Rain today (January 16th) is the first meaningful fall since before Christmas, putting an end to the 23-day long dry spell.
This meteorological drought, rare given that it spanned Christmas and New Year Storm singularities, these having 84 and 86 per cent probabilities respectively, was the 3rd equal longest winter drought.
The only other similar droughts in a list that dates back to 1887 were 19/12/2008 – 03/01/2009 and 17/12/1972 – 02/01/1973.
The last precipitation I recorded was from a weak occlusion that followed a cold front on the evening of December 23rd.
This synoptic set-up was followed by a build in air pressure that peaked on the morning of January 3rd; 1043.8mb was the highest reading in this area for at least 10 years and is the highest pressure I have measured.
A fuller version of London droughts in all seasons can be found here.
A few years ago I devised a winter index to try to decipher how modern winters ranked against legendary seasons, such as 1947 and 1963.
With the media hyping conditions last week, which were severe in many parts of the country, it is very difficult for many to gauge just how conditions compare with previous winters.
My findings show that this winter so far stands 27th. It is possible that further snowfall that results in lying snow at 9am between now and April will boost the position higher though, given recent years, this would seem unlikely.
Last week’s cold spell, while containing some impressive statistics, is put into perspective when it is compared with other severe spells since 1960. A decent cold spell but no record breaker in the form of a 1962/63.
Perhaps it is the advent of social media, the plethora of constant updates of the latest feet-deep snowdrifts and instant tales of heroism in the face of icy adversity, that has made this cold spell seem far more severe than it actually was in the minds of many; February / March 2018 was the first truly social media-driven cold spell.
This week has the potential to see new temperature records set or matched as very cold air moves in off the continent.
Whilst amounts and location of snow are very difficult to estimate at more than 24hrs to 48hrs away there is no doubt that the incoming air is very cold indeed.
In the early hours of Wednesday one weather model is showing extremely cold air (496-504 DAM ie very low thickness) just off the coast of Scotland. In the last 60 years there have been only three occasions where air approaching this thickness (500 DAM and lower) has been recorded in the UK:
February 1st 1956: Hemsby, Norfolk
February 7th 1969 at Stornoway, Outer Hebrides January 12th 1987 at Hemsby.
With the deep cold air in place the potential for snowfall comes once the air starts to become unstable. East London, and much of the east coast, best falls come where convergence lines ‘streamers’ form.
If persistent, these ‘Christmas tree’ features are capable of producing snowfall accumulating at the rate of 5–7cm per hour in especially cold
outbreaks, albeit often very locally. The steep thermal contrast between the very cold air and the current warm anomaly in the North Sea could make any snowfall very heavy indeed.
Streamers during the cold spell of January 1987 saw 30cm fall widely with some up to 65cm in Kent and 45cm in south Essex. Parts of Cornwall saw up to 40cm.
During a cold spell in February 2009 thundersnow was recorded – the favoured spot this time being parts of Surrey which saw 30cm.
Personally the most snow I have recorded during a cold spell was in February 1991. A very deep cold pool, not unlike what is forecast this week, covered much of the south. in air approaching 500 DAM. Days and days of snow followed dumping knee-deep powder in my local park in suburban East London. Reported depths included 20cm at St James’ Park in the centre of London, and 38cm at Rettendon, Essex.
There is a very good paper on cold pools and snowfall here.
The models are showing another knife-edge situation for snow – similar to the ‘rain turning to snow’ event earlier this month. But there are a number of factors working against it this time round, at least for most of us who live between sea level and 30 metres.
The low level supply of air off the continent is much milder this time round. Hamburg and northern Germany on the 9th was some 5C colder than currently.
The air pressure, crucial to bringing that snow line down lower, is forecast to be around 10mb higher this time.
And even if we see settling the soil temps, after the recent mild spell, are still 5C – 10C down to 10cm…
There is much anticipation in meteorological circles about the possible track of a deep depression spinning up the west coast of Ireland early next week.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami, on the 12Z GM run, puts Ireland and south-west England in the firing line of Ophelia.
The timing of the depression, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm, is remarkable and I wondered if there were other similar Atlantic storms through history.
A search through Martin Rowley’s excellent weather history site revealed that in October 1886, a small-scale but intense depression tracked ENE across central Ireland during the 15th, with lowest pressure estimated ~969mb.
Gales, at least up to Storm Force 10, were reported by most ships and some coastal stations across the southern part of the British Isles, with ENE’ly gales across Scotland (north of the depression track). The low then moved slowly ESE to central-southern England (perhaps deepening a little) on the morning of the 16th, allowing N’ly gales (at least Storm 10) to affect the Hebrides.
