Understanding the British climate

UK compairable temperatures around the world

First published in 2004

Location Temperature Latitude
Average Min. Record Min.
United Kingdom – Plymouth 4°C -8.8°C 51°N
United Kingdom – London 2°C -10°C 52°N
United Kingdom – Edinburgh 1°C -9°C 56°N
Ireland – Valentia Is. 5°C -7°C 52°N
Argentina – Buenos Aires 6°C -6°C 34°S
Australia – Canberra 1°C -10°C 35°S
Australia – Melbourne 6°C -3°C 37°S
Australia – Alice Springs 4°C -2°C 24°S
Australia – Hobart 4°C -2°C 44°S
Brazil – Porto Alegre 9°C -4°C 30°S
Cyprus – Kyrenia 9°C -4°C 35°N
Chile – Santiago 3°C -4°C 34°S
China – Shanghai 1°C -12°C 31°N
China – Chongqing 5°C -2°C 29°N
Ethiopia – Addis Ababa 5°C 0°C 9°N
France (Corsica) – Ajaccio 4°C -6°C 42°N
France – Bordeaux 2°C -12°C 45°N
France – Cherbourg 4°C -6°C 50°N
France – Paris 1°C -12°C 49°N
Greece – Athens 7°C -6°C 38°N
Hong Kong 13°C 0°C 22°N
Israel – Jerusalem 5°C -3°C 32°N
India – Darjeeling 2°C -3°C 27°N
India – New Delhi 7°C -1°C 28°N
Italy – Rome 5°C -5°C 42°N
Italy – Venice 2°C -9°C 45°N
Japan – Tokyo -2°C -8°C 36°N
Japan – Nagasaki 2°C -6°C 33°N
Jordan – Amman 4°C -6°C 31°N
Monaco – Monte Carlo 8°C -1°C 44°N
Mexico – Mexico City 6°C -3°C 20°N
Nepal – Kathmandu 2°C -2°C 27°N
New Zealand – Wellington 6°C -2°C 41°S
New Zealand – Christchurch 2°C -6°C 44°S
Pakistan – Islamabad 2°C -4°C 34°N
Paraguay – Asuncion 12°C -2°C 25°S
Portugal – Braganca 0°C -12°C 42°N
Portugal – Lisbon 8°C -4°C 39°N
Peru – Cajamarca 8°C -4°C 7°S
Saudi Arabia – Riyadh 8°C -7°C 25°N
South Africa – Cape Town 7°C -2°C 36°S
Spain – Madrid 2°C -10°C 40°N
Spain – Barcelona 7°C -7°C 41°N
Turkey – Istanbul 5°C -9°C 41°N
Uruguay – Montevideo 6°C -4°C 35°S
USA – Los Angeles 8°C -2°C 34°N
USA – Miami 16°C -3°C 25°N
USA – New Orleans 10°C -14°C 30°N
USA – San Diego 8°C -4°C 33°N
USA – San Francisco 8°C -3°C 38°N
USA – Seattle 2°C -16°C 47°N
Zimbabwe – Bulawayo 7°C -2°C 20°S

It may surprise many to learn, considering that it seems to be the national pastime to complain about the weather, that the British Isles has, by far the mildest climate for any region in the world situated between the latitudes of 49° & 61° from the equator.

In this table I have selected various temperature examples from around the world. All of these locations have experienced temperatures of freezing or below within recent history. I have also included the approximate latitude for each location.
To understand this, the smaller the latitude number the closer that location is to the equator, the larger the number the further it is away. The only locations listed with latitudes over 50° are those of the British Isles. Latitudes less then about 24° are situated within the tropics.

Over England the mean annual temperature at low altitudes varies from about 8.5°C to 11°C, with the highest values occurring around or near to the coasts of Cornwall. The mean annual temperature decreases by approximately 0.5°C for each 100m increase in height.

The record for the coldest winter ever still stands at -27.2°C recorded at Braemar, Scotland on 11th February 1895 also repeated on the 10th January 1982. The lowest temperature ever recorded at Plymouth in Devon is -8.8°C on 2nd January 1979. At the opposite extreme, the highest winter temperatures are up to 16°C on rare occasions. This past year (2003) yielded the hottest temperature ever recorded in Britain, 38.1°C at Gravesend on 10th August.

To a very large extent, winter temperature in the British Isles is influenced by the surface temperatures of the surrounding sea, which reaches its lowest values in late February or early March. February is thus normally the coldest month near the coast, but inland both January and February are very similar in minimum temperature. It is the sea surrounding the British Isles that is also responsible for keeping our summer temperatures down, as water changes temperature very slowly.

As a general rule the western side of Britain is cloudier, wetter, and milder in winter, with cooler summers than the eastern side. The eastern side of Britain is drier the year round, with a tendency for summer rain to be heavier than that of winter. The east is much colder in winter and warmer in summer. In most winters there is very little snow, but every fifteen or twenty years it may lie for some weeks during a prolonged cold spell.

There’s nothing much consistent about our weather. Summers can be overcast and rainy all summer long, but then some years we experience long spells of cloudless skies. We even suffer from drought every few summers. When we do have sun during the summer months it is amplified by the extremely long days we have, which are a consequence of the northerly latitude; in the north of Scotland in midsummer the day is eighteen hours long and twilight lasts all night. The other consequence of the northerly latitude is the extremely short winter days and long winter nights, which are further darkened by the usually overcast skies. This is particularly noticeable in the southwest, where the warmer seas keep the temperature up and form sea mists to cloak the land.

Interested in DIY adventure travel, exploring, and organising your own expedition?

This is a request for like-minded people (ten or so), from any nationality, to come together to organise their own expedition to that remote destination you always wanted to explore, but never got around to.

It may be that you lack the confidence to go it alone, or the logistics and cost has been prohibitive. What I am proposing here is that you come forward to discuss where you want to go and what you wish to do when you get there. If we can get enough like-minded people together, who want to go there then we can pool our resources and organise that expedition much easier and cheaper than if you were to try and do it on your own.

The destinations I am referring to are generally those that may be extremely remote like Madagascar, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia etc.. Or less remote, but nevertheless difficult for one to organise on ones own like China, Vietnam, Mexico, or even Africa and Australia. I’m not suggesting you do anything touristy like visit cities and temples, although these things are usually unavoidable.

Like-minded people are those with an interest in the natural world. You may be an academic botanist or zoologist needing to study a particular species, a geologist interested in a mountain range or formation. But you could also be a complete novice with an interest in ornithology, or you just want to see a wild tiger before they go extinct. Whatever your background, if you want to do something really special and adventurous in your lifetime you can, by pooling together with like-minded people to undertake an expedition or field trip everyone gains in the shared knowledge of the participants, the security of travelling together, and the reduced logistical costs.

I envision these field trips and expeditions to be of the duration of a few weeks to a couple of months. Longer trips are not out of the question, but I can tell you from my own experience that expeditions lasting longer than a month become tedious, tiring, and generally much more difficult. Besides, many people can’t spare the time, and people invariably become irritating when you travel for too long with them.

And to give you an idea of what to expect, it is more often the case that most of the time is spent in hotels where we make excursions out into the field. Sometimes we work out of a base camp, other excursions might entail a 5 day trek through a rain forest where we hold up each night in hammocks. Some countries insist that we employ at least one guide to travel with us especially if we have a collecting permit. In most cases it is preferable to have a motor vehicle, mini bus, truck, car or boat, to give us the freedom to get us and our kit close to where we need to go, it then works as our base camp. The itinerary is decided by the species we set out to see, and the minimal amount of effort needed to get in, see that or those species and get out.

About me
I’m not the kind of person who likes to ‘blow my own trumpet’ and talk much about myself, however, I understand that in the context of this you do need to know quite a lot about me.

My name is Phil, I am male, 48 years old, married with two teenage boys, British, based in Cornwall, Southwest UK. And I own Trebrown nurseries and this website. My academic background is in biology and geology, but I specialise in botany and palaeobotany, mainly [Arecaceae] palm trees, [Cycadae] cycads, [Musaceae] bananas, [Pteridophyta] ferns, and conifers especially Araucariaceae and Podocarpaceae. My interests extend further than this though and I am fascinated by everything in the natural world, including birds, mammals, invertebrates, reptiles and fish.

