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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

2nd July 2019 Vienna, Austria

Where does the rain fall? London, Vienna… or Rome?

Very, very, occasionally, when it rains in Austria, an Austrian friend will say to me “Englisches Wetter, ha ha!”  I smile politely.  The UK is famously rainy, correct?  We’ve all read Sherlock Holmes stories where it seems to be raining and foggy all the time.  In “Asterix in Britain”, Asterix asks the Briton, Anticlimax, as they arrive in a thick fog: ‘Do you often get fog like that?’  Anticlimax replies ‘Goodness, no, old chap!…  only when it isn’t raining.’

Wonderful stuff.

The other day, however, an Austrian friend told me that actually, Austria is just as rainy as the UK.  “Aha!” I thought.  So I did a bit of digging.

It actually proved harder than I imagined to find consistent data on this subject.  But the site “Weather Averages” advertises that you can “compare average climate between two cities”.  So I entered Vienna and London.  The results for “average rainfall for Vienna, Austria vs London, UK” were:

Vienna, Austria37 mm39 mm46 mm52 mm62 mm70 mm68 mm58 mm54 mm40 mm50 mm44 mm620 mm
London, UK42 mm36 mm40 mm40 mm45 mm47 mm35 mm54 mm51 mm61 mm58 mm48 mm558 mm

So: around 11% more rain in Vienna (dry-ish winters) than London (dry-ish summers).  I also looked at “average rainy days” for the two cities.  Results:

Vienna, Austria7 days8 days8 days8 days8 days9 days9 days8 days7 days6 days8 days8 days95 days
London, UK11 days8 days10 days9 days9 days7 days6 days8 days9 days11 days11 days10 days110 days

So: 16% more rainy days in London than Vienna.

Then I looked at this map:

image: European Environment Agency (EEA)

The map reminded me that London and Vienna are not the wettest cities in either the UK or Austria.  What about two cities which are rainier?  I wanted to compare Manchester (my home town) with Salzburg (a place I visit often, and where, I note, filming of “The Sound of Music” in 1964 was extended from 6 weeks to 11 due to rain) but the latter wasn’t on the web-site so I tried Innsbruck.  Results for average rainfall:

Innsbruck, Austria44 mm41 mm56 mm58 mm87 mm110 mm137 mm111 mm78 mm57 mm63 mm53 mm896 mm
Manchester, UK82 mm52 mm59 mm61 mm55 mm64 mm67 mm79 mm80 mm99 mm80 mm90 mm867 mm

Both cities are wetter than London or Vienna, and receive similar amounts of precipitation.  Innsbruck is slightly wetter, with a damper summer and a drier winter.  But Manchester has more “average rainy days”:

Innsbruck, Austria7 days7 days9 days10 days11 days13 days14 days13 days9 days8 days9 days9 days118 days
Manchester, UK16 days11 days13 days12 days11 days10 days12 days13 days12 days14 days14 days14 days152 days

As for the countries as a whole, data from the World Bank puts Austria and the UK in the same category, with slightly higher annual precipitation in the UK (1220mm) than Austria (1110mm).  The fact these figures are both so much higher than the figures for cities above, meanwhile, raises its own set of questions about averages and rain-swept mountains.

What conclusions can we draw from all this?  I think my main conclusion is that making comparisons is difficult (indeed, Oscar Wilde remarked, “Comparisons are odious”).  Next time someone makes a remark about “Englisches Wetter” I shall be well-equipped to open a discussion, but will probably still just smile and nod politely.

Two other thoughts.  First, frequent fog in the UK’s large cities – the so-called “pea-soupers” – was the result of air pollution caused by large-scale burning of coal in fireplaces following the industrial revolution.  After the “Great smog of 1952”, the Clean Air Act 1956 introduced numerous measures to reduce air pollution; and by the 1970s, when I moved to London, fog had disappeared.  Asterix in Britain was published in 1965.

Finally, which of the following cities has the most rain: London, Vienna, or Rome?  In fact, Rome receives far more rainfall than either Vienna or London.  But it is also warmer, and far sunnier.  Take your pick.

6 comments on “Where does the rain fall? London, Vienna… or Rome?

  1. Don’t know why but I really enjoyed reading this while making tea and looking out at the awful drizzle in my South London garden.

    1. Yep, drinking a cup of hot builder’s tea and looking out at the drizzle is a wonderful British pasttime – including in parts of the country (nearly everywhere – Ed) which are wetter than London!

  2. Lee this is a fun piece of info to know. Thank you for starting this Blogspot. In Carinthia we are pretty lucky with the weather but when it rains, my does it pour. 🌈☔️

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.