Category Archives: London weather

Longest winter ‘heatwave’ since 1959

With the return of more seasonal temperatures February 2019’s heatwave already seems like a distant memory.

Looking back at the stats for this area the past eight days have seen an average anomaly of 7.7C, beating the previous eight-day long warm spell of December 2015, which returned a mean anomaly of 7C. That spell was quickly followed six-day long warm spell that had a mean anomaly of 6.6C. There appears no chance of the heat returning any time soon.top 5 winter heatwaves

Wanstead missed out on breaking the February high temperature record. While Kew Gardens recorded a high of 21.2C, the local area reached just 18.7C, falling short of the record of 19.7C set in 1998.

St James’s Park, our closest official climate station, set a new top 3 of TMax values. , as did Heathrow.

 

Advertisements

Diurnal temps present a clothing challenge

The erratic onset of spring in some years often presents that problem of what to wear every morning. During the current warm spell I’ve seen all manner of attire on the school run; everything from T-shirt and shorts to full winter regalia topped off with hat and gloves.

The position of the sun is now bringing in to range the season when the gap in temperature between day and night can be at its greatest.

On Saturday (23/2), virtually unbroken sunshine and ‘thick’ air saw the temperature in Wanstead peak at 16.1C before clear conditions overnight saw the minimum plunge to just 0.2C. The gap of 15.9C represents the fourth highest diurnal temperature range for February in this area back to 1959.

feb diurnal
Top 10 February diurnal temp ranges

 

Looking at the year as a whole the greatest range is 20.8C with the months of May and June the most likely to see the condition.

top 10 diunrals
Top 10 diurnal temperature ranges since 1959

 

Gertrude, Fionn and Erik were all bluster

Since the Met Office introduced its system of naming storms at the beginning of the autumn season in 2015 the effects felt in the capital have been fairly limited.

Introduced partly in response to the devastation caused by the St Jude Storm in October 2013 every wind storm since has failed to live up to the hype, at least at a local scale.

Woodford Green tree
This tree at the side of the road in Woodford Green was a victim of the St Jude Storm in 2013

Of course many storms have caused major disruption elsewhere, not least Storm Desmond, floods from which devastated Glenridding in the Lake District.

But closer to home many of these storms have been marked simply by a higher than average ‘wind run’, the number of revolutions of this weather station’s anemometer.

The windiest days in this locality coincided with Storms Gertrude, Fionn and Erik but these were minnows compared with St Jude and the most recent devastating storm in living memory, the Great Storm of 1987.

The graphs below also highlight the ongoing problem of naming storms in that some of the windiest days in this area occurred when there was no named storm.

The windiest day in the dataset was June 6th 2017 when a low pressure system saw Force 9 winds recorded in the Channel. Locally the day was very blustery and trees that were in full leaf were blown down.

met office storms

storm season 2015-16

storm season 2016-17

storm season 2017-18

storm season 2018-19

 

A winter heatwave

It is 21 years ago this month that London and most of the southern half of the UK experienced a remarkably warm spell of weather during what had been a mild winter.

The spell, which saw the record warmest February day on the 13th (19.7C), satisfies the Met Office’s old criteria of a heatwave whereby the maximum temperature is 5C or more above average for five consecutive days.

While these spells are fairly common in summer they are very rare during a meteorological winter. During the last 60 years the only other periods to have experienced a heatwave in winter are December 1966 and 2015.

Weather charts for this week look remarkably similar though, according to the latest forecasts, values will be nothing like they were in 1998.

Since this was published this 2019 spell has satisfied the Met Office criteria. But the anomalies are not yet as impressive as 1998.

1998 2019

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

feb 1998 maxes

 

 

Days in Wanstead Park, 200 years apart

During a miserably cold and wet stroll around the golf course in Wanstead Park I happened upon the remains of Wanstead House – basically a deep excavation where the basement and kitchens once were.

As a freezing cold mixture of rain, sleet and snow fell, gradually thawing the remnants of last night’s snow, I wondered what the weather was like when this magnificent building last stood. Luke Howard’s entry in The Climate of London revealed that the weather on this day 200 years ago was remarkably similar.

WP weather

As I stood and tried to imagine what the house must have looked like it occurred to me that 200 years is a mere blip in time in the history of the Earth. People come and go, buildings rise and fall but the weather goes on and on.

* There’s a fascinating extract on Wanstead from James Dugdale’s The New
British Traveller (1819) that you can find here.

** This video clip shows the site where Wanstead House once stood.

 

January 2019: rather cold, dry

January was most notable for being on the cold side, in contrast to December.

The mean temperature finished 4.1C, 1.1C below average, over 2C colder than last January.

Some 32.9mm of precipitation was recorded, 62 per cent of the 1981-2010 average, about half what fell last year, the driest January since 2006

Some 55 hours of sunshine were recorded, that’s 109 per cent of average, sunnier than last year.

Fourteen air frosts were recorded.

There were four days where snow fell but only one day of snow lying, 1cm on 23rd.

