LAST month was the sunniest month ever recorded in the history of Oxford.

May 2020 saw the City of Dreaming Spires basking in a whopping 331.7 hours of sunlight.

This is more than 20 hours sunnier than the last record set in July 1911.

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Oxford’s sunshine in May was higher than the May average for Seville and Malaga – and 173 per cent higher than the city’s own average of 192 hours.

The record is particularly notable because May 2020 is now the sunniest month recorded in the world’s longest continuous record of sunshine anywhere – Oxford University’s Radcliffe Meteorological Station.

Oxford Mail:

Crowds flocked to Port Meadow in Oxford last month to enjoy the sunshine, despite social distancing rules. Picture: Joe Cook

This little weather station, in the garden of Green Templeton College off Woodstock Road in Jericho, first started being used for recording daily weather in 1772.

Scientists have used it to keep a daily record of sunshine every single day since February 1880.

The station’s records for last month also reveal that it was the driest May in Oxford since 1795, with just 3.5mm of rainfall.

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Statistics for March to May also show that spring 2020 has been far sunnier than anything measured in previous years, with 59.3 more hours of sunshine than the previous record set in 1990.

Oxford University doctoral student Thomas Caton Harrison collected the final readings for Sunday’s sunshine (May 31) on Monday morning.

The 25-year-old, who took the job of recording the daily sunlight hours figures last April, said: "The figure is a surprise because it is so vastly in excess of the last record.

"People were also not expecting to break that record in the spring."

Oxford Mail:

More punters enjoying the sunshine on Port Meadow last week. Picture: Ed Nix

Asked what significance the record had in the context of global warming and climate change, Mr Harrison said: "It is fair to say that in Oxford over the last 30 or 40 years we have seen a warming trend that is consistent with the wider picture of global warming.

"In July last year we had the hottest record of all time, and there have been a fair few record breakers in the time I have been here."

Mr Harrison, who is studying at the university’s School of Geography and the Environment, measures Oxford's daily sunshine using a Campbell-Stokes recorder.

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Invented in 1853, the device focuses the sun’s rays through a glass sphere onto a specially calibrated card where they burn a trace.

Mr Harrison said: "You can smell the burning card and sometimes see a small smoke trail.

"It’s a beautiful, and wonderfully simple, yet very clever device”.

Thames Water last week said it had seen record water usage which it linked partly to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown and partly to the recently hot weather.

Water efficiency manager Andrew Tucker said: “Increased temperatures mean increased demand for our water, which stresses our network’s ability to produce it fast enough."

He urged people to take short showers, turn off garden sprinklers and reuse water where possible.