1.It was the 2nd MILDEST winter in England and Wales since 1869, and notably
SNOWLESS . Also, one of the 9 WARMEST winters (by CET) in the series which
began in 1659. Up to 1997, rank=4 Value=6.43; Dec=8.1, Jan=6.8, Feb=4.4
(Others: 1686, 1734, 1796, 1834, 1869, 1935, 1989 and 1990.)
1. SNOW and SLEET occurred in June as far south as the London area during the
first few days of June 1975 (sleet as far south as Portsmouth). (also noted on
12th Jun 1791). The snow melted away almost immediately, except over the higher
parts of central and northern England. This is thought to be the first time
since July 1888, that snow has been reported so widely so far south in summer.
More than 10 cm of FRESH SNOW over the highlands of Scotland. SNOW (circa
2.5cm/1 inch) stops play (subsequently abandoned) at a CRICKET MATCH [
Derbyshire v. Lancashire ] at Buxton, Derbyshire on the 2nd. (some GPE, Manley)
2. New LOWEST MINIMA were set at Kew (0.6 degC/4th ... with a grass minimum of
(minus) 6 degC at this station) and Tynemouth (2.7 degC/2nd) for June.
3. A 'spectacular' CHANGE OF TYPE: Early unusually cold/northerly outbreak with
snow/frost etc., with midday TEMPERATURE on the 2nd only 2 degC (see above)
..... then on 7th, MAXIMA 22 to 27 degC. Thought to have occurred only 3 times
in the previous 100 years. Over the following week, maxima of at least 27 degC
were recorded somewhere in Britain each day. On the 9th, 28.9 degC was recorded
at Achnashellach, in the northwest Highlands of Scotland. This is possibly the
HIGHEST authenticated temperature for June in Scotland.
1. For England and Wales, it was one of the six WARMEST of the century (to that
date): with 1911, 1933, 1947, 1949 and 1959.
1975 (14th August): THE HAMPSTEAD STORM
A very localised, but exceptional heavy convective storm led to rainfall of
some 170mm in approximately 2.5 hours. It occurred during a notable heat-wave,
and is thought to be the highest intensity of rainfall in 100 years. One person
was drowned and cars floated along roads. Studies after this storm led to
greater understanding of what have become to be known as 'super-cell' (or
1. A notably DRY year across England and Wales (using the EWP series).
1. For England and Wales (EWR), it was one of the six DRIEST winters in the
previous 100 years, and the third consecutive season with less rain than usual:
summer and autumn 1975 were also dry. Winter 1975/76 had only 61% of average
rainfall over England and Wales.
1975/1976 (May to April):
1. For the EWR series (since 1727), the 12 month period May 75 to Apr 76 was
(at the time) the DRIEST in the series. ..... and then of course we went into
the drought of '76!
1975/1976 (two-year drought):
1. The famous DROUGHT of 1975/76 was memorable for its severity over most of
the British Isles, and also for its exceptional persistence. It produced the
highest values for a drought index for south-east England in three hundred
years. Not since 1749/50 had a period from one summer to the following spring
been so dry in southern Britain. At Oxford, every month from May 1975 to August
1976 had below average rainfall with the sole exception of September 1975. It
was the DRIEST 16-month period on record for England and Wales. The severity of
the drought was highlighted by the acute hydrological impact of an
exceptionally dry winter being sandwiched between two hot, dry summers. The
drought was most severe in south-eastern England but was felt widely across
England and Wales, and the most stringent water supply restrictions were
experienced in South Wales, where water was cut off for up to 17 hours a day to
domestic consumers. North-west England and much of western Scotland escaped the
attentions of this notable drought and were more frequently subject to the
passage of fronts associated with cyclonic systems displaced northwards by the
high pressure over southern England.
1. The GALE late on the 2nd (into the 3rd) in 1976 was one of the most severe
to affect the British Isles in the twentieth century. Wittering
(Cambridgeshire) in the east of England recorded a GUST of 91 knots at 2218 GMT
on the 2nd and many stations across the NE of England, East Anglia and the
Midlands experienced GUSTS in excess of 70 knots, with mean winds (hourly) 45
knots or more. Strong Gale or storm force was often reached with HURRICANE
force 12 reported from some places in South Wales, southwest and northern
England. Widespread damage and deaths (23 deaths noted at the time). A caravan
site near Doncaster was destroyed. Some FLOODING on the North Sea coast: 4 feet
(circa 1.2 m) of flood water in Mablethorpe and Sutton-on-Sea (Lincolnshire).
DAMAGE was noted in almost every county of England, Wales & Northern
Ireland. There were prolonged power cuts in widely separated areas. Railway
services were badly affected in the Midlands because of the collapse of
overhead power supplies. At Southend airport, a light aircraft was bodily
lifted from the tarmac and thrown onto an adjacent railway line, where it burst
into flames and blocked the railway services into London. [HS/23]
1. Less than 50% of normal RAINFALL in the south-east of England during spring:
contributing to the ensuing problems during the SUMMER DROUGHT.
1. No previous HEAT WAVE in Britain, nor any since, has ever come close to the
duration of the late June/early July 1976 HOT SPELL. From the 22nd June to 16th
July, the temperature reached 80 degF daily. Even more remarkable, from 23rd
June to 7th July, a period of 15 consecutive days, the temperature exceeded 32
degC somewhere or other in the country.
1976 (May75 - Apr76):
1. For England and Wales, the 12 month period May 1975 to April 1976 was the
DRIEST 12 month period since the series began (?EWR) in 1727.
1. It was easily the DRIEST, SUNNIEST and WARMEST summer (June/July/August) in
the 20th century (at this date, but see 1995 - which is now regarded as the
driest). Only a few places registered more than half their average summer
rainfall. In the CET record, it was the WARMEST summer in that series.
2. It was the WARMEST summer in the Aberdeen area since at least 1864.
3. It was the DRIEST summer since 1868 in Glasgow.
4. Probably the HOTTEST summer for over three centuries. CET values were (with
anomalies rel. to 1961-90 averages): Jun:17.0(+2.8), Jul:18.7(+2.6), Aug:
17.6(+1.8). In particular, for the period mid-June to mid-July, 1976, this was
one (of two, the other being in 1826), WARMEST 30-day periods in the CET
series, with a value of 19.7degC.
1. For England and Wales as a whole (EWR), it was the WETTEST such spell in the
entire record ... back to 1727. The combined EWP value for September &
October=305mm. (Since 1727, the rainfall of September 1976 is 10th wettest in
the series.) [ The wettest September + October totals since
1727 were during 1903 (310mm), 1841 (295mm) and 1960 (290mm), therefore the
total for 1976 (September+ October) at 305mm is close to a record. ]
1. A notably VERY WET autumn for all areas ( except for north and west
Scotland.) In some parts of northern England, and the extreme south, 200% of
average rainfall was recorded. [ Coming after the notably dry spring/summer of
1. One of the WETTEST Februarys across England & Wales (using the EWP
1978 (January): STORMY, SNOWY MONTH; GREAT 'NORTH OF SCOTLAND
1. Strong N'ly STORM lasting several hours overnight 11th/12th. In addition to
high WINDS, a STORM SURGE severely affected the coastline from the Wash to
North Kent. Dykes breached, coastal lowlands FLOODED. Several piers were either
badly damaged or destroyed - Margate was in the latter category: it had stood
for 150 years. The highest GUSTS noted included 74 kn at Gorleston (nr.
Yarmouth / Norfolk) and 70 kn at Kew (London). [HS/23]
2. Possibly the worst blizzard in this region for 30 years occurred over the
two days 28th/29th January, 1978. Helicopters had to be used to rescue
passengers from a trapped and derailed Inverness to Wick evening train. Many
motorists were trapped in their cars and weekend climbers were stranded in the
northern mountains. Snow also affected other parts of northern Britain, in what
was turning out to be a notably severe spell of weather - see below.
1978 (18th/19th February): BLIZZARD/HEAVY SNOWFALL OVER
1. Ranking alongside the worst snowstorms of the century, particularly that of
December 1927, this SEVERE BLIZZARD affected southwestern England, parts of the
SW Midlands and much of south and mid-Wales (lighter snowfall, or none at all
in immediately adjacent regions) and caused many people to be marooned on this
Saturday night in places of entertainment. Snow drifted well above 10 feet, and
7 lives are reported to have been lost. Winds reached STORM-FORCE at times, and
SNOWFALL was heavy and prolonged. On the 20th, as warm air encroached from the
southwest, with further sleet, snow and FREEZING RAIN in places, a THAW of the
lying snow led to local FLOODING.
1978 (9th May): LARGE DIURNAL RANGE
1. Large diurnal range: 29 C (52.2 F), from -7 C (19.4 F) to 22 C (71.6 F) at
Tummel Bridge (Tayside) on 9 May 1978. (SEE ALSO 1936/AUGUST &
1. A notably COOL/WET late spring/early mid summer. Also a lack of sunshine.
1. For England and Wales as a whole, the DRIEST autumn for at least 150 years -
as of 2002, the DRIEST autumn in the EWP series.
2. In September, the remnants of Hurricane "Flossie" merged with
another depression in the Atlantic on the 16th to PRODUCE an intense depression
with low pressure of 959 mbar to the north west of Scotland (down to 954 mbar
in the southern Norwegian Sea by 1800 GMT). Very STRONG WINDS were a feature of
the low, with 'steady' winds up to 70 knots affecting ships and exposed islands
to the north of Scotland. The MAXIMUM GUSTS from anemograph stations included
87 knots at Kirkwall (Orkney) and 84 knots at Lerwick (Shetland). However, the
strongest GUST was 104 mph/90 kt recorded at Fair Isle (between Orkney and
1. A notably WET month in many areas: more than twice the average rainfall in
Northern Ireland and the western half of Scotland and England. There was more
than three times the average rainfall in northeast England, and some four times
normal in the South Yorkshire area. Several places in eastern England and
eastern Scotland had their WETTEST December since their records began: in the
case of Tynemouth (161 mm/310%) extending back to 1864. FLOODING occurred in
parts of northern England and Northern Ireland. By the EWP series, with 173 mm
(~170% or more), it was amongst the 'top-10' WETTEST Decembers in that series.