To view full stats follow this link:http://1drv.ms/1kiTuzv

My winter forecast went a bit awry in December – I predicted a mean of +0.8C, the outcome was +1.7C. January has been much better, I predicted -1.2C, the outcome is -1.1C! Also… “And another cold spell end of January into the first week of February?”
For February I predicted a mean of -1.7C. The current pattern to continue and signs on the EC of a more robust cold spell with air supplied by a Scandinavian high?

Update on effects of the polar vortex split

More than three weeks have now past since the polar vortex split on January 1st.

London’s weather has turned colder and there’s even been a (small) fall of snow but the negative anomalies recorded so far are less than those experienced during the ‘Beast from the Eastevents last March.

In the graph below I have plotted the mean anomalies since the day of the PV split against the mean anomalies recorded from the day of the PV split in February 2018.

The effect this year is much less pronouced so far: over the last 24 days the average mean anomaly has been -0.7C, compared with -2.1C last February/ March.

jan 2018 2019

The NOAA anomaly map for the week of January 13th-19th shows much of NW Europe has experienced a positive anomaly with any serious cold restricted to Norway and Sweden and Greece.anom jan 13th to 19th

It has been mentioned that the variables with this SSW are very similar to 2004. Using the anomalies generated after the 2004 event resulted in the graphic below.

3 years compared

Taking it at face value would suggest that two more snow events could be possible at the beginning and middle of February – a cold but not severe pattern currently reflected in the models – but forget any repeat of last year’s Beast from the East.

Halfway through winter: where’s the snow (again)

Five years ago I blogged about the lack of snow at the midway point through winter. This winter there has been a similar total lack of snowfall though this time it is benign anticyclonic conditions that have characterised the past 45 days rather than the raging zonality of the winter of 2013/14 which ended completely snowless in this area.

A look at the statistics reveals that the midway point of winter is the mildest for 3 years and the 6th mildest since 1960. There has also been around half the rainfall that we had to this point in 2018. Sunshine is similar and below average.

Since December 1st, Wanstead has recorded just 7 air frosts – 5 fewer than last year. The coldest night was just -2.5C. The current mean temperature this winter to January 14th is 6.9C with rainfall 60.6mm.

Further scrutiny of stats for the Wanstead area reveal few years were similar to this winter. Using my method for finding patterns stretching back over 50 years to forecast this winter I picked out years that were +/- 10% of the 2018/19 rainfall total. From these I then weeded out the seasons where the mean was within +/- 10% of the this year. This gave a list of three winters with similar temperature and rainfall.

50%

The other winters weren’t anything special with ‘snow lying’ days below the median for this area of six.

nevis
Snow go: just patches of snow were visible on the upper runs of Nevis Range at the weekend on Jan 12th

As I write there are signs that the weather is going to turn colder this week. Whether it will be cold enough for snow remains to be seen though the ECM model is hinting at a rise in pressure around Greenland. A situation that *could* be conducive for something colder long term.

In summary, the probability at this point of at least one fall of snow before the end of February could be put at 100 per cent. Whether it will be abundant or merely a dusting is impossible to tell.

Elsewhere in the UK it has been similarly lacking in snow. During a visit to Fort William at the weekend locals told me that there has been no significant snow since October / November and that even frosts were few and far between. The lifts around Nevis Range looked forlorn against a green backdrop. And it wasn’t until I got to the summit of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor that I saw any of the white stuff.

 

 

A winter drought

Rain today (January 16th) is the first meaningful fall since before Christmas, putting an end to the 23-day long dry spell.

This meteorological drought, rare given that it spanned Christmas and New Year Storm singularities, these having 84 and 86 per cent probabilities respectively, was the 3rd equal longest winter drought.

The only other similar droughts in a list that dates back to 1887 were 19/12/2008 – 03/01/2009 and 17/12/1972 – 02/01/1973.

winter droughts

The last precipitation I recorded was from a weak occlusion that followed a cold front on the evening of December 23rd.

This synoptic set-up was followed by a build in air pressure that peaked on the morning of January 3rd; 1043.8mb was the highest reading in this area for at least 10 years and is the highest pressure I have measured.

A fuller version of London droughts in all seasons can be found here.

Winter proper to arrive mid January

Weather models are continuing to struggle in the aftermath of the stratospheric sudden warming on January 1st. The GFS and ECMWF have flip-flopped: on one run decent northern blocking extends southward only for the dreaded European high to appear on the next.

Using a combination of QBO and ENSO data featured in my winter forecast and statistics from previous SSWs (including 2013 and 2018) achieved the following results shown in this graphic.

jan max

Although some days in the next week or so will be cold it is not until the 14th that conditions start to bite, the start of a week-long cold spell that will probably be more notable for cold than snowfall.

The rapid recovery in temperature would suggest that the Azores / European high making a return. With the MJO moving back and forth between phase 7 and 8, and looking at the behaviour of previous cold spells, this would make sense.

14th
The GFS has been churning out some very strange charts of late

As for February, unless there are further SSWs to disrupt the polar vortex, and depending on its recovery, it is unlikely we will see a repeat of the winter of 1984/85 that I hinted at last month. The graphic below, however, would suggest another cold spell in the third week of February.

feb m