Tag Archives: East London

June 2015: a little above average, very dry

June finished hot in complete contrast to the opening few days which were a continuation of a disappointing May.station

There were six occasions when the maximum exceeded 25C – the highest being 30.8C on 30th, the warmest June day for four years.

Mean temperature for the month was 16.9C, 0.8C above the 1981-2010 mean. Rainfall of 17.5mm was 34% of average – the last three Junes have been notably dry.

There were 189.5 hours of sunshine recorded in this area which is 106% of what we can expect to see during an average June. The wettest day occurred on the 20th with 11.1mm. There were two days of thunder recorded.

So what has July got in store weatherwise? The models this morning (July 1st) suggest a battleground between Atlantic cooler air and hot continental air, a common feature at this time of year. The persistent heat on the continent looks like it will waft back and forth across the south-east – creating the risk of thundery downpours as it meets resistance from successive cold fronts.

Just 17.5mm of rain fell in June - 34% of average
Just 17.5mm of rain fell in June – 34% of average

The model output suggests the Atlantic air will eventually win through, allowing more changeable conditions in a week’s time. There is also a signal that high pressure will re-establish with a return to fine and very warm weather. As things stand the models remain finely balanced.

In contrast to the models my long range method suggests overwhelmingly that we are in for a warm July, up to 1.7C above average, at 60% probability

The next highest chance is for rather warm at 40% probability. If you add the probabilities together the chance of a rather warm to warm July can be put at 100% – perhaps a repeat of last year’s and 2013’s classic July is about to unfold?

Rainfall is looking below average, at 60% probability. There’s obviously a risk here that a couple of direct hits from thunderstorms would see the monthly total exceeded. I don’t have enough data to estimate sunshine but I would guess average to slightly above.

My June outlook was only good in that it ruled out any chance of a very warm month – the final mean was rather higher than I thought. I was also out with the very low rainfall – the signal was for something average. Sunshine was broadly average as I’d estimated

The Heronry Pond in Wanstead Park is suffering low water levels again
The Heronry Pond in Wanstead Park is suffering from low water levels again

Full stats for the month here: http://1drv.ms/1rSfT7Y

Here follows the full weather diary for June…

1st Sunny, bright start quickly turned cloudy with intermittent drizzle through the day. Turned windy at 6pm and was really blowing around midnight.
2nd Drizzle in the wind at obs time and very windy, wind only decreasing by evening. A dreadful day though warm.
3rd Sunny start though cloud gradually increased. Feeling humid and summery at last.
4th Sunny start with cloud dotted with alto cumulus and cirrus. Rain between 5am and 6am – though storms passed to our west and east.
5th Bright start after earlier rain – the thunderstorms seemed to pass to our west and east. Very humid and felt oppresive in the morning.
6th Sunny start with cloud bubbling up. Much cooler and fresher feel. Lots of long sunny spells.
7th Sunny, gin clear start. Just a few fair weather cumulus all day. Gorgeous.
8th Bright start though alto cumulus shaded early sun. Variable cumulus after that – feeling chilly.
9th Cloudy and brisk wind from NE. Feeling chilly.
10th Bright start with sunny intervals throughout the day.
11th Sunny start with few cirrus, sky then completely cleared.
12th Sunny start though cloud bubbled up through the day – felt very close at sports day. Distant thunder heard at 8pm with light rain – much less than was threatened.
13th Cloudy start, mostly calm, still and dull – a real nothing day though some late brightness after 2pm pushed up the temperature briefly. Mild overnight with some light drizzle before obs time.
14th Drizzle in the wind up until 11pm and falling temp. Then a brief sunny interlude before it was cloudy again.
15th Cloudy start then briefly clearing before, at 1pm, more cloud appeared. Clear overnight allowing temp to fall until 4.10am but clouding over by morning – bright warm sunshine at 9am.
16th Sunny start but very cloudy at times. This continued all day – though the night was cloudier hence warmer.
17th Sunny start but with lots of cloud around.
18th Lots of long suuny spells but cooler than yesterday.
19th Cloudy up until 11.30pm and cooler. Broke to sunny spells and much warmer at 2pm.
20th Bright start though warm from started pushing through just before 1pm. Some sunny breaks but rain pushed in. Was in Cheltenham but Woodford Wells reported thunder:  Between 1650and 1730 12mm fell followed by a decreasing amount of 2.4mm up to 1814  all BST Two thunder claps at 1715 and 1728.
21st In Cheltenham it was a mostly cloudy day though with more sunny intervals after midday. Rain spread in just before midnight with more in the early hours.
22nd Cloudy start though with brief sunny break at 10am. Some drizzle 11.15am then drier with sunny intervals.
23rd Bright start. Cloud broke to give warm sunny spells .
24th Sunny periods after a rather cloudy start. Felt very warm in the sun during walk around London with Neil and family.
25th Sunny start though hazy cloud developed from 10.30am, rather obscuring the sun at times, though it was bright all day. 26th Warm till late into the evening – still 18C at 11pm.
26th Bright start though cloudy, broke to sunny spells and felt warmer than forecast.
27th Sunny start though with cloudier spells all through the day. A very warm evening.
28th Sunny start quickly became cloudy with rain turning up at noon during early lunch. This later cleared to sunny spells and a pleasant afternoon.
29th Sunny start though with high cloud obscuring the sun at times.
30th Sunny, gin clear all day. only ‘cloud’ was distant grass fire.

The 30th was wall-to-wall sunshine until late in the evening when alto-cumulus and cumulus were observed
The 30th was wall-to-wall sunshine until late in the evening when alto-cumulus and cumulus were observed

March 2015: dry and sunny with av temps

The saying March: in like a lion, out like a lamb and vice versa is frequently wrong. This March saw it windy at the beginning, end and middle of the month.

This graph shows the 'wind run' of every day in March. Notice how the peaks are at the beginning, middle and end of the month
This graph shows the ‘wind run’ of every day in March. Notice how the peaks are at the beginning, middle and end of the month

Mean temperature for the month was 7.6C, 0.1C below the 1981-2010 mean, over 1C cooler than March last year. Rainfall of 17.9mm was 44% of average – four of the last five Marches have been notably dry.

There were 131.5 hours of sunshine recorded in this area which is precisely 121% of what we can expect to see during an average March. The wettest day occurred on the 29th with 4.2mm. Hail fell on 1 day. Air frosts: 5 Ground frosts: 13

So what has april got in store weatherwise? The models this morning (April 1st) suggest a dominance of high pressure though there’s lots of uncertainty as to where this will drift once it has formed over the Easter weekend. If it moves north there is a risk of chilly easterly winds at times that will take the edge off temperatures.

Rainfall amounts will be small after the next couple of days though sunshine amounts will be reduced if we get the cold easterly feed off the continent. Beyond that the outlook, as ever, is uncertain.

My long range method suggests the month will be average in terms of temperature: 43% probability. The next highest chance is for rather mild at 29% probability. Rainfall is looking greater than average, though at 57% probability.

My March outlook was good in that it ruled out any chance of a very mild month. Though the signal was for a cold month overall I think the fact that Scandinavia and Russia had a relatively mild winter meant that the resulting overall temperature was far milder than it normally would have been, given the air flow.

treewpFull stats for the month here: http://1drv.ms/1rSfT7Y

Here follows the full weather diary for March…

1st: Sunny start with more cloud afternoon and a rain squall sweeping through at 5.30pm. Cold wind.
2nd: Sunny start though cold wind. Odd shower.
3rd: Sunny start but with cloudier periods and odd spot of rain up to 2pm. Skies turned really dark to the north but no reports of heavy rain. Cold overnight but no air frost due to the wind.
4th: Sunny spells with cloudier intervals.
5th: Sunny, frosty start. Cloud bubbling up with sun becoming scarcer.
6th: Sunny and clear with just a few cirrus.
7th: Sunny start, just a few cirrus though more breeze
8th: Sunny start though more clouds bubbling up than yesterday.
9th: Sunny start was quickly replaced by overcast conditions. Spots of rain on way into work – signs of something heavier when left work at midnight. Clear again by morning.
10th Sunny start with some cirrus type haze. Cloud bubbled up but sunnier than yesterday.
11th: Sunny start, cloud growing thicker through the day before a pink sunset. Some light rain before a clear night.
12th Sunny start and just a few clouds around. Cloud thicker in afternoon.
13th Hazy bright start though cloud thickened.
14th: Sunny start quickly turned cloudy and dull. More brightness in afternoon though cold wind. Early shower at 6.30am.
15th: Dull start into the morning. Some light rain late morning and during the afternoon. More rain after midnight and just beofre dawn.
16th: Cloudy start though with bright intervals in the afternoon. Area of light rain around 4am.
17th: Cloudy start with light rain spreading in. Brighter by 1pm though very misty on ride in to work. Misty again overnight.
18th: Cloudy, misty start though much more sunshine than yesterday on ride to Lea Valley. Cloudier overnight.
19th: Cloudy and dull all day, feeling cold – the cloud persisting into the evening.
20th; Cloudy start for the eclipse. The sky cleared about 12.30pm to leave bright sunshine and a pleasant, springlike afternoon. Early ground frost before sky clouded over.
21st: Cloudy but some spots of drizzle mid-morning. Dry and cloudy afternoon.
22nd: Sunny start though cloud increased through the day. Felt cold in the wind.
23rd: Bright start with lots of sunshine through the morning. Gradually filling in though feeling much milder than of late. Some light rain in the evening, heaviest between 3.30am and 5am.
24th: Cloudy start though with some bright spells. A short shower at 3ish.
25th: Sunny, cloudy start though with lots of high cloud filling in. Brief ground frost moved in just before midnight before rain moved in just before 4.30am.
26th: Drizzly light rain to start – felt cold. Not a nice day.
27th: Bright start with lots of watery sunshine through the day. Spits and spots of rain later as walked home from Wanstead.
28th: Cloudy start and mild with some brightness. Feeling mild. Some rain overnnight.
29th: Drizzly start with heavier bursts of rain, these fell through the day, drying up in the evening.
30th: Bright start with some sunny spells. Wind increased in strength through the day and was very strong overnight.
31st: Bright start after a stormy overnight that prompted a tug rescue that overturned in the Solent. Dartford Bridge was also closed. Showers surrounding Wanstead but only trace here – hail seen in City. Cold and windy overnight.

Winter 2014/15 – second sunniest on record

This winter was the second sunniest on record in this region. Sunshine hours totalled 238 hours during December, January and February – that’s 142% of average and second only to 2007/08.

It was the sunniest December on record in the series going back to 1979. Some 11 mornings were completely clear at the 9am observation time
Winter 2014/15 was the second sunniest on record with 238 hours of sunshine

The first lying snow for two years is also a notable observation of winter 2014/15. That it lasted just a few hours emphasises how little snow there was at sea-level for the second winter in succession.

The mean temperature of 5.2C was just 0.3C below the 1981-2010 average. Some 152mm of rain fell – that’s just 7mm over the winter average.

Winter began with the sunniest December on record in my series going back to 1877. Over 90 hours of sunshine was recorded in this area which is 224% of what we can expect to see during an average December.

January saw the first falling snow in nearly two years with the last three days of the month seeing the first flakes of winter – nothing much to write home about by average winter standards.

February produced the first lying snow in nearly two years. The 1cm depth at 9am on 3rd, however, is nothing much to write home about by average winter standards.

The wettest day during the three months was January 12th when 13.1mm fell.

Snow fell on 6 days. Air frosts: 27 Ground frosts: 48

Full stats for winter can be found here: http://1drv.ms/1rSfT7Y

At the end of November I published my annual winter forecast. I said the season would *probably* be colder with a better chance of snow than last winter. If I’m honest I thought we’d see more incidents of snowfall though, with my predicted mean temperature of 4.2C being exceeded by 1C, the air around the UK just wasn’t cold enough for snow at sea level. My predicted rainfall was more impressive – I forecast 156mm and was out by just 4mm!

Obviously when the season is average long-range forecasts like this have a much higher chance of being correct. One could argue that basic climatology has made my forecast look a reasonable one. But I stick to what the stats suggest and try to steer clear of the endless hyperbole published almost daily by certain tabloids.

February 2015: average

feb3rd snow
A snowfall on the 3rd just about covered the ground for a few hours, though was barely enough to make a snowball

Though it only lasted a couple of hours this February saw the first lying snow in nearly two years. The 1cm depth at 9am on 3rd, however, is nothing much to write home about by average winter standards.

Mean temperature for the month was 4.9C, 0.4C below the 1981-2010 mean, 2.5C cooler than the mild and stormy February of last year. Rainfall of 43.6mm was 111% of average.

There were 73.6 hours of sunshine recorded in this area which is precisely 100% of what we can expect to see during an average February. The wettest day occurred on the 19th with 8.7mm. Snow fell on 3 days, hail on 2. Air frosts: 4 Ground frosts: 19

So what has March got in store weatherwise? The models this morning (March 1st) suggest a taste of spring – the recent cold and showery regime being replaced by quiet, anticyclonic weather. Output suggests variable cloud cover with a mild SW wind. Obviously sunny days will see quite respectable temperatures though any clear nights will see frost and mist developing.

View from top of Ditchling Beacon in Sussex during a  half-term walk
View from top of Ditchling Beacon in Sussex during a half-term walk

Beyond that the outlook is uncertain. Using a similar method to my Christmas forecast, which was correct at 25 days ahead and my January and February outlooks, I’ve had a look back in the archives to see if there is any precedent in the pattern we’ve had this February.

There appears no chance of a very mild March. The strongest signal (67%) is for a cold March. The strongest signal for precipitation is for average to slightly below (83%). Sunshine, no overall signal, so my guess is average.

Though we are now out of the meteorological winter there is still a risk of snow. Any falls, however, would be thin and transitory because of the strength of the sun now.

Full stats for the month here: http://1drv.ms/1rSfT7Y

Here follows the full weather diary for February…

1st Bright start with sunny spells thoughout the day

2nd Sunny start but soon clouded over. Cleared again in evening though with lunar halo. Showers moved in after midnight and into early hours to leave thin coating of snow by 8am.

3rd 1cm at 9am. A bright start though with lots of cloud around. Sunnier in afternoon, the snow had melted by 1pm. Variable clear spells through the night but too cloudy for frost.

4th Cloudy start but some brightness. The sunshine felt warm at times. Variiable cloud overnight. Woke up to see snow falling but too warm to settle – the air being 1.2C, dew point 0.5C

5th Some spots of sleet to start and during the day. Colder air digging in from 3pm. Feeling bitter.

6th Bright start, cloud decreasing through the day to give long sunny spells. Cold wind

7th Cloudy and cold start

8th A sunny start with long sunny spells all day

9th Mostly cloudy to start though bright and breaking to sunny spells and then unbroken sunshine.

10th Cloudy and cold all day

11th Dull and cloudy all day

12th Dull start and stayed dull all day. Cold. Warming up after 2am with some very light rain with warm front.

13th Bright spells through the morning with a brief clearance around 1pm. Rain soon arrived though and fell through the afternoon and into the evening. Rain again from midnight until 2am

14th Bright intervals to start though mostly cloudy through the day. Some very light rain showers through the day and into the night

15th Cloudy start though with bright intervals becoming more frequent. Clear by dusk allowing temp to fall quickly

16th Cloudy start with rain spreading in after 1pm, moderate at times

17th Unbroken sunshine until 1pm then a few clouds. Cold overnight on boat

18th Sunny most of the day with only a few high clouds

19th Sunny until mid morning then clouding over quickly. Rain pushed in late lunchtime and lingered all day and into evening. Stayed dry on walk until 2.30pm but very stong wind ahead of rain band

20th Cloudy start though bright through haze at times. Feeling cold. Cloudy into evening with area of rain at 7am

21st Sunny start after rain at 7am. Very cloudy at times with light hail <5mm – the sky suggested the hail was heavy elsewhere. Reports of snow in Oxford. Frosty overnight

22nd Sunny start but cloud quickly filled in before rain arrived at 3pm. Temp then rose to a high of 9.5C at 11pm before falling at midnight

23rd Sunny start but with cloud bubbled up and some light hail mixed in with showers. Feeling cold

24th Sunny start with some cloud bubbling up. Heavy hail shower at 3.30pm. Temp built through the night with rain 5.30am – 7.30am

25th Drizzly start broke to sunny spells. Much milder. Drizzle overnight after 3.30am

26th Cloudy start with rain late morning. Cold front blew through around 2pm. Clear and frosty overnight

27th Sunny, cold start. Cloud gradually increased through the day. Temperature lifted a little – spits and spots of rain felt on way home

October 2014: warm but wet

Save for the warmest Hallowe’en on record and a notable depression on the 21st October was a relatively quiet month.

The month was warmer than average; the mean temperature of 13.7C was 1.9C above average, making it the 5th warmest October since 1797: 0.7C warmer than last October, though only the warmest since 2011.photo (7)

The dry and sunny start was replaced with a very unsettled regime at the end of the first week which lasted until the end of the second week – with 39.5mm of rain falling over the 12th and 13th, a notable total for this region. It was wetter than average: 82.4mm represents 123 per cent of what we’d expect to fall in a normal October.

Despite it being wet it was only the 74th wettest October in the series back to 1797.

The warmest day occurred on the 31st with 21.5C recorded. Many nights were warm with date records matched or broken. Cold nights, relative to the time of year were few. The lowest temperature occurred on 4th when the mercury fell to 2C – a ground frost was narrowly avoided with the grass minimum thermometer falling to 0.2C.

Sunshine was slightly below average with 103.6 hours recorded – that’s 97 per cent of mean. The sunniest day was on the 5th when 9 hours of sunshine were recorded.

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


Thunderstorms bring a Holyrood awakening

It was just before 3am that I was awoken by faint rumblings outside. I knew there was a risk of thunder before I’d retired to bed a few hours earlier but I’d discounted the risk along with any thoughts of staying up to watch the referendum results unfold in Scotland.

This radar shot shows the storm just beginning to hit Wanstead. The rain was far heavier to our east. 17.2mm was reported at Laindon, Essex. An observer at Woodford Wells recorded 19.9mm her in about 25 minutes 0310-0335 bst
This radar shot shows the storm just beginning to hit Wanstead. The rain was far heavier to our east. 17.2mm was reported at Laindon, Essex. An observer at Woodford Wells recorded 19.9mm her in about 25 minutes 0310-0335 bst

Lightning then illuminated the room through the gaps in the curtains followed by more rumblings: it’ll pass, I thought. Crash – I grabbed my phone – was this an isolated event? The radar showed a line of slow moving storms moving up from the south. More lightning and loud thunder. My Twitter feed told me it wasn’t going too well for those wanting independence. At this point intensely bright lightning was rapidly followed by one of the loudest claps of thunder I’ve heard around 3.10am. Car alarms were set off – may as well get up I thought… The Inverclyde result was announced – ‘No’, by the narrowest of margins 50.1% to 49.9%. That’s it then, I thought. The lightning and thunder gradually began to fade away with hopes of an independent Scotland, on this night anyway. I glanced at my stats which seemed far less impressive than what was recorded elsewhere: 7.7mm, no big fall in temperature or pressure like previous storms during the summer.

Just a few hours later I walked my younger daughter into school, my bleary eyes struggling to focus – the humid and steamy atmosphere felt more like July than September. Indeed Thursday had been the warmest September 18th since 1997 which, strangely, was the same year that another momentous British event took place: the handover of Hong Kong to China. I remarked to a couple of parents that the only thing that had changed overnight was that Andy Murray will forever be the “Scottish” tennis player after his comment on Twitter.

The forecast advised that there was a continued threat of thunderstorms. It was humid but it didn’t ‘feel’ stormy – though around 2.30pm I could hear the beginning of faint rumblings in the distance.

Clouds above could be seen developing rapidly at 2.30pm
Clouds above could be seen developing rapidly at 2.30pm

I left for work on my scooter at 3pm, carefully watching the sky for any developments all of which seemed to be in the distance. After stopping for petrol in Leytonstone High Road huge drops of rain began splattering the pavement. They were few and far between, however, and the sun defiantly continued to shine. After riding past Stratford I suddenly became aware that the buildings in the distance, past Bow flyover, were gradually beginning to disappear. I pulled in to a turning where Gala Bingo is situated. An electronic noticeboard enquired: “Do you feel lucky?” Not today I thought and retrieved my overtrousers that live under the seat, hastily pulling them on as I watched the impending storm begin to close in.

I continued on and was soon enveloped in the full force of another thunderstorm. Marble-sized hail clattered off my crash helmet while dangerous gusts, caused by wind funneling through the new high rise flats by the Olympic Park, did their best to push me off. Just as I crossed the canal a sheet of rain engulfed me and the drivers to my right. The road in front suddenly turned into a shallow river. I usually ride over the flyover – not today with the torrent of water cascading off the sides.

The 3.15pm storm that flooded large parts of East London. The white area shows where the heaviest rain was
The 3.15pm storm that flooded large parts of East London. The white area shows where the heaviest rain was

By the time I reached Mile End the rain had almost stopped. The City looked fairly dry and on reaching London Bridge the roads were completely dry. The Friday crowds were out in force in Borough Market, enjoying the sunshine and seemingly oblivious to the chaos unfolding just a few miles away in East London. Within 10 minutes of walking into my office Alex Salmond announced his resignation. Another storm: another momentous event! It was another of those coincidental storms that, in my mind, seem to mark momentous events such as the Royal birth last July

I checked the stats of the storm back in Wanstead: 24.5mm  fell  with a peak rate of 76.5mm/hr at 15.47. The storm ended a run of 16 dry days bringing the total for the month up to 33mm – the 24hr total was 30.5mm. The explosive convection of this storm can be seen here. The associated hail and rain brought much flooding to Hackney, Hackney Wick and Leytonstone. This storm seemed to be the result of a convergence line over London between light southerlies to the south and easterlies to the north – the heavy rain was very localised.

Flooding images can be seen on the following links at Dalston, Wanstead Flats, Leytonstone Station, Wick Road. A short clip of flooding at Wick Road can be seen here.

The flooding wasn’t restricted to East London. In Southend water started pouring through the roof of the Dixons theatre though it failed to stop the performance. Shops in London Road were inundated.


See also:





Summer forecast: barbecues and umbrellas

At the beginning of May I had a look at the March and April stats to try to decipher what the coming summer would be like. The results still suggest that summer will be a mixed bag weather-wise with only brief hot spells interspersed with humid thundery breakdowns and cool, cloudy and showery regimes.

mackerel2The third warmest March-April period since 1799 possibly prompted some weather ‘experts’ to claim that we’re heading for a hot summer. But converse to what the Daily Express told us in April I cannot see any signs of a ‘hottest summer ever’.  And it should be remembered that this rag also warned us that the past winter would see ‘100 days of snow’. In the event I think 100 days of rain was probably more true, and I would like to point out at this juncture that my own winter forecast was hopelessly out, along with many others.

To reach my conclusion on this summer I have used pattern matching of meteorological data for March, April and May stretching back to 1799. The mild and dry weather of March and April has been tempered by the wet May. The mean for the spring season was 11.7C with 116.4mm of rain and 473 hours of sunshine. If you take into account all years that were within +/- 10 per cent of these figures you get the following table.

When considering the data I first extracted the number of similar years by rainfall. Of these I then discounted any that were not within + / 10 per cent of the spring 2014 mean temperature.

The ‘best fit’ years were revealed as 1811, 1828, 1871, 1882, 1912, 1945, 1959 and 1989. Using sun hours similarities this could be narrowed further to 1912, 1945, 1959 and 1989, however it should be noted that I don’t have sun hours data prior to 1881!

As an average this summer could be expressed as:

Mean: 17.3C (about average) Rainfall: 186.1mm (slightly above average) Sunshine: 583hrs (slightly above average)

Or, expressed in probabilities, I concluded the following:

Summer probabilities
Summer probabilities

So from the above you could deduce that the next three months will be average to rather cool, with average to slightly below average rainfall. Sunshine below average.

Trying to predict details over the next 3 months is impossible, but looking at the ‘best fit’ years mentioned above a warm spell happened without fail between the dates June 18th – June 22nd. Other dates to bear in mind for possible fine spells are July 5th, July 12th-15th, July 22nd, August 4th and August 20th.


* Taking into account the fact that temperatures in London are up to 1C warmer than they were 100 years ago I have added 1C to mean temperatures before 1915.

** Obviously, in the event of a series of direct hits from thunderstorms, my rainfall estimate could be hopelessly short – a symptom of abundant solar energy at this time of year which creates a ‘noisy’ atmosphere compared with winter.

*** The 1981-2010 average mean for summer in this region is 17.6C, with 144.9mm of rain and 564 hours of sunshine






Kop this for a singularity

The last time Liverpool won the league in 1990 (by league I mean top tier of English football) the South East enjoyed a mostly dry, warm and sunny summer. A particularly hot spell in August of that year saw the UK high temperature record broken when the mercury reached 37.1C at Cheltenham on August 3rd, a record that stood until 2003.

Since the middle of December last year the weather has been remarkably similar to that football season when the Reds won their 18th league title. Both winters were remarkably mild and stormy with January 1990 seeing the Burns’ Day storm.

90 - 14

The mean temperature this year over the same period, December 13th to April 26th, is just 0.2C cooler than 1989-90, while rainfall is 2.1% greater and sunshine is 2.5% less. A remarkable singularity.

Will history repeat itself come the end of the season and the end of the summer? Up until early Sunday afternoon the stage seemed set. But a slip by Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard at the end of the first half gifted Demba Ba with a chance that opened the way for Chelsea to complete the double over their title rivals.

The Liverpool squad of the 1989-1990 season won the club’s 18th league title

It must have been agonising for the Kop to watch, 24 years on from the exact same weekend the Reds lifted the title with two games left. The weather that followed that memorable day was dry, sunny and warm with temperatures reaching the mid 20s on many days.

Fast forward two dozen years and the weather looks decidedly unsettled, with frequent showers or longer spells of rain interspersed with sunshine. Though there’s doubtless many twists and turns left I wonder if Reds fans believe their title hopes are going the same way as the change in the weather?

Football’s a funny old game – just like the weather.

An unprecedented climate of confusing stats

‘Worst-ever!’, ‘in living memory’, ‘highest on record!’, ‘unprecedented!’. These phrases, used often by newsreaders on the main networks including Sky and BBC, always set an alarm bell ringing in my head. None more so than weather stories which, with the stormy winter we’ve just had, has been happening almost daily since the middle of December.

Screen shot 2014-03-01 at 02.48.32As the winter has progressed the networks have tried to out do one another with the severity-value of a story. What starts with a reporter gingerly standing by the side of a flooded field within days changes to the reporter, donning a pair of fisherman’s waders, trawling waist-deep through a flooded Berkshire housing estate.

The media also seem to delight in rushing out Met Office data to proclaim these armageddon scenarios before the season is over and the statistics can be properly studied, absorbed and commented upon.

Last summer, I started to build a dataset for my own area – Wanstead. Using local figures from the City of London Cemetery I was able to take the daily series back to 1959. Beyond this I then sourced monthly data for Greenwich, 6 miles away, back to 1881. Using W.A.L Marshall’s A Century of London Weather and Luke Howard’s The Climate of London enabled me to take the series right back to 1797.

The series makes for interesting reading, putting this winter as 6th wettest since 1797. Scientists would say that because my series is only one dataset it cannot be regarded as a ‘catch-all’ for the country overall. But when statements like “England and Wales has had its heaviest rainfall since 1766” are put out by the media it is blatantly not true for the entire country. Just a quick look at the map shows that while parts of south and southeast England have been very wet – other parts of the country have been much less so.

But in this age of 24-hour rolling news the message to anyone who takes the headlines at face value is that this has been the wettest winter ever. You can view the winter mean temperature and rainfall stats here.

winter rainfall

mean temp winter

This wet winter is by no means unique

With flooding in the Somerset Levels dominating the headlines it is easy to get carried away with media hysteria that we are in unprecedented times in terms of rainfall. But as with so many media stories these days you don’t have to look far back in meteorological records to find that we’ve been here before.

The jetstream has been virtually ever present over the UK this winter, driving depression after depression over our isles
The jetstream has been virtually ever present over the UK this winter, driving depression after depression over our isles

Although I base this blog on local figures – two series of stats going back to 1881 and 1959 – it is notable that this particular microclimate has actually been dryer than neighbouring areas, including east Essex where the rain crossing this area often peters out. With such power in the jet stream, however, bands of rain have been pushing right through this winter. Surrey has also been notably wetter, with orographic uplift only partly responsible for the increased wetness. Anyone driving around the M25 will have noticed the flooded fields at the side of the motorway.

It has been mentioned that this winter has been the most cyclonic in recent memory, but you only have to go back to the winter of 2000-01 to find a more cyclonic winter, though that season saw fewer severe gales.

Since the beginning of the meteorological winter on December 1st Wanstead has recorded 235.6mm of rain to February 6th. Considering the 1959 series that’s 7% wetter than the winter of 1989/90 – though this winter is actually 0.9C colder than that season 24 years ago.

Looking at the bigger picture, and with 22 days to go, this winter is currently 7th wettest in the series going back to 1881 – quite a way behind 1915 which saw 343.7mm recorded. Looking at the GFS model out to 9 days, however, there is much more rain to come.

The season so far, in terms of temperature and rainfall, has been notable in that autumn did not really offer any hints as to how winter would unfold. At the beginning of December I would have put the probability of a winter such as we have had so far at 10%. Should the rain continue to fall while the temperature stays mild the probability would fall to 1% – a truly exceptional winter in the same league as 1962/63 – but at the other end of the scale.

After my less than impressive stab at a winter forecast I am a bit loathe to make any more predictions. Trying to predict the weather more than a few days ahead with any detail is impossible. And seasonal forecasting is fraught with difficulty. However, precedent suggests we could be in for a warm and settled March. Indeed, if this year is anything like what followed in 1990 we could be in for a very nice summer. But then again we might not. As Mark Twain said: ‘Climate is what we expect; weather is what we get’.