Monday 4 October 2010

Mythbusting: It Always Rains in England

I am sure you have heard this one.  Everyone has heard this one. Everyone even seems to believe this one, but this is one of the times that everyone is wrong.

A bit of background: I love rain.  I remember as a kid, my cousin and brother and I would do rain dances on the driveway and celebrate when the skies opened.  So, the promise of continuous rain was a major bonus for me moving to England.  Now that I have lived here for more than a year and have worked my way through the months, I kept waiting for the season that brought all the rain. I waited and waited and was disappointed when in month 12, I had witnessed all the seasons and they all let me down.  Where was the rain that everyone warned me about?

Before I further explore this myth, I should mention that this is a unique one because its not just people who are unfamiliar with England who believe it "always" rains, but the majority of British people seem to believe it as well and are deeply affected by the weather.  My experience has been that when the clouds and eventual rain roll in, an unmistakable melancholia seems to set over the majority of the population.  When I have asked my work colleagues for the reason behind their moods, they have not blamed that particular day's rain for their gloominess, but the fact that it rains so frequently.

In contrast, give the Brits a sunny day and they are practically skipping in the streets. They cheer up at the mere sight of sunshine as if they've all just won a part in a small lottery.
My desk at work is parallel to a window and in the late morning/early afternoon, the sun shines directly in my eyes painfully blinding me leaving me incapable of doing any work as I cannot see my computer screen (or anything else for that matter). When I close the blinds to save my already fragile eye sight, the Brits in the office groan collectively and ask every 15 mintues following the closure if the sun has moved enough for me to open the blinds. "Can't you just turn your body a bit so we can get some sunlight?" one asked. I look at her in disbelief through those white dots that mare your vision when bright lights have seared your retina and cannot believe that someone cares so much about sunshine.

So just how often does it rain?    

A very dedicated man named Andrew Leaper has been tracking rainfall totals for many many years and the chart below can be found on his website.   You will see this chart shows with the exception of 1992, all year's since 1984 have only managed under 35 inches of rain annually.

My good friend Wikipedia also offers some interesting charts and stats.  I imagine it will surprise many people that there are only an average of 131 days per year with >1cm of rainfall.  That's only 1/3 of the year.  Do I have any math majors out there?   Is 1/3 of the time really enough to be "always" and to be such a pervasive myth?  What about the psychological impact?  Is 131 days of rain really enough to cause a legitimate mood swing?   I say no. I think the idea that is "always" rains is so just widely accepted that everyone believes it and acts on their belief rather than the truth. Maybe there's even a form of camaraderie that goes along with complaining about something which affects everyone.

For all of you feeling blue due to the last few rainy days, lets put things in perspective...  The rainiest places in the world include Tutunendo, Colombia where they get 463.4 inches of rain per year and Mount Wai-'ale'ale on the island of Kauai, Hawaii where it rains an average of 350 days a year.  That's right - rain 96% of the time compared to England's measly 36% rainy days.  Now that's "always"!  
Did you know England isn't even the rainiest place in Europe?   Crkvica, a small town near Sarajevo, Bosnia averages an impressive 180 inches per year;  that's five time more than the rainiest year in England since 1984.   Need I say more? 


  1. Hi,
    I hope it rains for you!
    New follower from Turkey.. Hope you stop by too! ;)

  2. I care a great deal about sunshine. It's one of my favorite things and I often tell the sun how much I love it. I love the rain as well, but I don't usually thank the clouds for dumping a load on my day. I just thought I'd share.

  3. I love it when you bust myths...just saying. As a self proclaimed math expert...hehehe... 1/3 is definately definately not enough to be considered even 1/2 the time, let alone all the time. I say grab an umbrella and embrace what rain you are lucky enough to get Brits! I would gladly take your 35 inches a year over my 15.81. For the record, the sun is blinding me as I type, I swear it seeks me out just to piss me off! ;)

  4. I too was surprised to find after moving here that it does not, in fact, rain all of the time. Actually the year that I moved here, there was so little rain over the winter, that there was a hosepipe ban. This whilst having a record hot summer...But more surprising than the lack of rain, was the lack of preparedness on the roads whenever it DID rain! Inevitably roads are flooded, people are incapable of driving appropriately... and this in a country where it "always rains"

  5. I lived in England for 22 years.

    These stats shock and upset me. It definitely always SEEMED to be raining... I spent many a year complaining about it, and being practically bi polar as soon as the sun came out... it's like my whole life has been a lie !!

  6. I LOVE YOU. :)

    Lol, I'm English and I'm happy to see someone else who likes the rain.

    It doesn't rain enough here. Always too warm and too sunny nowadays.

  7. This data is misleading. If you go somewhere that has a monsoon season, and then look at total rainfall in inches for the year, it would seem as though they get ALOT of rain, which they do, but only for a brief period of time. The thing with England is that it tends to not rain heavily, but it does rain constantly. Just enough to keep your spirits (excuse the pun) dampened.

  8. It doesn't always rain and I can explain the sun-hysteria. Just because it only rains for 131 days per year doesn't mean the rest of the year is sunny. It's overcast here a lot. Figures seem to vary, but we get between 110 and 54 days of sun a year - not exactly disastrously low, but rare enough to get excited about.

    P.S to really understand the British obsession with tea, and why they drink it with milk, read this amazing book:

  9. It certainly doesn't rain all the time, but I can explain the sun hysteria. It's not to do with the amount of rain, but the amount of overcast days. I can't find a great source, but estimates vary from 255-300 overcast days per year. The sun isn't exactly once-in-a-blue-moon, but it is rare enough to get excited about!

    P.S to find out why the British are so obsessed with tea, and why they drink it with milk, read this amazing book: