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What’s the future for April showers?

A warmer world means UK springtime showers could start earlier in the year, and become more like the rainfall we experience in the summer.

We asked a weather scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science about April showers, and if we might move to calling them “the March downpours” in future as climate change continues to affect British weather.

What are April showers?

April showers describe small-scale rain showers during springtime in the UK, which are intermittent and localised. 

“Typical rain showers in the UK are caused by warm moist air rising up through the atmosphere. This process is known as convection and leads to formation of clouds and subsequent precipitation, usually rainfall but it can be snow or hail,” explains Dr Emily Grace Norton, a Meteorological Instrument Scientist, at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and University of Manchester.

Dr Emily Grace Norton adds: “Convection can be triggered when air temperatures rise in the spring – due to more intense solar radiation and the longer days. The sun’s energy warms the air near the ground and causes it to rapidly rise. As it rises, the air cools and condenses to form clouds. Showers in the spring tend to be shorter and more frequent than in the summer, as less energy is needed to trigger convection and create precipitating clouds.”

What does climate change mean for April showers?

“The future of April showers in the UK is uncertain but springtime rain showers are more likely to occur earlier in the season against a warmer background temperature, as a result of climate change,” says Dr Emily Grace Norton. 

For the UK this means that April showers are becoming more intense and less widespread – perhaps more similar to what we would expect in summer. And, as temperature records continue to be broken (March 2024 has set a heat record as part of a 10-month streak) in the future we could experience spring-like conditions earlier in the year.

Rising global temperatures, driven by the emission of greenhouse gases, are not just affecting British weather, seasons, and extreme climate events – weather patterns worldwide are feeling the effects too.