Many trees were blown down across Ireland, the English Midlands and counties along the English Channel. Damage also occurred to standing crops, and the high winds were accompanied by heavy rain, which brought river flooding to England, Wales and Ireland, delaying the harvest, which was already compromised by the wet/windy weather. Some bridges were swept away.
Five years earlier, on October 14-15, 1881, an exceptionally severe gale (Force 9-10, locally Force 11) caused extensive damage across the British Isles & areas adjacent to the North Sea, especially along the north-east coast of England & across the eastern parts of the English Midlands.
Some 108 ships were reported missing. Inland, this gale was considered a ‘great storm’ with extensive loss of timber, especially in Scotland. One particular tragedy involved the destruction of almost the entire fishing fleet from the port of Eyemouth in Berwickshire.
The morning (14th) had been fine with near-calm wind. Some 41 vessels, mostly big deep-sea boats sailed out. In the middle of the day, the wind fell light, and then the storm struck suddenly. Nineteen of the boats were lost and 129 men failed to return to port.
Widespread heavy rain and gales across the UK have made the start of summer feel very unseasonal. But the conditions, which follow an extended period of mostly dry weather, are very typical for early June.
The ‘NW European monsoon’ is one of the most reliable ‘singularities’ on the annual weather calendar. Though it sounds very unscientific that the atmosphere can remember how it behaved on a certain date in previous years much statistical work over the past 170 years highlight tendencies for unusual weather at particular times of the year. These tendencies were first identified by the German climatologist, A.Schmauss, in 1938.
While the pattern isn’t set in stone statistics show that the probability of the euro monsoon occurring between June 1st and 21st is 77 per cent.
24hr rainfall totals
Depression across the UK
One of the most notable inclement spells of weather in June happened during the D-Day landings in 1944.
0100 June 5 1944
12 June 6 2017
With the changes in ice at the North and South Poles, together with the massive positive temperature anomalies last winter, it would be thought logical that this would have some bearing on the general pattern this year. But polar ice is only one variable to consider when trying to predict the world’s climate.
November 2016 was the sunniest in a record going back to 1881. Some 91 hours were recorded, 156 per cent above average and a complete contrast to last November which was the dullest for 47 years.
The mean temperature for the month finished 6.4C, that’s 1.5C below the 1981-2010 average ; 4C cooler than last year and the coldest November since 2010. The warmest day occurred on the 15th with 15.9C recorded. The first air frosts of autumn were recorded. The lowest temperature occurred on the 29th when the spirit fell to -6.1C.
Rainfall was 135 per cent of average with 80.1mm recorded. The wettest day was on the 19th when 23.5mm of rain fell.
The sunniest days were on the 2nd, 13th and 25th when eight hours of sunshine were recorded.
Air frosts: 4, Ground frosts: 19
What has December got in store weatherwise? The models suggest the high pressure that has been anchored over us, bringing cold nights, will pull away to the continent. This will allow an ever milder but mostly dry source of air off the Atlantic through to mid month. Days will grow milder while frost and fog will feature less at night.
Beyond the grasp of the models my long range outlook method suggests an coldmonth is most likely at 43 per cent probability. Average comes in at 29 per cent probability while rather mild and rather cold are both 14 per cent probabilities.
Rainfall looks finely balanced. Wetter and dryer than average both come in at 43% probability while average is 14 per cent. Given the influence of high pressure at the beginning of the month I’m inclined to think it will be a drier than average month.
So, to sum up, we’re looking at a mean of 4.4C, rainfall: 55mm, sunshine: 39hrs.
My forecast last month was good: predicted mean 6.8C (result 6.4C). Rainfall: 55mm (result 80mm). Sunshine was way off, however – predicted total: 41hrs (result 91hrs)
I have also published a winter forecast covering the London area that you can find here.
1st: Cloudy and mild all day. Patchy drizzle at times.
2nd: Sunny, cold start after first ground frost of the autumn.
3rd: Sunny, cold start with cirrostratus and cumulus drifting around. Cloud thickened through the afternoon with some light rain around 9pm.
4th: Cloudy, dull start up to 11am. Rain pushed in and lasted for much of afternoon, clearing in evening.
5th: Cloudy, cold and damp start. Some brightness though with a cold wind.
6th: Sunny, cold start, tending to cloud in. Rain after 3pm. Feeling cold but too windy for a frost overnight.
7th: Sunny, cold and very breezy to start, the cloud tending to fill in through the day. Clearer overnight though too much cloud and occasional air prevented an air frost.
8th: Sunny and cold start. Cloud thickened during the day to bring rain after dark at 8pm that then fell through the night – the biggest fall since Brexit day.
