Tag Archives: Wanstead Park

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.

Eclipse 2015 in Wanstead

While heavy low cloud obscured the partial eclipse in this area there were a couple of interesting factors that I observed.

At 9.45am, shortly after the maximum obscuration of the solar disc the air pressure suddenly dropped. This coincided with sudden relief to my blocked nasal passages, symptoms of which appeared last night. Eighteen minutes later the fall in air pressure became less steep and the nasal symptoms returned.

The pressure dropped from 1029.8mb at 9.15am to 1029mb at 10.15am. I'm not sure if it was an effect of the eclipse or just a change in the synoptic situation that would have happened anyway
The pressure dropped from 1029.8mb at 9.15am to 1029mb at 10.15am. I’m not sure if it was an effect of the eclipse or just a change in the synoptic situation that would have happened anyway

As the light began to fade it seemed to turn colder though, on looking at the actual figures, the effect of the partial eclipse through heavy cloud was a depression in temperature of 0.3C. I worked this out by comparing today with yesterday which had almost identical weather conditions. People remarked that it turned noticeably colder though perhaps this was more caused by standing out in temperatures of 4.9C for a long period.

Like the eclipse in 1999 I noticed that the birdsong quietened somewhat though there was not the same crescendo of noise that you normally get at dusk when birds roost.

Here is the temperature trace from the 19th. Even with the heavy cloud yesterday there was more warming from the sun, albeit by a very small 0.3C
Here is the temperature trace from the 19th. Even with the heavy cloud yesterday there was more warming from the sun, albeit by a very small 0.3C
This graph shows the temperature from 6am until 11am. Though the depression during the eclipse was just 0.1C comparison with the previous day, which saw near identical weather conditions, shows just how much solar heating was depressed
This graph shows the temperature from 6am until 11am. Though the depression during the eclipse was just 0.1C comparison with the previous day, which saw near identical weather conditions, shows just how much solar heating was depressed

170 years of Christmas Day in London

Christmas in Victorian London is often portrayed as very cold and snowy – picture perfect images of Yuletides past always scream out at us every year we open a box of Christmas cards.

The Temple, Wanstead Park, always looks that much stunning with a covering of snow
The Temple, Wanstead Park, always looks that much more stunning with a covering of snow

But a look back through the meteorological records of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich reveals a very different reality.

The 1840s and 1850s, decades where most Christmas traditions marked today began, were often very mild, wet and windy – indeed before 2015 the warmest Christmas Day maximum temperature at Greenwich occurred in 1852 when the mercury reached 13.3C.

Like modern times, however, there were exceptions and 1840 was very cold – the record for Christmas Day mentions “trees coated with rime (ice) 3/8 inch thick”!

The following 20 years saw Christmas morning much milder – well over half had maxima of 6C or higher. In 1843, the year Charles Dickens first published A Christmas Carol and the public sent their first Christmas cards, the temperature reached a balmy 10.1C – though dense fog probably made it feel at least a bit more seasonal.

Frosted tree in Wanstead Park by Scott Whitehead
Frost is a common feature of Christmas Day

Four years later in 1847, the year the capital’s Tom Smith invented the Christmas cracker, things were a bit colder – a high of 4.2C and overcast with rain late evening. The following year an image of Victoria and Albert celebrating with their family around a Christmas tree appeared in the Illustrated London News. Like many things Royal down the years it really captured the public’s imagination of taking a spruce or similar evergreen into their living rooms and decorating it every Yuletide.

Christmas two years later, in 1849, was at least cold enough for something wintry to fall. London, however, was still coming to terms with its worst-ever cholera outbreak. With around 14,000 deaths from the disease Christmas was probably not a high priority that winter.

When Good King Wenceslas was first included in Carols for Christmas-Tide in 1853 the day was cold but there was still no “deep, crisp and even” snow or “rude wind’s wild lament”. The day stayed calm and clear.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThough the period either side of December 25th began to be marked with cold, snowy spells it would be another 11 years before London experienced its first official white Christmas in 1864. Sleet, which fell at the end of a 4-day cold spell, probably added to the drama of swimmers taking part in the first Christmas Day swim in the Serpentine, Hyde Park. With a high temperature of just 1.4C it’s quite feasible the few who braved it probably had to break the ice before they took the plunge.

Five years later London experienced another white Christmas with snow falling in a north-easterly breeze – the start of a four-day cold spell.

The joint-coldest Christmas Day on record followed five years later in 1870 with a mean temperature of -7.2C. The building of the Royal Albert Hall was scheduled to be completed by December 25th but it was not until March 29th 1871 that it was officially opened by Queen Victoria.

The remainder of Victoria’s reign was marked with far more white Christmases, a period where nearly two-thirds of Decembers were marked with extended cold, snowy spells. Fog and frost were also frequent.

With a new century and new monarch Christmas-time turned milder and London would have to wait until close to the end of Edward VII’s reign in 1909 to see a ‘white Christmas’ – a poor affair with just a bit a sleet mixed in with the rain late morning. Many probably failed to notice it but it still counts as a white Christmas according to modern bookie’s standards.

Tree damage by the war memorial in Wanstead High Street by Scott Whitehead
Christmas Day can also be stormy

Four of the 26 Christmas Days of George V’s reign were white but the mean temperatures suggest they were all marginal affairs – the core cold weather happening either before or after the 25th. Of note also is the dominance of south-westerlies that brought mild and wet weather – nine out of ten Christmas Days in the 1920s saw rain falling – far in excess of the average for rain on Christmas Day which is 47 per cent.

Just one Christmas was white during George VI’s reign, a ‘good covering of snow’ was recorded by observers at Greenwich in 1938 – the snow falling at the end of a 7-day cold spell.

Sunshine was not a dominant feature of Christmas Day prior to Queen Elizabeth II coming to the throne – the average total in Greenwich from 1877 to 1951 was just under 0.8hrs. Yet the average sunshine total for Christmas Day for the first four years of Elizabeth’s reign jumped to 5.2 hours. The 6.5 hours on Christmas Day 1952 is a record that still stands today! It is remarkable that this record was set just over a fortnight after the Great Smog contributed to the deaths of 4,000 people though other studies put the figure at 12,000 people.

trees in fogThe Clean Air Act 1956 ironically saw the return of dull Christmas Days – though 1956 was a white Christmas with a light covering of snow and a maximum of zero Celsius.

White Christmas Days that followed included 1957 (showery sleet), 1964, 1968 (sleet), and 1970.

Christmas Day 1976 was the last time snow actually fell on Christmas Day in this area though, officially, the last white Christmas was 1996 when a few sleety flakes fell in the early morning.

Christmas Days since then have been mostly mild affairs in London. Of course we had a taste of what a Dickensian Christmas Day was like four years ago when the mean temperature for the day was -1.9C. There were still small patches of snow in our gardens but these were leftovers from a previous dump, so it doesn’t count as a white Christmas. Frustratingly, there has been snow on several Boxing Days in Wanstead (1995 and 1996) and in the weeks running up to Christmas, but not on Christmas day itself.

The warmest Christmas Day in this area occurred in 2015 when a maximum of 15.2C was recorded. Warm air sourced from off the west coast of Africa sent dew points soaring, the minimum on Christmas Day night into Boxing Day did not fall below 13.5C, another record.

25122015
The synoptic chart for 0000z Christmas Day 2015 shows ever-warmer air being pumped northwards over the British Isles.

It is surprising how varied the weather can be on Christmas Day – we always think that Yuletide in the ‘Olden Days’ was a cold affair but a look back to 1840 reveals there were times when it was just as mild as it has been in recent years.

1840 xmas

XMAS 1927
Christmas Day morning 1927: the wettest with some 24.9mm recorded

* Statistics for every Christmas Day since 1840 can be found here.

** The definition of a white Christmas used most widely – notably by the bookies – is for a single snowflake, even if it lands in the midst of heavy rain, to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December at a specified location recognised by the Met Office.

*** In the past 170-odd years there has only been 19 white Christmases: in 1864 (sleet), 1869, 1876, 1878, 1884, 1895, 1909 (sleet), 1916, 1919, 1925, 1927, 1938, 1956, 1957 (sleet), 1964,  1968 (sleet), 1970, 1976, 1996 (sleet)

130 years ago: disaster hits Wanstead Park

It was 130 years ago this morning that The Grotto in Wanstead Park was destroyed by fire.

An account of the fire appeared in the November 29th edition of the Essex Newsman
An account of the fire appeared in the November 29th edition of the Essex Newsman

The building, once part of the grand estate, was being used as a store room since the park’s acquisition by the Corporation of London. The fire, according to a local report at the time, initially started in a cottage adjacent to the Grotto and was discovered about 9 o’clock by a man who had been walking through the park.

Mr G. H. Sparrow, of Latimer Road, Forest Gate, raised the alarm with Wanstead Fire Brigade who, despite arriving quickly, were too late to stop the fire spreading from the cottage to the Grotto. Their efforts were further hampered because the Ornamental Water was being cleansed – a supply of water was 250 yards distant from the River Roding, a fact that cost precious minutes.

By the time the fire was subdued the place was entirely destroyed – only the outside walls and entrance remained intact, probably more or less what you can see today.

The building was composed of shells, pebbles, fossils, rare stones, looking glasses and “a fine painted window that was built at an immense expenditure by the Countess of Mornington”. Its destruction removed the only remaining monument of what was once one of the great estates in the Eastern Counties.

The Grotto seen from across the Ornamental Water
The Grotto seen from across the Ornamental Water

I’ve often wondered if the weather could have played a part in the demise of the Grotto. The monthly average for November, however, suggests not. A mean of 5.7C is over 3C colder than what we’ve seen this November and although it was a dry month with 45mm of rain – that total is nothing out of the ordinary for the month.

Conditions on the day were uncannily like this morning: bright though chilly, the temperature only rising to 7C after an overnight low of 2C. Perhaps one contributing factor was the north-westerly breeze which would have helped drive the flames through the structure.

One could also point to the fact that Ornamental Waters had no water to douse the flames. Though the fact that it was empty is nothing new as the entire lake system had retention problems from the park’s inception.

Perhaps it is a case that fires do just sometimes happen regardless of how careful we are in preventing them.

It is sad that bad luck seemed to hit the Grotto just like it saw the demise of Wanstead House decades before.

August 2014 – cool, wet and dull

Anyone hoping for a continuation of June and July’s hot weather would have been left sorely disappointed by last month which was characterised by frequent rain and the coldest August night for over 20 years.

A stunning example of sunlight illuminating the underside of cloud at sunset was seen mid-month
A stunning example of sunlight illuminating the underside of cloud at sunset was seen mid-month

August 2014 was the first month this year to be cooler than average; the mean temperature of 17.2C was 1C below average, making it the 89th warmest August since 1797: 1.6C cooler than last August, the coolest for 7 years.

The month was marked with thunderstorms and heavy downpours, contributing to what was a much wetter than average month – some 76mm fell which is 152% of the monthly average and the wettest for 4 years.

The hottest day occurred on the 7th with 27.3C recorded – nothing special for August and a date that heralded the end of the hot spell during June and July.

A couple of nights were notably cool for August: 5C was recorded during the early hours of the 23rd – the coldest August night since 1993.

Sunshine was below average with 161 hours recorded – that’s 83 per cent of mean. The sunniest day was on the 3rd when 12 hours of sunshine were recorded. Throughout the month there were just 2 days with 10 hours or more of sunshine. There were 4 days with thunder recorded – the average for August is 3.

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

Looking further afield there were many thunderstorms around the UK though many places missed out on the big downpours. It was yet another month where rainfall totals could vary greatly in the space of just a few miles.

On the 9th a station in Woodford Green recorded 24.4mm, double what fell in Wanstead. The legacy of TS Bertha coincided with the end of our extended hot spell – an excellent analysis of this storm can be found here.

There were some spectacular cloud formations not far from here. A particularly good one was seen in Witham. 

Squally storm line approaching Witham, panoramic shot!

Prolonged heavy rain on the 11th caused extensive flooding in Scotland.

On the 14th ‘Biblical’ flooding affected Lewisham in south east London.

On 25th a perfect curl could be seen on a depression centred off the west coast of Irleland. The rain associated with this low pressure brought the month's highest daily rainfall total: 23.4mm (the system bringing 27.5mm) - a thoroughly miserable Bank Holiday Monday where it rained ALL day, from 6am until 9.30pm. It was yet another example of how much even frontal rainfall can vary over a small area.
On 25th a perfect curl could be seen on a depression centred off the west coast of Irleland. The rain associated with this low pressure brought the month’s highest daily rainfall total: 23.4mm (the system bringing 27.5mm) – a thoroughly miserable Bank Holiday Monday where it rained ALL day, from 6am until 9.30pm. It was yet another example of how much even frontal rainfall can vary over a small area.

On 25th a perfect curl could be seen on a depression centred off the west coast of Irleland. The rain associated with this low pressure brought the month’s highest daily rainfall total: 23.4mm (the system bringing 27.5mm) – a thoroughly miserable Bank Holiday Monday where it rained ALL day, from 6am until 9.30pm. It was yet another example of how much even frontal rainfall can vary over a small area with St James Park recording 38.2mm. The top 30 totals for that day can be seen here.

sunset overlooking Wanstead Flats 2nd August
sunset overlooking Wanstead Flats 2nd August

Looking even further afield four people were killed in a flash flood at an Italian festival early on in the month.

 

June deluge that created Redbridge-on-Sea

It was the summer when the ‘sea’ came to Redbridge.  A record-breaking 59-hour deluge in the middle of June 1903 left vast swaths of the borough inundated. But this was no thundery downpour. All across London and the South East record rainfall rates and totals were set, many of which still stand well over a century later.

The writer of this postcard wrote the following: "Just sending you a few postcards to let you see what a plight we have been in Ilford. This view is the River Roding from the bridge. This was a large green field now it is like a large river but glad to say it has subsided a little of course. You will have read it in the papers I have sent you."
The author of this postcard wrote the following:
“Just sending you a few postcards to let you see what a plight we have been in Ilford. This view is the River Roding from the bridge. This was a large green field now it is like a large river but glad to say it has subsided a little of course. You will have read it in the papers I have sent you.”
This terrace of houses in Wanstead Park Road, which backs on to the River Roding, were also flooded out. The postcard was written on July 1st, 1903
Images of the flooding were captured by Watson Hornby, an amateur photographer and artist, who traded at 7 Cranbrook Road, Ilford. This terrace of houses in Wanstead Park Road, which backs on to the River Roding, were also flooded out. The postcard was written on July 1st, 1903

According to one local historian the fields between Wanstead Park and Ilford – as far as Uphall Road – were like an open sea and the railway track at Seven Kings resembled a shallow river.

After a dry start to the month June quickly went downhill with notable falls of rain during the second week. The main deluge arrived around noon on Saturday, June 13, and lasted until near midnight on the 15th.

The rain was caused by a depression that moved slowly across southern England, becoming stationary over the English Channel close to the Isle of Wight for 24 hours before moving north-east. It introduced a very cool NE’ly airflow – the temperature on the 14th and 15th failed to climb above 11C and on the 19th a high of just 9.2C was recorded as yet more rain fell. 

Across the London area there were five days within the period 10th to 19th June when over 25mm of rain was measured in many places. The deluge added to what became the wettest summer month on record. At the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, just over 154mm fell, three times the amount of what normally falls in June in this area. Further west, Kew Observatory recorded 184mm.

The June 1903 flood at Empress Avenue at the junction of Wanstead Park Road
The June 1903 flood at Empress Avenue at the junction of Wanstead Park Road

The 1903 rains produced an unprecedented summer flood on the Thames. At Teddington 7335 million gallons (33,374 million litres) of water flowed over the weir on June 21st. Elsewhere the Lea Valley was one vast lake, especially around Enfield, with the Royal Gunpowder Factory inundated.

The Friday, June 19th edition of the Essex County Chronicle abounds with other tales of woe from the floods…

Barking and District: In the large area of low-lying ground between Lea Bridge, Ilford, Barking, and East Ham, houses stood in a great inland sea, which was washing over the garden fences and lapping at the lower windows. Upstairs the occupants could be seen moving about or gazing hopelessly out at the dreary waste of black waters. Boats from Barking Creek were rowing about with supplies of milk and bread, and those who wished were taken away. All along the Barking Road from East Ham scenes almost identical were witnessed, but, happily with the end of the rain, the water did not retain its level long. Past Barking and on to Rainham the roads on Tuesday were quite impassable, much of the heavy traffic which goes through Rainham towards Barking having to turn back.

The floodwaters between Wanstead Park and Ilford were described as a vast inland sea

Woodford and Wanstead: The inhabitants of Claybury Asylum and Woodford Bridge were cut off by 3ft of water from Woodford. The whole of the Roding Valley was in a deplorable state; sheds, trees and stock that was once alive floating in all directions. Wanstead was divided from Ilford by a great lake, but happily the total of loss in property was here very small.