1. COLDEST WINTER since 1962/63. In the Shetlands coldest since at least 1901.
Southampton has had its WETTEST winter since 1936/37.
2. WETTEST winter at Southampton since 1936/37.
3. Although the winter started mild & wet (see above), SEVERE COLD set in
around the end of December, 1978, and with FREQUENT SNOWFALLS, the extended
winter (i.e. to at least March) was assessed as the 'SNOWIEST' since that of
1962/63 for much of England, Wales and Northern Ireland: for Scotland since
1969/70. From an article by Stephen Burt in 'Weather': ... "1978/79 would
seem to bear comparison with other severe winters of the last 100 years"
(written in October, 1980).
1. Spring 1979 was one of the four COLDEST this century over England and Wales
[ 1962, 1941 and 1917 were colder ].
2. Second WETTEST spring of the 20th century: only 1947 wetter. March 1979 was
amongst the WETTEST so-named months across England & Wales (using the EWP
1979 (13th/14th August): THE FASTNET STORM
This poorly forecast storm approached southwestern waters just as over 300
yachts were about to approach and round the Fastnet Rock (off SW Ireland) on a
race out of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. A notably deep depression for August,
with a central pressure below 980mbar, widespread mean speeds 50-55kn and wind
gusts at least 64 kn. This strength of wind, plus the severely confused seas
(and possibly tornadic cells) led to loss of life (15 dead) with only 85 yachts
1980 (27th March): THE 'ALEXANDER KIELLAND' CATASTROPHE
1. An accommodation platform, the 'Alexander Kielland' was overturned in the
North Sea during a high wind, high seas event; however, it is not thought that
the weather alone was responsible for the collapse (with the loss of 123
lives), as the structure was designed to withstand the F9/F10 winds and 6 metre
waves. At the time, it was the greatest disaster to an oil/gas platform
1. Spring: SUNNIEST in the Glasgow area in 100 years.
1. The period of 8 weeks from the 2nd April 1980 was regarded as the DRIEST
such spell at the time, the only other previous dry spell being August to
October, 1959. This in the EWR series.
1980 (June - September):
1. Total RAINFALL for Scotland as a whole was the highest for these months
1. SNOW lay in Jersey from the 5th to 7th with 8cm at St. Helier, an event
thought to be without parallel for the time of year in the Channel Islands.
1. (Dec-Feb): was MILD, overall, almost everywhere and it was the DRIEST winter
since 1963/64 in southern Britain.
1. A notably WET March over England & Wales: in the 'top-5', perhaps the
second wettest using the EWP series.
1. SNOWFALL was heavy in many central and western areas between the 24th and
1981 (May and June):
1. DULLEST May + June together in London since before 1929.
1. WET almost everywhere, with almost twice average rainfall in some
north-western areas. Also RATHER COLD, due to a cold October.
2. On 20th October, UK second largest outbreak of TORNADOES (as at 2005); up to
29 (definite & probable).
3. On 23rd November, UK largest outbreak of TORNADOES (as at 2005); 105 in just
over 5 hours; many were short-lived and fairly weak and no deaths were
recorded. (definite & probable).
1. December 1981 was the COLDEST (and probably the SNOWIEST) since the mid
1870s in the north and since 1890 in parts of the south. The coldest by the CET
record (=0.3degC) in the 20th century & one of the COLDEST 5 or 6
such-named months in the entire record. SNOW lay for three weeks in many areas;
At Braemar, Scotland, it was the coldest month on record, with a mean
temperature of (minus) 3.4 degC, and 11 days with screen temperatures failing
to rise above (minus) 10 degC. At many places from the Midlands northwards, the
mean monthly temperature was below freezing point. HEAVY SNOWFALLS from the
7-8th (traffic dislocation in London on the 8th), and again on the 11th, HEAVY
SNOWFALL in central and southern Britain (Heathrow=30cm; Gloucester=15cm or
more) with BLIZZARDS for a time. On the 13th, further HEAVY SNOWFALL for
northern Britain (temporary mild spell in south). By the 21st, SNOW DEPTHS
reached 20 cm in parts of central and northern England and southern Scotland.
(A 'fine' White Christmas' but no snow on Christmas Day itself!).
2. At Shawbury (Shropshire) the night MINIMUM TEMPERATURE fell to -25.2degC
early on the 13th December. This a record low value for December for
1981 (Annual):EXCEPTIONAL TORNADO NUMBERS (UK)
An exceptional year for TORNADO outbreaks: total for the year 150 (84 definite
& 66 probable, mostly in two outbreaks in October & November),
according to TORRO.
1982 (9th/10th January): COLDEST NIGHT IN ENGLAND (KNOWN RECORD)
COLDEST WHOLE U.K. 20TH CENTURY
1. With a morning minimum temperature of -26.1degC, this reading from Newport,
Shropshire, represents the lowest night minimum temperature for England known.
On the same night, Braemar, Aberdeenshire in Scotland equalled the lowest
all-UK temperature of -27.2degC, previously set in 1895.
2. Periods of SNOW for many parts of the UK which were the precursor /
prerequisite for the low temperatures above. Heavy falls of snow, with SERIOUS
DRIFTING occurred over a wide area of southern and central Britain 7th/8th.