I maintain a high level of fitness, but would not go so far as to say I am fanatical about it, I generally eat healthily, but can, on occasion eat junk, and I have been known to consume large levels of alcohol (never out of context). I’m a keen cricketer and play throughout the year. I run and work-out regularly. When I was younger I was keen on hang-gliding, climbing and kayaking, but these days my only adventure sports include scuba diving and hiking, with the occasional bit of tree climbing.

I have received military wilderness survival training and logistical training in planning and moving large volumes of equipment, kit, and personnel, in and out of combat zones. I’ve been trained in first aid (certificate now expired). I am fluent in conversational Mandarin Chinese, and I speak basic Indonesian/Basa Malay. I hold an open-water scuba diving licence.

I also hold a driving licence to drive any motor vehicle with the exception of high capacity seating PCVs (busses), though I’m licensed to drive 16 seaters, HGVs of all classes, automobiles, motorcycles, and have been highly trained to operate vehicles in all terrains – off road in remote locations. Also to maintain and fix vehicles on location.

I have travelled through approximately 67 countries, and driven vehicles through 28 of those countries. Although I have partaken in expeditions all over the world, mainly botanical expeditions, I was based in Taiwan for 10 years and most of my work has been throughout Southeast Asia – China, Taiwan, Tibet, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, India, Pakistan etc.. I also lived in Australia for 2 years, and travelled extensively there and New Zealand. Over the last few years, due to my knowledge of the countries and my language skills, I have assisted, and led many academics into Asian destinations for them to study their specific subject in the field.

Lastly, I have been fortunate over the years to have seen, in the wild, many of the world’s rarest and most fascinating animals, birds, and plants. But you can also see these if you want to.

Now about you
Contact me using the secure link provided. The information you submit will not be published in any way, neither will the information be transmitted to other interested parties without your express permission. I will post your basic destination idea on this page to see if there is public interest.

Start by suggesting a destination, and what it is (if any) that you would like to see or study while you are there. It may be that you don’t mind where you go and are happy to join the party wherever we go.

Provide a little background about yourself, and include information about your fitness. Don’t worry if you have a disability or think you’re not fit enough, contact me anyway and we’ll discuss it. Your fitness will improve tremendously both during preparation and during the expedition. But do remember that you could put other expedition members at risk if you don’t disclose a serious medical problem beforehand.

If you have specialist knowledge about the country, environment, species, language, whatever, Let me know. Likewise, if you have the most experience travelling in the country you will be the expedition leader (help provided). Otherwise, I will assume expedition leadership.

If motor vehicles are to be needed, then I will take on that responsibility, but quite often more than one driver is needed. So if you feel you have the ability to drive and or maintain a vehicle then you should also advise me so.

Even if you can’t do this trip this year, but would like to do it before you die, contact me right now regardless, we can discuss it by email or phone, and it might be more feasible than you originally thought. Please don’t be put off suggesting a destination because it has no palm trees and you think I won’t want to go there, I’m interested to go to any destination regardless of whether I’ve been there before or not.

Contact link, opens a contact form in a new window. Or leave a reply at the bottom of the page.

One last thing. I want to make this ‘Not for profit’. I have to travel all the time anyway, I see this as a means to reduce my costs, and meet interesting people and learn from them. I may have to charge some sort of administration fee if its taking a lot of my time and resources, but the over-all objective here is to reduce the expedition costs for all participants.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Speak to you soon,

Phil Markey

Suggestions:

Two weeks travelling down the eastern side of Taiwan, and a trip over to Lanyu island in the summer 2013.
This is a suggestion from myself. Fairly simple in the planning – travelling in a minibus and staying in hotels every other day or so. Other nights spent outdoors in hammocks, to save hotel costs, and to get into the wilderness. Wildlife includes butterflies, birds including eagles and the Lanyu Scops owl, snakes, and a lot of plants – ferns, bananas, and palms including 3 calamus (ratan) species, Arenga engleri, Pinanga tashiroi, Phoenix loureiroi, and Livistona chinensis var. subglobosa. I know the habitats like the back of my hand, and I speak Chinese.

An addition to this could be Two weeks in the Japanese Ryukyu islands to see: ferns, spectacular environments, Cycas revoluta, and palms including Arenga ryukyuensis, Satakentia liukiuensis, and the most northerly population of Nypa fruticans.
Contact me or leave a message if you’re interested.