Lea Bridge: The Leyton marshes were covered by one great sheet of water, Lea Bridge Road itself being quite 2ft under. Boats were to be seen plying among the tramcars.

Epping: The valleys were well-nigh impassable, especially at Thornwood and parts of Theydon Bois.

Romford: The floods reached to Romford High Street, and made the thoroughfare impassable for pedestrians. The crisis caused a heated exchange among members at a meeting of the Urban Council on Monday evening where it was agreed to allow the free use of the town fire engine for pumping water from ratepayers’ premises, provided that those who required its services paid for the labour. Cllr J. Bassett thought the residents should make their own arrangements for getting rid of the water. Cllr J.R Holliday replied: “You don’t live near the river. I should like to stick you in the middle of it. I think it is the duty of the council to protect property.”

Laindon: Here the height of the deluge was experienced between seven and eight o’clock on Sunday evening. The rain descended in apparent ropes of water, causing consternation, flooding houses, choking drains and water-troughing, cutting deep channels in roads, washing up plants and new potatoes. On Monday the water was between 3 and 4ft feet deep at Noak Hill and other bridges.

Woodford: An exciting scene took place at Woodford Bridge, where a steam circus, with its owners, was in the most precarious position. Men and women were submerged up to their armpits while extricating the caravans.

rainfall tableAway from the South East the weather was much dryer. Felixstowe and Yarmouth newspapers reported that Sunday had seen “delightfully sunny weather, with cool north-easterly breezes”. Lincoln, meanwhile, recorded less than an inch of rain for the whole month!

Could these rains happen again? Meteorologically, given the same synoptic set-up, it is possible. In terms of the June monthly total of rain we came close in 1997 when 133mm fell – though this was much more evenly spread throughout the month. And thanks to massive investment in local river systems since the 1950s the flooding nightmares brought by the Lea and Roding rivers should stay firmly in the past.

 

*You can see the full stats from Greenwich for June 1903 by clicking this link.

 

500hPa evolution from June 9 - June 20
500hPa evolution from June 9 – June 20

Winter Forecast 2013/14 (with no apologies to the Daily Express)

Much has been printed in the tabloids over the past month or so that we are in for a severe winter. Not a week goes by without the Daily Express splashing that the ‘Worst winter EVER is on the way’. Just this morning the same rag told us that three months of ‘exceptionally cold’ weather are due. On closer inspection the story elaborated the scene with quotes from James Madden of Exacta Weather, one of the ‘experts’ feeding these fantastical stories.

The Temple, Wanstead Park, always looks that much more stunning with a covering of snow
The Temple, Wanstead Park, always looks that much more stunning with a covering of snow

Quite how Mr Madden and other experts arrive at these forecasts is a bit of a mystery. The mystery has deepened further since I decided to crunch a few numbers and try to predict what is in store for the months ahead. Looking at data for this area stretching back over 130 years to 1881 I decided to calculate a seasonal average and arrived at a final figure using singularities – basically looking at the weather patterns we’ve had during October and November.

Many professionals would scoff at this method of pattern-matching, so I’ve incorporated a couple of other ‘now’ factors and taken on board current variables such as sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Pacific.

The figure I arrived at, taken as an average of the closest matching autumn periods, is a mean temperature of 4C with rainfall totalling 133mm over the months of December, January and February – that’s about a degree colder than average and 90% of average rainfall. The probability of a winter with a mean temperature of between 4C and 5C is 37% – the most likely outcome. With this in mind a winter in the form of 1986-87 is possible – though whether we would see the same extremes of temperature and snowfall that we experienced in January 1987 is open to question.

Here is a link of my method to predict the coming winter.

The Met Office, with all their computing power and expertise, seem to be hinting at something similar – ie slightly colder than normal. The opening couple of weeks to my forecast seem quite plausible, looking at tonight’s models. Look at the similarity in the synoptic charts for December 8th here.

Shoulder of Mutton lake, Wanstead PArk
Shoulder of Mutton pond, Wanstead Park

Over the last few years the snow lovers among us have been spoiled after a run of very mild winters during the late Nineties and early Noughties that prompted climate expert Dr David Viner to utter the immortal words that one day “children just aren’t going to know what snow is”. It was only a matter of a few years before the words from the senior research scientist at the University of East Anglia seemed a bit hollow.

