits. But it is this plain itself that causes this rain in the first place, sitting beneath the Pennines that frame it to the north and east. When the wind blows from the south-west, warm air rises from the city, condenses over the mountains and dumps our water over Blackburn, Preston and Lancaster. Sorry about that…
There are many reasons to be in love with Manchester, but its weather certainly isn’t one of them. One result of the horrendous summer of 2012 was that every time the sun came out over the summer this year I appreciated every moment of it. And while 2013’s summer won’t be remembered as the hottest or most glorious on record, I will always remember it as the welcome return of the sunshine after a Game Of Thrones-esque winter that lasted from September 2011 until May 2013. And in a summer when I didn’t holiday abroad, this was a very welcome return to, albeit brief, normal seasons. However, to claims of “it’s grim up north” and Manchester’s reputation for dull and miserable weather, I’m now going to have to always agree. However, I may now participate in that old British pastime of complaining about the weather, but I love this city far too much to let that stop me enjoying my time here. So let’s all get through the next six months with the optimism that the sun *might* come out in the summer of 2014, but in case it doesn’t, I’m going to book my holiday flights early to avoid disappointment.