9th: Light rain slowly clearing to cloud.
1oth: Cloudy start with light rain showers around 10.30am then cloudy. Some sunny intervals in the afternoon. Milder.
11th: Bright start with cloud decreasing through the morning to leave a pleasant and clear afternoon.
12th: Miserable and rainy to start, this lasting past 11.15am. Drizzle thereafter into 6pm.
13th: Sunny start though cloud tended to fill in through the day. Damp overnight with patchy drizzle.
14th: Cloudy and damp start with some breeze. Brief brightness at noon but patchy drizzle moved in around 4pm.
15th: Cloudy and miserable though very mild.
16th: Sunny start and very mild though cloud tended to fill in during the day making the sunshine milky.
17th: Bright, breezy start, the breeze increasing until a squall blew through at 2.40pm then sunny spells.
18th: Bright start with milky sunshine then tending to cloud over. Feeling cold.
19th: Bright sunshine though cold to start. Patchy altocumulus developed through the day, leaving it to become bright, the strength of the sun diminishing. Rain started around 6pm and fell through night with varying intensity.
20th: Dull and cloudy start with rain returning at 10am. Cloudy afternoon with rain returning late evening and through the night, some heavier bursts.
21st: Cloudy with showers past noon. Heavier showers moved in mid afternoon and fell into the evening.
22nd: Cloudy with a few very light showers around. Breezy.
23rd: Cloudy and breezy. Feeling mild.
24th: Cloudy and mostly dull with brief brightness at noon.
25th: Sunny with just a few cumulus around.
26th: Sunny start but low cloud blotted out the sun around midday then cloudy and cool.
27th: Cloudy and mild.
28th Sunny all day with just a few cumulus floating around.
29th: Sunny all day with frost persisting on grass in shade.
30th: Sunny and very frosty start. Frost persisting on the grass all day with a very cold start to the night. A veil of cloud crossed the region late evening, lifting the temperature above freezing, before clearing before dawn
Summer 2016 turned out to be a very decent season overall, the mean temperature of 18.7C (1.1C above average) made it the sixth warmest summer since 1797.
While it wasn’t quite up there with the hot summers of 1976 and 2003 it still produced some notable records. The stormy beginning to June effectively ended with the Brexit vote, a period of 24 hours that coincided with the highest daily rainfall this area has seen since at least 1959.
The multi-cell thunderstorm in the early hours of June 23rd produced 60.8mm of rainfall, nearly half of the month’s total which became the third wettest June in a record going back to 1797. The high rainfall was in complete contrast to July and August and helped skew the overall figure: 168.6mm is 114 per cent over average summer rainfall.
With so much rainfall overall sunshine was affected with only 451 hours recorded, just 80 per cent of what can be expected in an average summer.
July produced another record, this time the highest overnight minimum recorded since 1959. The minimum of 21.1C was recorded during the early hours of the 20th – coming hours after the hottest day of the year: 33.5C – the 14th hottest day on record.
The warm and very dry theme continued into the final month of summer with the warmest August for 12 years, the 10th warmest and 12th driest since 1797.
My summer forecast, when the monthly probabilities are considered, was broadly correct though I didn’t estimate correctly just how warm it would be.
Though there were no records broken August 2016 goes down as a mighty fine summer month, the warmest for 12 years. The mean of 19.5C was 1.3C warmer than average and only 0.1C cooler than 2004.
The month ended a three-year run of poor or so-so Augusts: in terms of mean temperature the month was the 10th warmest in a local series going back to 1797.
It was another very dry month: just 11.9mm fell, 24 per cent of average, the driest August since 2003 and the 12th driest in the local record.
The month only falls down in terms of impressiveness when sunshine hours are considered. Some 192 hours were recorded, the 59th sunniest since 1797 – 1995 had 80hrs more sun.
Air frosts: 0, Ground frosts: 0
So what has September got in store weatherwise? The models on the 1st suggest the month will start mixed, though any precipitation will be below average. Temperatures remaining on the warm side.
Beyond the grasp of the models my long range outlook method is again hampered by a very dry August. However, the data I do have suggests an average month at 100 per cent probability.
A wetter than average month looks most likely at 75% probability.
The rainfall probability makes me wonder whether we are in for a very unsettled second half of September, the Atlantic cranking into life with the remnants of tropical storms and hurricanes having an ever-increasing influence as the month progresses.
So to sum up: mean 15.3C (average), rainfall 162mm (300%), sunshine 140 hours (100%).
