The last three months in east London, considering sunshine, have been the dullest for 10 years. Despite the sunny end to February just 123 hours of sun have been recorded, just under 74 per cent of the seasonal average.
With little sun, rainfall well above average, temperatures best described as average and the endless lockdown it is no wonder things felt so grim.
A couple of years ago, inspired by the blogger XMetman, I devised my own ‘grim index’ to try to rank how each winter ‘felt’.
Using the same criteria, and assuming that most people welcome sunshine, it can be seen that since the least grim winter of 2007-08, the season, after a blip in 2018-19, has been growing steadily worse.
The grimmest winter, considering statistics back to 1881, was, ironically, the 1978-79 ‘Winter of Discontent’ when, again ironically, ‘Sunny Jim’ Callaghan was in Downing Street as widespread strikes coincided with the coldest winter for 16 years.
On looking at the Top 20 of grim winters it is striking how most coincide with depressing world events, the Great War, World War 2 and the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Valentines Day 2021 saw the cold spell come to an end in the London area. Maxima over the past 7 days never exceeded 2.3C on any day, the yardstick I use for a spell of cold weather to qualify.
Though some places did get a decent amount of snow precipitation in this area was very low ; lying snow at 9am at this station never exceeded 3cm. Very cold, dry air however was enough to preserve cover out of the sun.
As cold spells go it was two days longer than the median of 5 days, so slighter colder and drier but with double the amount of sunshine.
A couple of years ago I tried to rank cold spells in this area since 1960, with mixed results. I’ve since revisited the method and have achieved better results using the following algorithm. (Number of days * total precipitation)*(mean temperature of spell)-(total sun hours). This gave the following list.
And the next 26 cold spells
There’s been many images that define this spell but this post probably nails it in that I’ve never seen the ice thick enough on the marshes to tempt someone to ice skate.
Sleeping in heatwaves is never a great prospect even in an age where fans and air conditioning units are becoming more and more common.
In 1948, however, residents of Kensington and other areas of London were so hot and desperate to escape oven-like houses caused by temperatures well into the 90s that they decamped en masse into the streets and local parks to get some kip.
A report published in the Aberdeen Journal on Friday 30th July describes how folk down south were coping with the heat.
“The metropolis last night was like a large restless household—with all the lights ablaze, doors and windows thrown open, the family fretful, and endless pots of tea brewing far into this morning.
“Perhaps one in ten among the 8,000,000 of us slept after midnight. For the rest, we tossed and turned and saw out this heatwave night, when temperatures were never below 71 degrees, a variety of ways. About midnight I walked past the gaunt old Edwardian mansions in Kensington. With the exception the lights that burned from every window, the scene was reminiscent of the early days of the Blitz.
“Families trekked across the roadway in varying stages of undress to their little bits of ornamental gardens. With them went camp beds, bed linen, umbrellas, “in case,” the children, and the household pets, choose a cool open-air camping spot and feel wonderfully adventurous and spartan in the process.”
“At regular intervals the adolescent members of the squatting colonies were dispatched to the tea and coffee stalls on the corner, and perhaps for the first time in years these traders ran out of stocks. On the Kensington-Chelsea boundary, where life becomes noticeably less inhibited and on occasions less swish, a mixed group of young artists was sleeping on the pavement off Fulham Road.
“Round the next corner, where many theatrical and film stars live, several had slung hammocks on their meagre front lawns – one actually suspended between the bathroom windows of two adjacent houses. Midnight street wear for both sexes was cool if unconventional —silk pyjamas, bath robes, tennis shorts, and one in kilt and bathing costume top who could have gone straight into the arena at Lonach.”
The temperature at Westminster that night never fell below 23.3C (73.9 F), a record for July that still stands.
The column goes on to describe the situation in the House of Commons where the heat had reached “almost Turkish bath intensity”.
“Some members were in natty tussore silk suitings, but this helped little, and it was many of their number who appealed to the Speaker to have more windows opened. The Speaker, panting like the rest of us, said they were all open. If they wanted more cool breezes from the Thames, members would have to smash the windows.”
Wild weather in the run up to the autumnal equinox was frequently a staple of the Septembers of my childhood but it has been absent in recent years.
Since 2013 I have been recording the ‘wind run’ data on my AWS, a stat generated by the amount of times the anemometer spins.
The results show there has been nearly two-and-a-half times more wind than the 5-year average.
Stormy weather over the equinox is one of the less frequent recurring singularities. The meteorologist Philip Eden a few years ago noted that ‘Mid-September storms’ during the period of 17th to 24th September had a frequency of 60 per cent.
For the past few years August has often failed to match up to June and July for hot, summery weather. Looking at the models this August promises something very warm though whether it is another 1995 or 2003 is anyone’s guess.
I’ve put together a few top 10s of stats for Wanstead, St James’s Park and Heathrow for the month of August.
In terms of climatology August maxima, considering the 1981-2010 average, shows a fairly steady decrease through the month, though around the 15th there is often a spike before a steady decrease to month’s end. This would reflect the late August winds singularity which occurs every year around the 20th at 67 per cent probability.
The average rainfall graphic shows that downpour amounts are fairly random from year to year. The driest days are the 15th and the 30th.
Recent weather patterns have seen much high pressure to our north keeping us dry and mostly sunny but, aside from June, protected from humid Spanish plumes.
A look at local east London stats shows that half of the last 10 July months have been warmer than average while only two have been much drier than average.
I’ve put together a few top 10s of stats for Wanstead, St James’s Park and Heathrow for the month of July.
Some national UK July values according to TORRO
Hottest: 19th 2006: 36.5C at Wisley, Surrey.
Coldest: 15th 1977: -2.5C at Lagganlia, Highland.
Wettest: 18th 1955: 279.4.8mm at Martinstown Dorset.
In terms of climatology July maxima, considering the 1981-2010 average, shows a fairly steady increase through the month, though around the 17th there is often a dip before a warm end. This would reflect the July heatwave singularity which occurs every year at 80 per cent probability.
The average rainfall graphic shows that downpour amounts are fairly random from year to year. The driest days are the 1st and the 25th.
With the recent warms months of April and May you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re in for a hot summer. Indeed the recent pattern of weather, would it repeat over the next month, could see many maxima records tumbling.
A look at local east London stats shows that six of the last 10 Junes have been warmer than average while half have been much drier than average.
I’ve put together a few top 10s of stats for Wanstead, St James’s Park and Heathrow for the month of June.
Probably most notable from the below values is that recent Junes have been devoid of extreme cool temperatures and rainfall.
Snow has been known to fall in June, in 1975.
Rain is usually most frequent in the last week of the month.
The 10 driest Junes were:
Some UK May values according to TORRO
Hottest: 29th 1957: 35.6C at Camden Square, London. Also Southampton 28th 1976
Coldest: 9th 1955: -5.6C at Dalwhinnie, Highland. Also June 1st and 3rd 1962: Santon Downham, Norfolk
Wettest: 28th 1917: 242.8mm at Bruton, Somerset
In terms of climatology June maxima, considering the 1981-2010 average, shows a gradual increase through the month, though around the 19th to the 21st there is often a dip before a warm end. This would reflect the June Monsoon which occurs every year at 77 per cent probability.
The average rainfall graphic reflects this, showing a four-day wetter spell after the 20th.
Weather models are hinting that this coming bank holiday weekend could be very warm indeed, with one WX Charts animation suggesting that a positive anomaly of 12C could be possible on Monday.
A date record looks a formality and, unless there’s a downgrade, new monthly high temperature records at stations across the south-east look a possibility.
While it looks very warm it is too early to start talking about heatwaves. And, considering the pattern since late February, with hot and cold alternating weekly, a brief return to much cooler conditions at the beginning of June can’t be ruled out.
The British record high temperature for May is 32.8C, reached on two occasions:
Camden Square, London May 22nd 1922. The same station recorded this value again on May 29th 1944, along with Regents Park, Horsham and Tunbridge Wells.
The national date record for the 28th, according to TORRO, is 30.6C at Camden Square.
Locally the highest temperature recorded in this area in May is 32.1C on May 27th 2005. The date record I recorded is 26.5C in 2012.
Ne’er cast a clout till May is out. With the recent March and April weather being so variable it would be wise to bear in mind this old saying, especially with fine and warm weather forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend.
A look at local east London stats, however, shows that seven of the last 10 Mays have been warmer and drier than average.
I’ve put together a few top 10s of stats for Wanstead, St James’s Park and Heathrow for the month of April.
Probably most notable from the below values is that recent Mays have been devoid of extreme cool temperatures and rainfall.
With nights now relatively short air frosts are uncommon though the odd ground frost can still strike on a clear night.
Snow can fall in May – one example being 1979 in the higher parts of the capital – but after the first week it is extremely rare.
Rain is usually most frequent in the last week of the month.
Some UK May values according to TORRO
Hottest: 22nd 1922: 32.8C at Camden Square, London.
Coldest: 2nd 1917: -9.4C at Lynford, Norfolk
Wettest: 8th 1884: 172.2 at Seathwaite, Cumbria
In terms of climatology May maxima, considering the 1981-2010 average, shows a gradual increase through the month, though around the 25th there is often a brief dip before a warm end.
The average rainfall graphic reflects this, showing a three-day wetter spell after the 24th.