Pre-Christmas weather pattern

While things were wet in Wanstead the past couple of days the rainfall in our part of the UK was not really anything remarkable for December. Anyone who’s watched news reports the past couple of days would realise that it is the South West that has been taking a real hammering from incessant rainfall. One observer in Wembury, Devon, recorded a new high 24-hour rain total of 60.5 mm to 6pm, breaking a previous record set in August 1986.

The most notable thing in Wanstead on Saturday was the balmy ‘feel’ of the air which originated from the Caribbean at the beginning of the week. At 9pm the 13C ‘dew point’ made our part of the world the warmest anywhere at 50N or 50S. Almost summer-like and it seems the world has turned upside down. Weather stats for the Falkland Islands show that it is more like winter there than high summer.

I have been checking past years’ pre-Christmas rainfall, for the purpose of this study the 7-day period from 16th to 22nd inclusive.
This year is third wettest, beaten only by 1995 and 1989. So what does this mean for weather in the new year? Not much, probably, for anyone not a fan of weather forecasting by pattern matching. However, it is interesting to note the weather that followed these two wet Christmas periods… Both were very different.

Things turned very cold at the end of January / beginning of February 1996 – with an ‘ice day’ being recorded on January 26. Snowfall during the cold spell wasn’t really anything to write home about.

Anyone who follows the weather will remember that in January 1990 occured the devastating Burns’ Day storm that was responsible for the death of 97 people across the UK. The month as a whole, and February, was virtually frost free, stormy and very mild – positively balmy at times.

These two polar opposites just go to show that you forecast by pattern matching at your peril – though 1996 gives any coldies reading this hope for the new year.

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Luke Howard

Today (Wednesday 28th) is the 240th anniversary of the birth of Luke Howard – the “father of meteorology” and the man who named the clouds.

He was born in Stamford Hill, north London but a business opportunity enable him to set a up a laboratory business in Plaistow then Stratford where he spent a large part of his life, later moving to Tottenham. A manufacturing chemist by trade his real passion was meteorology and he devised a nomenclature system for clouds, which he proposed in an 1802 presentation to the Askesian Society. He published “The Climate of London” in 1818 and again in 1830 – which was a diary of weather records. One of the entries August 14th, 1827, mentions a thunderstorm on Wanstead Flats.

“On Saturday evening 11th the inhabitants of Wanstead Flats in Essex and its vicinity were thrown into great consternation by one of the most violent thunder storms that has occurred within the memory of the oldest inhabitants. It commenced about six o clock and raged with the greatest violence until near seven. One man named Scales, a blacksmith, was struck by the lightning and knocked down after some time, however, he recovered the shock and sustained no injury other than that produced by extreme fright. Two large trees were literally shivered to atoms.”

Another thing of note from Howard’s weather diary is the frequency of sightings in London of the Aurora Borealis. He mentions that the Northern Lights were visible eight times over a period of nine years, four of these being between mid October 1819 and mid January 1820. On the morning of January 15th, 1820, Howard  records a low temperature of minus 18C!

I’ve been recording the weather in this area since 1988 and have only managed a low of minus 9.1C!

Meteorology-based musings about east London and beyond

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