My August outlook for temperature was good. I predicted a mean of 19C (outcome: 19.5C). It was drier than I thought: 30.3mm (outcome: 11.9mm). Sunshine was poor: 239 hours (outcome: 192 hours).
1st: Cloudy start to 1pm. Rain started at 5pm through to 10pm. A brief interlude before more light to moderate rain through the night 4.30am, then drizzle
2nd: Damp, miserable start – the rain became light to moderate in the early afternoon before drying up – very high dew points through the day.
3rd: Bright and breezy with variable cloud.
4th: Bright start with variable cloud and sunny spells.
5th: Good sunny spells all day – perfect summer’s day, not too much humidity – though an isolated shower passed over at 8pm.
6th: Sunny, clear start. Lots of sunny spells during the day.
7th: Bright start though very breezy. Cloud decreased through the day to leave a gorgeous late afternoon and evening.
8th: Sunny, clear start with lots of fair weather cumulus throughout the day. Cloudier spells mid afternoon.
9th: Sunny with fair weather cumulus up until noon then cloudy afternoon.
10th: Sunny with fair weather cumulus, variable throughout the day. Breezy.
11th: Cloudy start with very brief light rain, barely enough to damp ground. Some sunny intervals later and bright and warm.
12th: Sunny start with a few clouds. Turned gin clear at 11am and stayed clear all day. Feeling hot.
13th: Bright start but turning cloudier. Sunny intervals PM.
14th: Cloudy start breaking to some long sunny spells. Feeling very warm in the sun.
15th: Bright start soon turned sunny with a clearance at 1pm.
16th: Bright start though a lot of haze around. Sunnier later though still hazy.
17th: Sunny with patchy cloud to start, this clearing late morning to leave a clear if rather hazy afternoon.
18th: Sunny if a bit hazy to start, this tending to decrease to leave warm sunshine.
19th: Cloudy with rain threatening. Low cloud at Stansted. Brief rain in afternoon then cloudy.
20th: Dull and overcast at 9am. Burst of heavy rain at 10.15am clearing to sunny spells at noon 30. Rain between 7pm and 8pm and 3am and 4am.
21st: Bright start. Sunny intervals till 3pm then sunny spells.
22nd: Bright after earlier rain at 0719 then sunny spells.
23rd: Clear and sunny start with a few cirrus clouds through the day. Hot.
24th: Sunny, gin clear start. Patchy cirrus through the day. Hot.
25th: Lots of altocumulus and sunny spells but felt sultry due to high dew points.
26th: Cloudy start but gradually decreased to leave clear pm.
27th: Overcast but bright start. Brightness through the day but hazy. Some heavy storms further north.
28th: Overcast until early afternoon, 5 minute shower at 2pm then sunny intervals..
29th: Bright start then sunny spells and cirro cumulus gradually clearing to leave a sunny evening and clear night.
30th: Clear and sunny start.
31st: Bright start though cloud filling in by 3pm, clearing again at 8.30pm
On a Saturday closest to full moon in July thousands of cyclists congregate in London Fields and ride 200km through the night to Dunwich on the coast of Suffolk.
Modestly described by the organisers as a “gentle bike ride to the beach, through soft country on good roads” the hours of darkness present a huge challenge for participants.
Michael Barry, the retired Canadian professional road racing cyclist, rated the challenge 5/10, harder than the 280 mile London to Paris ride which he ranked only 2/10.
Taking place in summer you would expect long hours of moonlight to be a welcome assist for these brave souls who peddle hours through the night to reach their goal. A look at the synoptic charts and statistics of each ride, however, reveals weather that is often a long way from being summery.
Looking in detail there appears to be very little chance of the ride coinciding with a heatwave. In 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2014 riders left the capital during days where the mercury reached above 80F (26.7C) – though this represents only 17% of starts. Temperatures around 70F (21.1C) are much more common.
Over 40% of the rides have seen over 1mm of rain on the opening day, this falls to 17% on the second day – a dry end to the marathon challenge is perhaps to be expected.
Patrick Field, of the London School of Cycling, said that 2007, the wettest start day to a Dynamo, was “gloriously wet”.
Perhaps what this blog also reveals is that UK weather at full moon, even in high summer, is notoriously unpredictable. Luke Howard , the father of meteorology, tried for 50 years to
prove a link between the weather and phases of the moon, but died still mystified at the ripe old age of 91.
A movie of all synoptic charts highlights just how unsettled this time of year can be found here.
* The author is planning to take part in this year’s event to raise money for Cancer Research.
** Full stats for the weather in London during the Dunwich Dynamo back to 1992 can be found here: https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=A148835276FAFDEE!2561&authkey=!AEMmoeUZRVSq7uU&ithint=file%2cxlsx