“May” be a tad cooler mid-week: a switch from Tropical to Polar air

May 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

A dry start to May but how long will it hang on?!

Before Saturday’s shower, it last rained in Reigate 5 days ago but rain is forecast this week.  Nevertheless, the first 10 days of May are due to be below average rainfall (see map below), despite wet weather mid-week.  Much of the rainfall in Reigate during early May is likely to be showery, some heavy but rather short duration so not amounting to much.

europe wet and dry may

May Bank Holiday in Reigate is likely to be a pleasant 20ºC, but not quite the sizzling 26ºC claimed in some newspapers! The warm weather we have been enjoying has been courtesy of an upper level ridge to the south pumping a warm air mass from a warm source region to the south west around the Azores. This warm upper air has built a surface HIGH pressure to the south of the UK which has kept us largely dry, warm and cloud free.  The tropical airmass this week has had temperatures at 1500m (850hPA) of +10C over Reigate; (quick reminder that in March we had uppers of -12ºC!). This week could see upper air mass temperatures drop to nearer 2ºC over Reigate by mid-week. Surface temperatures will still be OK, reaching mid-teens in the stronger May sunhsine but night time temperatures could be quite chilly and even risk a touch of frost if skies clear later in the week when a HIGH is due to build through again at the end of the week. High pressure will build back in the south and, though a long way off to be certain, next weekend looks staying dry with temperatures probably recovering nicely in any sunshine.

The cause of the forecast #slightly# cooler weather arriving in Reigate this week is a possible significant switch in the airflow from mostly southerly winds to a more westerly/north westerly wind direction: a cooler direction across a cool Atlantic ocean and from a cooler source region around Iceland. The cause of the change in the wind direction is an Atlantic LOW forecast to cross the UK mid-week. This LOW will bring Atlantic fronts and rain, possibly heavy at times mid-week, before clearing to showers.  A HIGH is forecast to build back into the south by next weekend bringing dry weather back and temperatures back to possibly hit 20ºC again. As usual, this is an early forecast and things will change so do keep in touch on twitter @RGSweather.

high and low pressure cross section

Why is HIGH pressure usually dry and cloud free?  Air sinks in HIGH pressure: as it sinks it warms and dries out. Warm air can contain more water vapour than cool air, so any moisture tends to evaporate in HIGH pressure (anticyclones).

In LOW pressure (cyclones / depressions) air is LIFTED and expands, cools and any water vapour will condense, forming clouds and eventually rain.

Air flows from HIGH to LOW (but not straight! it is deflected to the right in the northern hemisphere by the coriolis force… more on this later).  This gives us the familiar surface pressure charts with winds apparently spiraling round HIGHS and LOWS.

air flows from high to low!

One response to “May” be a tad cooler mid-week: a switch from Tropical to Polar air


    I’ve got my paws crossed for good weather!

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