Major dislocation of road and rail traffic, with snow falling continuously for
36 to 48 hours in places. (The area of deep SNOWFALL was key to the achievement
of the very low temperatures noted above.)
1. El Chichón (southern Mexico): Three major explosions in one
week at the end of March, 1982 threw ash and gas to heights of 20 to 25km, well
into the stratosphere. Besides fine ash particles, El Chichón injected
an enormous amount of sulphur dioxide into the high atmosphere. The resultant
acid aerosol and fine ash were carried westward by high-speed stratospheric
winds, encircling the globe within a month. The injection of the gases into the
stratosphere led to a warming at those levels, and a cooling within the
troposphere, each effect lasting for a couple of years. [VOLC & 'Weather',
1. Parts of Scotland had a VERY DRY summer.
2. It was also broadly DRY across the England & Wales precipitation
(EWP/Hadley) domain during April, May & July 1982. However, June 1982 was
notably WET, with the total 129 mm placing it just inside the 'top-10' of
wettest Junes in that set (began 1766). The high rainfall was a result of
frequent and often intense THUNDERY activity, with some VERY HEAVY falls of
RAIN. For Yorkshire, the PRECIPITATION anomaly was well over 300% of
long-period average. In central and eastern England, June 1982 was probably one
of the most THUNDERY MONTHS of the 20th century. Thunder was heard on 10 to 15
days in the month in many places, and there were many reports of prolonged
& destructive STORMS. Heathrow had 6 days with thunder heard, and Bedford
11 days. [EWP &c]
1982 (Autumn & early winter):
1. Based on an analysis of data in the Lewes & Brighton area of Sussex, for
the area covering the eastern area of the Sussex Downs, an EXCEPTIONAL RAINFALL
was recorded between 20th September and 31st December. Analysis of the data
suggested that the event would only occur once in 25 years. There was a
particularly high incidence of high intensity/short duration rainfall. Using
data for Southover (just outside Lewes/East Sussex), for the months September
to December inclusive, then 571.1mm of RAIN were recorded (compared to a
long-period average of 366.9mm), and at the time, was only exceeded on three
occasions since 1931.
1983 (April & May):
1. Third WETTEST such-named pair of months in the EWP series (up to 2000 q.v.,
also see 1782) [ Followed by a fine, warm summer - but with thundery
exceptions, see below.]
1983 (June): NOTABLE THUNDERSTORMS
1. A month notable for SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS & associated phenomena: within
the space of the first week of the month, three outbreaks of SEVERE THUNDERY
activity affected large areas of central & southern England, mid, east
& north Wales. HAILSTONES caused considerable damage, especially in Dorset
on the 5th, Greater Manchester on the 7th and Merseyside & north Wales
early hours of the 8th. On the 7th alone, LARGE HAIL over Powys, Wrexham,
Cheshire (in west of county - diameter: up to 7.5 cm / presumably measured as
3"), Merseyside, Manchester, Lancashire and North Yorkshire, and lesser
diameters in addition from Shropshire. During the events of the 5th, SQUALLS
associated with these storms capsized a large number of yachts in the Solent.
Later in the month, on the 18th, a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM produced HAIL to several
centimetres depth on the ground in the Bristol area; then again, on the 22nd,
there were more SEVERE STORMS - most severe in Dorset and Devon: more storms on
the 23rd which were slow moving with light winds, and near Alresford, in
Hampshire, 103 mm of RAIN fell in 24 hr. And finally, there was a small TORNADO
near Brighton, Sussex on the afternoon of the 5th June, leading to the
observation of a crab falling, just ahead of some marble-size HAIL! The crab is
reported as being 25cm across, the shell being about 7cm in diameter. The
clouds were reported to be an 'eery green' colour. [MetO/MWS &
'Weather'/RMetS May 2011]
1983 (July): HOTTEST MONTH (20TH CENTURY) IN CENTRAL ENGLAND
The value for the CET for July, 1983 was 19.5degC, and not only is it the
warmest month of the 20th century, but at the time it was the warmest in the
entire CET series: it was beaten by July, 2006 (q.v.)
1. According to TORRO, with 32 days of WIDESPREAD THUNDER activity, this was
the year with the highest such category in their series (began in 1946).
1. Notably WET over England & Wales - well into the 'top-10' of such-named
months using the EWP series (160%).
1. Glasgow had its DRIEST spring since records began there in 1869. (see also
1. Glasgow had its DRIEST combined season since before 1869, with only 151 mm
of rain, compared to normal of 414 mm. This was part of the relatively intense
spring and summer DROUGHT, bracketed by wet winters. The primary area affected
(during the period February to August) extended from Devon and Dorset, through
much of Wales, north-west England and southern Scotland, to the Great Glen;
less than 40% occurred in some areas. For England and Wales as a whole, the
period from February to August was the second DRIEST of the century (after
1976) with 329mm/70%. In contrast to 1976 though, the southeast of England and
East Anglia were close to average.
1. WET almost everywhere.
1. Notable year for TORNADOES in the UK (by TORRO).
1. For Glasgow (indicative of the central Lowlands of Scotland), it was the
WETTEST summer of the century, and the COLDEST for more than 50 years (up to
1. One of the seven or eight DRIEST autumns in the EWR series for England and
Wales since 1727.
1. COLD & WINTRY. COLDEST November since 1925 by the CET series &
London had its COLDEST November since 1952. There was SEVERE FROST in the
southeast on the morning of the 14th: (minus) 8 degC. By the 18th, a very COLD
EASTERLY had become established in southern Britain: DAY MAXIMA near FREEZING,
and these conditions also affected the Channel Islands: unusual for November.
The 27th was a VERY COLD day, with TEMPERATURES below freezing all day in
Lincolnshire with snow. Towards the end of the month, some notably SHARP
FROSTS, e.g. (minus)12 degC at Shawbury during the night 28th/29th; and
(minus)18.5 degC at Aviemore (over snow cover) on the 29th, and (minus)20.9
degC at Kinbrace, Sutherland on the 30th - this latter value places it amongst
the COLDEST FIVE VALUES KNOWN for the month of November. During the day (of the
29th) the TEMPERATURE failed to rise above (minus) 8 degC at Glenlivet. In
contrast, the month ended with VERY MILD air spreading north during the evening
of the 30th, where the MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE was up to 14 degC in the southwest.
1986 (late January to early March):
1. A notable WINTRY SPELL, with records broken.
1986 (20th March): HIGHEST GUST .. ANY STATION IN U.K.
The Cairn Gorm automatic station, at an altitude of 1074m, recorded a gust of
150 knots (173 mph), beating its own previous record for the U.K. set in 1967.
1986 (26th April): CHERNOBYL.
The Chernobyl nuclear power station in the (former) Soviet Union, near Kiev in
the Ukraine suffered a massive explosion during the early hours of the 26th.
Radioactive particles / gas carried westward and northwestward to affect large
areas of Europe in the ensuing week. UK mainly affected in upland areas, due
heavy rain washing out the irradiated particulate matter.
1986 (25th August): EX-HURRICANE 'CHARLEY' RUINS THE AUGUST BANK
This summer BH (in England, Wales and NI) was the WETTEST on record over
England and Wales this century with falls of 25mm or more nearly everywhere, as
the re-invigorated former Hurricane "Charley" swept across the
country. The inaugural Birmingham city centre motor race ('SuperPrix') had to
be abandoned with many laps to go. In Ireland, particularly the Republic, this
was a major DISASTER. There were exceptionally large amounts of rainfall in the
south and east of the island.
1987 (January): SEVERE COLD SPELL .... 10th to
1. The 12th of January 1987 saw record LOW MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES over much of
England and Wales. At Okehampton (Devon) and Holme Moss (West Yorkshire)
TEMPERATURES did not exceed (minus) 8.5 degC. Many places experienced RECORD
LOW TEMPERATURES by day and night and it seems likely that it was one of the
coldest spells of weather in the south since January 1740. On the morning of
the 12th, (minus) 7.0 degC was recorded at St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly:
probably the lowest minimum recorded in the islands (accompanied by a 40-50
knot easterly wind).
2. On the 13th of January in 1987, there was 52cm of level SNOW at East
Malling, Kent, probably the greatest depth of level snow in the area for at
least 40 years (DRIFTS 40 feet deep noted in Kent). In January 1987, the Isles
of Scilly and west Cornwall experienced its most SEVERE WEATHER in the 20th
century, with SNOW 39cm deep at Penzance and 30cm at Falmouth on the 12th.
There was much disruption to transport/local communities.
1987 (evening 15th/morning 16th October): THE GREAT OCTOBER STORM
(AN 'ENGLISH' HURRICANE!)
After a wet period, and when trees were still in full leaf, an explosively
deepening storm moving northeastwards from the Bay of Biscay towards the
central North Sea, produced winds of well over 100 mph across the SE part of
England after midnight 16th - not out of ordinary for northern Britain, but
unprecedented in the modern record for this populated area of the U.K. 18
people died, with considerable damage to property, vehicles etc., and the loss
of 15 million mature trees. However, note carefully the restricted affected
area: roughly southeast of a line Lyme Bay to Lincolnshire, with the maximum
DISRUPTION/DAMAGE across London, Home Counties, East Anglia & Kent.
(October 1987 was the second WETTEST across England & Wales at the time,
using the EWP series: only beaten into third place by October 2000. Much
speculation that the leafy trees with roots in sodden ground added to the
1. January 1988 was the WETTEST in England and Wales (EWR) for over 40 years,
in the top-5 of wet Januarys in that series and the wettest at Hampstead
(Greater London) since records began there in 1909.
1. 9th/10th February: a major cyclonic STORM affected much of the British
Isles, on its way towards southern Norway. Much DAMAGE to buildings and
destruction to standing timber, with at least a dozen people KILLED for a
variety of reasons across Ireland & Britain. Strongest GUSTS in more
exposed western locations were around 90 kn. [HS/23]
1. A WET summer almost everywhere: the exception being the far SE of England,
where Kent had some 50% or less of normal rainfall.
1988-1989 (late summer 1988 to autumn 1989):
1. After the wet weather (above), another of those dramatic 'switches' in type
brought an extended period of low RAINFALL to at least the English lowlands. In
a listing produced by the Met Office (starts 1910), the period August 1988 to
November 1989 ranks within the top dozen DROUGHTS of significance.