Mark Twain, born this day in 1835 , once uttered the famous phrase: “Climate is what we expect; weather is what we get” – there is always a chance we could suddenly lurch back to milder winters. This winter could spring a surprise, be it very cold or very mild. But judging what’s happened over the last 130-odd years – a 1962/63 or a balmy 1989/90 look very unlikely.

* Forecasting models use probability on any given outcome. Millions of observations are fed into the Met Office database (and other countries’ weather agencies) every day. Supercomputers then crunch through this data to give probable outcomes. With the volatility of the atmosphere it is not surprising that certainty of any outcome often falls away rapidly. Forecasting has improved greatly in the last 20 years – though anything the models churn out beyond three to five days should be handled with caution. Long range models can give *some* idea of general trends for the months ahead – but changing just one variable can vastly alter an outcome at the end of the run.

* *Over the past few months I have been collating data for the area around Wanstead. This data is freely available from the excellent Met Office library and is emailed via Excel spreadsheet. Rainfall stats include a near-complete daily archive, stretching from 1961 to 2003, from City of London Cemetery . Sadly the rainfall station, along with many others, ceased to supply the Met Office after cuts were made shortly after the turn of century. Prior to 1961 I have used monthly figures taken at the Greenwich Royal Observatory stretching back to 1881. Though this is 6 miles away the difference in temperature between the two areas would be miniscule compared with rainfall data and so can be used. I use my own stats for the period after 2003.

Where’s Jack Frost?

It’s usually around this time of year that this area experiences its first air frosts – but a warm, wet October caused by an active Atlantic and a jet stream sitting close to us has meant that classic radiative cooling nights have been in very short supply. There’s been a couple of chilly nights – down to 2.6C on October 30th and November 5th – but to record an air frost the thermometer must read below 0 Celsius (32Fahrenheit).

The first frost last year was recorded on November 6th. Much hoar was seen around the shady banks of Shoulder of Mutton pond in Wanstead Park
The first frost last year was recorded on November 6th. Much hoar was seen around the shady banks of Shoulder of Mutton pond in Wanstead Park

Last year, Wanstead recorded its first air frost on November 6th (-1C). Looking back through the records to 1980 the earliest frost was October 17, 1992, and the latest was January 6th, 2004. Interestingly it appears that having frost in October can signal a mild winter to come!. The median for the first frost is November 16th – 18th. Forecasts for this week suggest we could be scraping the windscreens for the first time on Saturday, thanks to high pressure building in from the Atlantic and calming things down.

Indeed, the models today suggest there is a chance of a block forming in the Atlantic which effectively stops depressions from whistling in from the west, unlocking the door for cooler weather from the north or east. It’s a long way off in meteorological terms though.

Here is a list of first air frosts in Wanstead…

The ECMWF model shows high pressure riding in from the Azores at the end of the week
The ECMWF model shows high pressure ridging in from the Azores at the end of the week

2012: Nov 6th (-1C)

2011: Dec 17th (-0.3C)

2010: Nov 15th (-2.2C)

2009: Dec 15th (-0.2C)

2008: Oct 29th (-1.3C)

2007: Nov 16th (-0.9C)

2006: Dec 10th (-0.4C)

2005: Nov 14th (-0.1C)

2004: Nov 14th (-0.6C)

2003: Dec 8th (-0.5C)

2002: Jan 6th 2003 (-0.9C)

2001: Dec 14th (-1C)

2000: Nov 15th (-0.3C)

1999: Dec 19th (-1.8C)

1998: Nov 22nd (-3C)

1997: Oct 29th (-1.5C)

1996: Nov 11th (-0.4C)

1995: Nov 18th (-0.1C)

1994: Dec 15th (-2.5C)

1993: Nov 16th (-1.3C)

1992: Oct 17th (-0.9C)

1991:Nov 10th (-0.4C)

1990: Dec 5th (-0.5C)

1989: Nov 24th (-2.4C)

1988: Nov 6th (-2C)

1987: Oct 25th (-2C)

1986: Dec 7th (-0.5C)

1985: Nov 3rd (-5C)

1984: Dec 11th (-3.4C)

1983: Oct 23rd (-1.1)

1982: Nov 29th (-2.6C)

1981: Dec 8th (-0.5C)

1980: Dec 1st (-3C)