SOMEONE turned the tap off - at least on our side of the country. After a record-breaking wet August with two to 3 times the average rainfall across the region, September was very dry. There was one-fifth of the expected quota towards the coast, but up to a half or more in the Dales. For the north-west of the British Isles, it was another very wet month.

Here at Carlton in Cleveland, near Stokesley, following easily the wettest August in my 22 years of data, it was my third driest September. Those of 1997, with 11mm (0.4ins) and 1989, 13mm (0.5ins), were marginally drier. In August, there were 18 days with measurable rain. Surprisingly, in September, there was just one less. However, all of August's were "wet" days as well (those with 1mm, 0.04ins, or more), whereas in September there were only four.

It was a very sunny month and another mild one too, particularly by day. The last September that was appreciably colder than normal, that is by more than 0.3C (0.5F), was as long ago as 1994.

The first ridge of high pressure to affect us for about four weeks moved in from the south-west at the end of August. This developed into a cell that lingered near to southern England for the first five days of September to give a welcome, fine, sunny and very warm spell. Deep depressions ran north-east across the Atlantic every two or three days but kept their distance, heading to the south of Iceland. Their attendant fronts brushed north-western Scotland.

One eventually worked its way south producing a marked change on Monday the 6th. Although the front was weak, the north wind behind it picked up a lot of moisture from the North Sea and gave a miserable, misty, dull and drizzly day. It was only a temporary blip. A new anticyclone took up position over northern Scotland for the next few days and the sunshine returned. It was warm once more inland, though chilly close to the coast in the resulting north-easterly breeze. This high slipped south-east into the near Continent as the next weekend approached, allowing the weather pattern that occurred at the beginning of the month to resume.

This continued throughout the rest of September but with the lows occasionally skimming the north of Scotland and accompanying frontal systems digging deeper into Britain.

For us in the North-East, this was far from bad news. Admittedly, it was windy at times but by the time the fronts had negotiated the Pennines, they had weakened and gave little rain. Frequent heavy showers that peppered west-facing coasts also largely died out in the lee of the hills. With the breeze blowing from a south-westerly quarter, temperatures were not quite so high as at the start of the month but still at very reasonable levels for the time of year. The plentiful supply of sunshine persisted for much of the time, too.

All this enabled the ground to dry out remarkably quickly from the quagmire that existed at the end of August. Farmers were able to rescue what was left of the harvest and everyone had the opportunity to catch up with outdoor chores.

Evenings are now obviously drawing in rapidly and we've passed the equinox so that nights are longer than days. Other pointers to autumn's arrival are the changing colours of the leaves and the departure of the swallows, after first congregating on telephone wires, chattering to each other, possibly anxious about their impending long flight south. To the gardener, perhaps, it is picking the last of the runner beans, digging up the potatoes or the fading of the final flush of flowers in the garden.

For the weatherman, notable landmarks are the first frost or a day when the mercury fails to rise above 10C (50F). There are clear signs that the sun is significantly weaker, when, despite it shining all day, temperatures on the surface of the ground carry on falling. Consequently, showers usually no longer form over the land and are scarce in the North-East when the wind blows from the south-western half of the compass.

Another indicator is the increasing contrast in pressure between weather systems in the Northern Hemisphere. Atlantic depressions with centres below 972mb (28.7ins) are characteristic of autumn and winter, as are highs above 1036mb (30.6ins). Hence pressure can fluctuate much more noticeably from day to day. Humidity is generally higher, dews heavier, fogs more frequent and the ground is slow to dry.

In other parts of the world there are more dramatic features at the start of autumn. For example, the growing changeability of the weather in the Mediterranean, the onset of the dry season after the monsoon in India and, especially poignant for those living in Florida this year, the height of the hurricane season in the Caribbean.


Mean max 17.9C, 64F (+1.0C, 2F)

Mean min 9.9C, 50F (+0.5C, 1F)

Highest max 25.4C, 78F, 5th

Lowest min 3.4C, 38F, 24th

Total rainfall 14mm, 0.55ins (-48mm, -1.9ins)

Wettest day 3.5mm, 0.15ins, 11th

No of rain days, with 0.2mm (0.01ins) or more 14 (+0.5)

(Figures in brackets show the difference from the 21-year mean, 1983-2003)