['Weather'/RMetSoc, April 2013]
1. 6 inches of SNOW in parts of Kent on the 20th. SUBSTANTIAL SNOW across a
broad belt from central Scotland to Kent, generally to a depth of 2 inches or
so, although a foot of snow lay for a time over the hilly interior of the Isle
of Man. Further snow fell over the next 2 days in Kent, bringing the depth over
the Downs south of Canterbury to 6 inches, and Dover was cut off from the rest
of the county for a time.
1. Third WARMEST in the GLOBAL record.
1. Was EXCEPTIONALLY MILD, VERY DRY and quite sunny, but north west Britain was
wet. In central England (CET), it was the THIRD WARMEST winter since that
record began in 1659.
2. One of the 9 WARMEST winters (by CET) in the series which began in 1659. Up
to 1997, rank=3 Value=6.50; Dec=7.5, Jan=6.1, Feb=5.9 (Others: 1686, 1734,
1796, 1834, 1869, 1935, 1975 and 1990.)
1988/1992 (Four years):
1. An exceptionally PERSISTENT DROUGHT (England & Wales). Regarded as
lasting from November 1988 to August 1992, a period of 46 months, perhaps one
of the longest such DRY periods in the instrumental era. Punctuated by
short-lived but often abrupt phases of wet weather. The winter of 1991/92
provided only one-third of the normal recharge volumes.
2. In contrast, for Scotland, these years were notably WET.
1989 (13th February): HIGHEST RECORDED GUST BRITISH ISLES (LOW
The Kinnaird Lighthouse recorded a gust of 123 knots (141 mph) at 2030UTC on
this date, beating the previous record of 118 knots at Kirkwall, Orkney on 7th
February 1969. (N.B. some sources have this as the 'Fraserburgh lighthouse' and
the value of the GUST as 126 knots; I'll get around to sorting it out
1. Central London probably had its driest May since systematic RAINFALL
recording began in the London area about 300 years ago (some doubt though about
the series used for this statement); Over England and Wales as a whole (EWR) it
was the DRIEST May since 1896 (EWR=20.7mm) and was the second driest May in the
20th century (driest=1991). Many places in the south and east had less than
10mm of rain. Worthing (Sussex) had its driest May since records started there
in 1902, with some locations having less than 1mm of rain! At Rothamsted
(Hertfordshire) the total of 4.2mm was easily the DRIEST May on record in its
148yr record (at that time), beating the 11.5mm set in 1896. On Jersey (Maison
St. Louis), the monthly total of 3.6mm represented less than 7% of the average,
and was only beaten by the 1895 value.
2. By contrast, on the 19th May, 1989, the 'HALIFAX STORM'
resulted in a record 2-HOUR POINT RAINFALL of 193 mm at Walshaw Dean Lodge in
3. Most places south of a line from south Devon to north Norfolk measured in
excess of 300 hours of SUNSHINE during the month, and averaged over England and
Wales it was the SUNNIEST May since records began over 100 years ago. SUNSHINE
totals exceeded 340 hours in parts of southern England.
4. In the London area, the MEAN (monthly) MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE was the highest
in May since May, 1848. On Jersey, the mean monthly MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE
(20.0degC) was easily the highest in a record that started in 1894. The
TEMPERATURE reached or exceeded 20degC somewhere in Britain on every day except
10th to 14th, and 30th and 31st. 25degC was exceeded on 8 days including six
consecutive days 20th to the 25th.
1. SUNNIEST year in central London in a record which began in 1929. 1915hr
recorded (against 1762hr in 1976.)
2. Over a large part of the United Kingdom, one of the WARMEST & SUNNIEST
in the modern (reliable) record. [ see also 1959, 1995 & 2003 ] (GPE/R Met
3. For western Scotland, an EXCEPTIONALLY WET year. (see also 1990)
1. TEMPERATURE anomalies exceeded +2.5 degC in much of southern and eastern
England, where it was locally warmer than the winter 1988/89.
2. One of the 10 WARMEST winters (by CET) in the series which began in 1659.
Value = 6.23; Dec = 4.9, Jan = 6.5,
Feb = 7.3 (Others: 1686, 1734, 1796, 1834, 1869, 1935, 1975, 1989
& 1998.) (NB: this very WARM winter followed the previous very warm winter:
unprecedented in the CET series.) [ For Europe as a whole,
according to the University of Berne, this winter was the WARMEST in a series
beginning 1500 - combining proxy and instrumental records. (RMetS)]
3. For the EWP series, one of the two or three WETTEST winters on record, but
followed by spring 1990 which was the driest since 1893.
1990 (25th January): THE 'BURNS DAY STORM'
Widespread severe gales over England and Wales with gusts well over 90 mph in
exposed southern and western coastal districts, and isolated gusts over 105
mph. Even inland across southern and central Britain, winds reached 80 mph in
gusts. Over 40 people dead, with considerable structural damage (estimated over
£2 billion), with further trees down (after Oct.87) and the area affected
was much greater than the aforesaid 'October Storm'.
