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British Climate

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Britain has a generally mild and temperate climate. It lies in middle latitudes to the north-west west of the great continen­tal land mass of Eurasia, but the prevailing winds are south­ westerly. The climate is subject to frequent changes but to few ex­tremes of temperature. Although it is largely determined by that of the eastern Atlantic, occasionally during the winter months easterly winds may bring a cold, dry, continental weather which, once es­tablished, may persist for many days or even weeks.

In Britain, south-westerly winds are the most frequent, and those from an easterly quarter the least. Winds are generally stronger in the north than in the south of the British Isles, stronger on the coasts than inland, and stronger in the west than in the east. The strongest winds usually occur in the winter. The stormiest re­gion of the British Isles is along the north-west coast, with over 30 gales a year; south-east England and the east Midlands are the least stormy.

Near sea level the mean annual temperature ranges from 8 °C (47 °F) in the Hebrides to 11 °C (52 °F) in the extreme south-west of England. During a normal summer, the temperature occasionally rises above 27 °C (80 °F) in the south, but temperatures of 32 °C (90 °F) and above are infrequent. Extreme minimum tempera­tures depend to a large extent on local conditions, but -7 °C (20 ° F)may occur on a still, clear winter's night, -12 °C (10 °F) is rare, and -18 °C (0 °F) or below has been recorded only during exceptionally severe winter periods.

The British Isles as a whole have an annual rainfall of over 40 inches, while England alone has about 34 inches. Rain is fairiy well distributed throughout the year, but, on the average, March to June are the driest months and October to January the wettest. A period of as long as three weeks without rain is exceptional, and usually confined to limited areas. In successive years, however, remarkably contrasting weather conditions are sometimes experienced.

The distribution of sunshine over the British Isles shows a gen­eral decrease from south to north, a decrease from the coast inland, and a decrease with altitude. During May, June and July — the months of longest daylight — the mean daily duration of sunshine varies from five and a half hours in western Scotland to seven and a half hours in the extreme south-east of England; during the months of shortest daylight — November, December and January — sun­shine is at a minimum, with an average of half an hour a day in some parts of the Highlands in Scotland and two hours a day on the south coast of England.

In fine, still weather there is occasionally haze in summer and mist and fog in winter. Until about 1956 dense fogs containing smog and other pollution from the burning of coal used to occur from time to time in London and other centers of population. Since then, as a result of changes in fuel usage and the operation of clean air legislation, fogs have become less severe.

(Extract from "Britain. An Official Handbook")

I. Read and translate the text.

II. Work in pairs. Let one of the students read out some sentences from the text and the other student interrupt him, asking him/her to clarify things, to check the details.

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