Frost is a rare beast this year, even in the Wanstead Park frost hollow.
So far this year I’ve recorded just 82.5 hours where temperatures at 4ft (1.2m) were -0.1C or below. That’s just 37 per cent of what is recorded in an average year. And would suggest that frosts in December will be above average.
The lack of frost this year is even more remarkable given that the past seven years, especially the winters, have been so mild.
A closer look at the data shows that winter months are no guarantee of seeing temperatures fall below freezing. The record mild December 2015 and February 2014 are testament to that.
The fact that January 2017 looks the most remarkable month for frost reveals just how mild recent years have been.
The synoptic pattern on Sunday, April 5th, was very similar to the pattern on Tuesday, April 5th 1892.
With so few planes in the sky because of the coronavirus lockdown it offered an ideal opportunity to compare temperatures and sunshine totals between now and then.
Sunday dawned sunny and clear and stayed that way until dusk, some 11 hours of sunshine recorded, exactly the same as 1892!
The temperature in Wanstead reached 22.3C, 0.9C cooler than what was recorded at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in 1892. This maximum was reached after an overnight minima of 5.3C, the same as the 41.5F recorded at Greenwich all those years ago.
Looking further afield, and at the spell over 3 days…
Last November was on the cold side prompting me to investigate whether we were about to record a third month in a row below average. December turned out to be mild and wet, the lack of snow especially stark in Scotland.
The findings of that study showed that any sustained period of colder than average months was more likely to happen during months of March, April and May, nothing unusual there, especially considering H.H Lamb’s weather types.
I decided to scrutinise further all the colder than average months in this area, considering the 1981-2010 average, back to 1981. This gave the below results.
The dataset covers 399 months, of which 200 were colder than average.
The overall picture shows that negative anomalies are becoming more and more rare, though with notable exceptions being March 2013, December 2010 and January 2010.
The only month that has showed any sort of consistent general decrease in negative anomaly is November.
*For good snowfall at this station needs a negative anomaly of 2C during the months of November, December, January and February.
For those interested my winter forecast this year was way out. A prediction of a mean of 4.7C was 2.3C too low. The chief culprit for the 7th mildest winter back to 1797 was most probably the strong polar vortex which has often been at record strength over the past three months.
Rainfall prediction was also over 100mm too low. The wettest winter for 25 years with 248.1mm recorded places it 13th in wettest winters. The only crumb of comfort I can take is that the stats indicated an uptick in precipitation in February! The 90.8mm recorded made it the wettest February for 10 years, just short of 2010. Before that you have to go back to 1951 to find a wetter February. It places 9th in wettest Februaries since 1797.
Over the past months I have looked into the method of seasonal prediction and found some interesting results. For example, the winter of 1989/90 – a winter that was very similar to this one – led to a prediction that was 2.7C too low. Similarly the winter of 2013/14 was predicted 2C too low.
Rainfall looks to be far more random. Though it is obvious that we are now in a wetter than average spell experience shows that it is impossible to tell how long this will last.
Pattern matching and singuarities can be helpful in long distance forecasting. The spanner in the works, however, can be a sharply positive or negative ENSO (El Nino / La Nina) or, as in this year, a very strong polar vortex.
Damage from Storm Ciara was a lot less notable than further north though the relentless wind saw three records broken locally. Though the gusts were nothing like the St Jude storm in October 2013 the sustained wind blew at its greatest 1, 2 and 3-day rate since this particular automatic station was reset in November 2012.
Over the 3 days the wind direction was locked in a south-westerly, from 199 to 203 degrees.
For this year’s winter forecast, because of time constraints, I am sticking purely to what the local analogues reveal.
Meteorological autumn was the wettest for 18 years and the coolest for 6 years, revealing some interesting similarities with past climate. Considering data back to 1797 I was able to make the following suggestions on how the next 90 days may unfold.
December is most likely to be on the cold side with rainfall slightly below average.
January is most likely to finish average temperature-wise and wetter than December.
London’s February extremes temperature also look average overall and the precipitation signal also creeps up in comparison to the first two winter months.
Best chance for snow? Impossible to pin down but the coldest weather is likely to be at the beginning of February, the third week of January and just after Christmas.
The warmest period looks to be around January 10th while there’s also a signal for that often phenomena of milder temperatures just before Christmas day.
Most of the probabilities in the above statements are relatively low and are explained in the table below.
It’s been a while since this region has seen a sustained colder than average period. Though the past few weeks have seen colder than normal weather we have to go back to the beginning of 2015 where at least three consecutive months were colder than the 1981-2010 average.
The spell, which coincided with winter, was unremarkable with just one day of lying snow. The season finished 55th out of 73 of the most recent winters, the anomaly for the 90-day period was -0.3C. For deep, lasting snowfall events a monthly mean temperature must be at least 2C colder than average.
For anything ‘snow-worthy’ you have to go back seven years to a 10-month long colder than average spell that began in September 2012 and coincided with probably the last winter I can remember that had more than one cold spell with snow that lasted longer than a few days. The average mean for this spell was -1.3C.
The most potent cold period occurred during the winter of 1984/85, a winter where snow lay nearly a foot deep by the end of January and where seven ice days were recorded – these days we’re lucky to record just one ice day per winter! Only just behind was the 3-month period January to March 1987.
As with previous blogs I have devised a way of ranking these cold periods, by dividing the mean with the length in months. The first nine months of 1986 achieved the highest ranking, a period that included the 5th coldest February in this area since 1797.
And in chronological order…
It is looking like the mean this November will finish below average, making it the second month in a row, something that hasn’t happened since March last year. Will December make it three in a row and a new addition to the list?