1990 (mid-late Winter):
1. CET values (and anomalies rel. to 1961-90 average) Jan:6.5(+2.7),
Feb:7.3(+3.5), Mar: 8.3(+2.6). REMARKABLY WARM early year leading to a NOTABLY
WARM YEAR overall, (and eventually DRY overall for many lowland areas - but the
winter 1989/90 was WET - see above).
2. January & February together: by the CET series were the WARMEST such
pair in the entire record to that date.
3. February 1990 was notably WET across England & Wales: in the 'top-5' of
wet Februarys in the EWP series.
1990-92 (three-year period):
1. One of two notable DROUGHT periods in the England & Wales composite area
at the end of the 20th century (see also 1995-97). For the 28 month period
March 1990 to June 1992, the EWP total=1715 mm, representing around 80% of the
long-term average. Part of a longer event that affected many parts of the UK.
This was a major DROUGHT. Widespread and protracted rainfall deficiencies -
reflected in exceptionally low groundwater levels (in summer 1992, overall
groundwater resources for England and Wales probably at their lowest for at
least 90 years). Intense phase in the summer of 1990 in southern and eastern
England. Exceptionally low winter flows in 1991/1992. [For the 'English
lowlands', in a series produced by the UK MetO, the period March 1990 to
February 1992 is ranked as the third most intense DROUGHT in a dataset from
1. Over England and Wales, the WARMEST since 1945, the DRIEST since 1893, and
the SUNNIEST on record.
1990 (March to September):
1. Probably the DRIEST such period (at the time) for the EWR rainfall series
since it was drawn up in 1727.
1990 (March to November):
1. RAINFALL in the EWR series over these 9 months was less than any
March/November period since records began in 1727, with the exception of 1921.
1990 (3rd August): HOTTEST DAY OF THE 20th CENTURY
37.1 degC was recorded at Cheltenham on this date, beating the previous highest
(accepted) of 36.7 degC set in 1911 (Raunds & Canterbury, 9th August). (see
1. A low formed dramatically over central England on the 7th, large quantities
of RAIN, turning in many places to SNOW, fell on its western and northern
flanks. On the 7th and 8th very HEAVY SNOW fell over northern England, Wales,
the Midlands and south west England, with heavy drifting in GALE FORCE WINDS,
causing considerable disruption to traffic and cutting power lines. The snow
did not freeze, however, but melted very rapidly during the next few days, as
the temperature rose a little. By late on the 8th, many parts of the Midlands
had 20 cm or more of LYING SNOW, Acocks Green, Birmingham reported 42.5 cm on
the 8th. The Peak District had 38 cm at Middleton and 25 cm at Winksworth,
while in Newcastle under Lyme 28 cm was recorded, and many other places had
more than 20 cm. DRIFTS up to 60 cm on motorways in the Derby area, and at
Carlton in Coverdale, near Leyburn, a report of 240 cm. SNOWFALL on the 9th in
the Dorchester (Dorset) area in 1990 was the heaviest pre-Christmas fall in
that area since 9 December 1967.
2. A notable outbreak of TORNADOES on Christmas Day, when a number of tornadoes
were reported between Devon and Lincolnshire. On the Severn Bridge (the only
one extant at that time), a GUST of 92 kt was recorded on the 25th. On the 29th
in 1990 a WHIRLWIND caused extensive damage to houses in South Wales.
1990 (Annual): EXCEPTIONALLY WARM YEAR FOR UK
1. For the UK, using the CET, this was at the time the WARMEST year in that
record [ just beating 1949 ], but has now been beaten by 2006 (q.v.). The
value=10.63 degC, with only 1999 subsequently equalling this value and 2006
exceeding it: the HOTTEST / SUNNIEST (in combination) since reliable
records started --- but see also 1995 for SUNSHINE ... which was by far better
for this parameter than 1990.
2. To point up the fact that not everywhere shares the 'EWP' dataset, for some
parts of western Scotland, it was the second successive EXCEPTIONALLY WET year.
3. Several south coast resorts recorded 2200hr of BRIGHT SUNSHINE (or higher);
this figure has never been approached on the British mainland. In particular,
Bognor Regis (Sussex) recorded 2241 hr, apparently a record for England and the
UK (but not for the British Isles: see 1959/GPE).
1. In February 1991 the TEMPERATURE over a wide area did not rise above
freezing between the 5th and 10th; the lowest temperature reached during the
month was (minus) 16.0 degC at Cawood (N. Yorkshire) on the 14th. Temperatures
failed to exceed freezing point in a few parts of central northern England on
the 3rd, and, as cold air intensified, there was always some part of England
and Wales where day maximum temperatures remained below freezing point every
day from the 3rd to the 14th inclusive. Over much of the south-east of England,
temperatures only achieved a maximum between (minus) 5 and (minus) 6 degC on
the 7th, believed to be the COLDEST FEBRUARY DAY of the century in some places
(e.g. at Whipsnade, Bedfordshire, and Brighton, Sussex, the MAXIMUM on the 7th
was (minus) 5.2degC.) On the 8th, the MAXIMUM at Princeton, on Dartmoor was
just (minus) 6C. The MINIMUM TEMPERATURE at Guernsey airport (CI) on the 7th
was (minus) 7.2 degC, the equal low for February at this location.
