The Astounding Myth: Rainy City? Does it Really Always Rain in Manchester?

The truth about Manchester rain...

The perception of ‘rainy Manchester’ goes against weather statistics, which show Manchester having below the UK average rainfall. In fact, just this January, the Met Office showed that far from being the UK’s rainiest city, our city is one of the driest.

Incidentally, if you’re ever lost in the city and need directions, don’t ask anyone with an umbrella (or the orange girls with Primark bags – they’re Scousers). Seek out those resembling a drowned rat. Proper Manc! They’ll know their way around.

It has long been a standing joke that it always rains in Manchester.

If you Google rainy city you will see that only one link on the first page (for Seattle) troubles Manchester’s supremacy as the rainy city. Yet Manchester in meteorological statistical terms is far from that – it averages about 810mm of rain per year and only rains 140.4 days of the year.

Compare these figures with the likes of Cardiff averaging 146.0 the UK averaging 154.4 and Cherrapunji, India averaging 170.4 days of rainfall per year and you will see that Manchester’s reputation as the rainy city is surely a cultural myth. It’s always been below the UK average.

So where does this myth come from? Whilst rummaging through old weather magazines as part of our research we came across an article printed in Weather in 1947 titled, ‘The Manchester Myth.” In this article the author attempts to trace the myth to its source. The earliest reference to Manchester’s pluvial excess found is this 1898 article by, the then Director of the Meteorological Office, Robert H.Scott. Astoundingly in this 19th century article Scott is trying to disprove “absurd statements” that in Manchester hardly a day passes without rain. Rather interestingly Scott refers to a European treatise of 1881 which states that since Manchester’s industrialisation the number of rainy days has increased considerably. In debating the article a commentator states that in Manchester:

The sun is almost always obscured by smoke haze, and the smoke particles fall back to earth laden with moisture that has condensed on them, thus making the air always feel damp, the streets always grimy, and giving all the sensations of a wet day.

As yet I’ve been unable to trace the original 1881 reference, but it seems more than feasible that perhaps, just perhaps, Manchester’s national (and now international) reputation as the Rainy City grew early in the mists of the industrial revolution when thick, damp-laden smogs lay over its mills and residents for the majority of the year.

Whilst this might get us closer to establishing why the myth arose it doesn’t help us in understanding why it still persists today. We like to believe its because the answer to the 1947 article’s question:

Do Mancunians encourage the fiction that their city suffers from a peculiarly wet climate?

Is an astounding, 100%, yes!

Research by Alex Hall.

Photo credit: Mark Waugh


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