BBC HomeExplore the BBC
BBC Weather
 Wednesday January 26, 2011Accessibility help | Text only |  Print  |  Send to a friend | Make this my homepage | Contact Us | Help
Skip this navigation panel Skip to BBC Weather's introduction to this feature.

Scottish Weather (Part One)

Watch and listen to the latest World and UK weather broadcasts
A rainbow covers a row of houses.
BBC Scotland's Broadcast Meteorologist Gail McGrane looks at how Scottish weather can be different to that in the rest of the UK.

Key Points
  • Scottish weather varies considerably not only due to season, but also locale.
  • In winter, a temperature gradient exists between east and west Scotland.
  • The majority of Scotland's population do not endure severe, snowy winters.
Also in this Series

Scottish Weather (Part Two)

Also in BBC Weather

Scotland forecast
UK Climate Guide
Year in Review

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

The Weather is a subject of constant discussion in Scotland, and one whose characteristics resemble a mischievous child known to play up, then unexpectedly settle down.

...four seasons often experienced in one morning...
In other words, Scottish weather is variable, with four seasons often experienced in one morning; sunshine, showers, persistent rain, hail, gales and even snow. Therefore, Scottish barometers permanently point to 'changeable', and dressing for the weather can be a nightmare. It is often thought that national dress should incorporate the trusty umbrella.

But despite variability in the weather there are trends and resultant common misconceptions. It is not always raining and cold with three-feet of snow. Depending upon season it can be quite warm, even hot with abundant sunshine. Nonetheless one thing you can be sure of, is the Scottish mountains greatly affect the weather and it is therefore, local to the extreme.

Simply put by author Jackie Redding, "it can be raining at the front of the house and not at the back! Hence, if you don't like the weather just wait 'a wee whiley' or 'go doon the road' and it will change."


...rainfall depends not only upon season but also locale...
One of the most well known misconceptions about Scottish weather concerns rainfall rate. It is often claimed the length and breadth of the country suffers from very high rainfall. This claim can be widely refuted. According to "The Climate of Scotland: Some Facts and Figures" (written by the Meteorological Office"), rainfall depends not only upon season but also locale.

For example, a large piece of Scotland is made up of the ruggedly scenic Highlands, where annual rainfall exceeds 1600mm (63 inches). In comparison, a huge proportion of Scotland, some 3730 square miles, has an annual rainfall of less than 800mm (31 inches). Moreover, many districts in the north and east of the country have a total rainfall of less that 250mm (10 inches) on average over the four Summer months, which is comparable with the drier parts of England.

Like rainfall, temperature in Scotland varies according to season, latitude and longitude as well as several other factors. For instance, in Spring, Summer and Autumn the effect of latitude is the dominant factor in determining what temperature may be experienced.

...the North Sea's cool surface temperature keeps eastern areas colder than those further west.
Therefore, the further North one moves the tendency for lower temperatures is accentuated. However, in the winter months, a temperature gradient exists between east and west Scotland, not from south to north as might be supposed. This is as a result of the North Sea being considerably cooler than the waters to the west of the country. Hence, the North Sea's cool surface temperature keeps eastern areas colder than those further west.

One thing that does hold true, is that Scotland experiences a greater number of days with snow than England and Wales. However, it must be stated that the majority of Scotland's population do not endure severe, snowy winters. Coastal areas and low lying parts of the Western Isles, experience on average less than 10 days in the year with lying snow, while the north and northeast have between 15 and 20 days.

Those areas most likely to suffer in excess of 20 days with lying snow, or snow related disturbances, are those parts of the country located on high ground. Snowfall increases considerably with height, and as a result places like Braemar, situated at an altitude of 339 metres, have on average 59 days per year with snow.

It is apparent that Scottish weather varies considerably, due to the rain, varying temperatures, and snow, depending upon season and locale, but it is not as extreme as many people would believe.

Nonetheless, the above explanations are rather crude depictions of Scottish Weather patterns. Additional factors help determine rainfall rate, temperature and snow fall and thus allow Palm Trees to grow in the Northwest of Scotland, and the Föhn Effect to raise temperatures in the Moray Firth.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy