Despite its northern latitude, the United Kingdom generally enjoys a temperate climate, warmed by the North Atlantic Drift, a continuation of the Gulf Stream, and by southwest winds. Mean monthly temperatures range (north to south) from 3° C to 5° C (37–41° F ) in winter and from 12° C to 16° C (54–61° F ) in summer. The mean annual temperature in the west near sea level ranges from 8° C (46° F ) in the Hebrides to 11° C (52° F ) in the far southwest of England. Rarely do temperatures rise in summer to over 32° C (90° F ) or drop in winter below -10° C (14° F ). Rainfall, averaging more than 100 cm (40 in) throughout the United Kingdom, is heaviest on the western and northern heights (over 380 cm/150 in), lowest along the eastern and southeastern coasts. Fairly even distribution of rain throughout the year, together with the prevalence of mists and fogs, results in scanty sunshine— averaging from half an hour to two hours a day in winter and from five to eight hours in summer.
In the spring of 1997 there was an intense drought in southern and western England; the previous two years were the driest in England and Wales since reliable record-keeping began in 1767.