The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign state in Europe. Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, the country includes the island of Great Britain (a term also applied loosely to refer to the whole country), the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands.
The UK has an area of 243,610 square kilometres (94,060 sq mi), making it the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world and the 11th-largest in Europe. The United Kingdom is the 22nd-most populous country in the world, with an estimated 64.1 million inhabitants (2016). It is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance, and its capital city, London, is an important global city and financial centre with the second-largest urban area in Europe.
The UK consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The latter three have devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capitals, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast.
The UK has fourteen overseas territories which are the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture, and legal systems of many of its former colonies.
The British Isles have variable weather that changes from day to day between different regions. British weather has somewhat of a reputation of being ‘grey and cold’, however the UK has different regional climates and which can range from 30c at the peak of summer and below freezing during winter, Typically:
- The north – cool summers, mild winters, heavy rain all year
- The South – warm summers, mild winters, light rain all year, especially summer
Below are some facts regarding daylight hours & rainfall in the UK:
- Sunshine hours are greatest along the south coast of England (average of 1,750 hours of sunshine per year) and are least in mountainous areas.
- Daylight hours – Scotland has shorter winter days and longer summer days than the rest of the UK, because it is further north. In north Scotland there are four more hours of daylight in midsummer than in London.
- Rainfall On average it rains one in three days in the UK. However, rainfall varies greatly from region to region. It is generally wetter in the west than the east and wetter in the highlands than the lowlands.
- The wettest place is Snowdonia in Wales (average annual totals exceeding 3,000 mm of rain a year), followed by the Highlands of Scotland, the Lake District, the Pennines and the moors of South West England.
- In most places in the UK it will rain twice as much in winter months as in summer months. Although in central and South East England, and parts of South East Scotland, July and August are often the wettest months of the year.
- Average temperatures in UK are warmer at lower latitudes and colder at higher latitudes. Average yearly temperatures at low altitude vary from 7°C in Shetland, in northern Scotland, to 11°C on the south-west coast of England.
- The coldest months are January and February and the warmest are July and August. In summer Scotland will be about 3°C cooler than England.
- The average daily maximum temperature at Glasgow in July is 19°C compared with 22°C in London