> Minima below (minus) 10 degC were reported each morning from at least one
place in widely differing parts of the UK from the 7th to 14th inclusive.
2. SNOW fell extensively and often heavily between the 7th and 9th, leaving a
covering exceeding 10 cm over large areas of England, Wales and eastern and
southern Scotland, with 51 cm of level snow observed at Bingley, near Bradford,
Yorkshire at 09z on the 9th. (Possibly the greatest snow-depth for
central London since the start of the 'Big Freeze' snowfall in December,
1962.) There were many injuries from falls on ice and sledging accidents, and a
woman in Dartford received severe head injuries from falling icicles. In
central London, some places had somewhere around 15cm of SNOW - thought to have
been the greatest depth since the infamous snowfalls of December, 1962. (This
was the infamous "wrong type of snow" for British Rail; dry &
powdery and driven by winds with low dew-points into delicate parts of the
running machinery and points etc.)
1. May 1991 was the DRIEST May over England and Wales (EWP) since 1896, and the
third driest May in the that series: the value was 13.7 mm representing roughly
22% of the all-series mean across this domain. Further north, Glasgow probably
had its DRIEST May since 1868. Less than 10% of average rainfall fell across
the southwest peninsula - only 1 mm of RAIN in southwest Cornwall. What was of
especial interest was that this was the third notably DRY May in a row. (EWP)
1. On June 15th, the Mount Pinatubo (Philippines) volcanic eruption
lasted for around 9 hours, and in addition to the death and destruction in the
immediate area of the volcano, the eruption pushed huge quantities of Sulphur
Dioxide into the stratosphere, resulting in significant atmospheric temperature
changes. It is estimated that the stratospheric aerosol encircled the globe
within 22 days, due to the strong winds found at these levels. Direct solar
radiation receipt at the earth's surface was significantly reduced, leading to
an estimated drop in global mean tropospheric temperature by ~0.5C around a
year after the eruption: due to higher absorption of radiation in the high
atmosphere, global stratospheric temperatures increased by ~2C during
the following 12-24 months. However, it should be noted that the
regional scale response in the troposphere to such events is complex:
for example, TEMPERATURE anomalies for the winter 1991/1992 following this
event show a WARMING of 3degC in north-west Europe [but this isn't reflected in
the CET anomaly]. (see'Weather' August, 2008/RMetS)
1. One of the WARMEST years in the GLOBAL record.
1. The winter was the DRIEST for 28 years over England and Wales as a whole
(EWR), but locally in southern England, where seasonal totals were around 30%
of normal, there has probably been none drier since 1744.
1. This was the WARMEST May of the 20th century over much of Britain, &
into the 'top-5' warmest Mays in the entire CET record (the others were from
the 18th and 19th century, so some doubt). On the 14th, Edinburgh (Turnhouse)
airport recorded a MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE of 28.9 degC, equalling Scotland's all
time May record. Other notable maxima recorded were: 29.5/Worcester/20th;
23.4/Tiree/28th; 24.3/Benbecula/30th; 23.0/Stornoway/30th; 20.7/Lerwick/30th:
The values for Lerwick, Stornoway, Benbecula and Tiree were all new STATION
RECORDS for May. London (Heathrow) airport recorded eight consecutive days of
above 25 degC, an unprecedented sequence so early in the 'summer'.
1. A COLD month: using the CET series (for central England), the value of
7.8degC placed it equal 4th coldest of the 20th century, but well outside the
'top-10' of cold Octobers. In Scotland, it was the coldest October since 1926,
and for Northern Ireland, the coldest since 1896. Unusually high frequency of
1. On the 10th, an Atlantic depression (new deepest for this area: see below)
moved to the NW of Scotland. In the wake of this low, a cold, unstable
northwesterly flow brought WINTRY conditions to Northern Ireland and Scotland,
with HEAVY WET SNOW conspiring to cause widespread disruption to transport and
power supply over the following few days; BLIZZARD conditions were reported
across northern hilly districts, with considerable THUNDER activity. Aviemore
recorded 51 cm of level snow at midday on the 14th. The combination of SNOW,
HEAVY RAIN on top of the melting snow, and SEVERE WINDS, led to several days of
distress to people of central Scotland around mid month.
2. On the morning of the 5th January, 1993, the oil tanker "Braer",
en-route from Norway to Canada, lost engine power as she was passing to the
south of Sumburgh, Shetland in a south-westerly STORM (noted as Bft 10 to 11).
The HIGH WINDS and equally HIGH SEAS meant that attempts by a tug to secure the
vessel came to naught, and she foundered late morning on the peninsula. Then,
five days later, on the 10th, yet another Atlantic depression [it was a notably
unsettled spell] deepened below 916 mbar (S Burt** says: ' about 912 mbar ')
north-west of Scotland: a new low RECORD MSLP for Northern Hemisphere temperate
latitudes. The cyclone deepened by 78 mbar in 24 hours 9th / 10th January; the
'most explosively deepening extratropical cyclone on record'
['Weather'/RMetSoc, April 2013]. The storm pounded the by now well-grounded
vessel with GUSTS close to or a little above 100 kn and a major oil spill was
the result. With the association of this major low with the oil spill, this
particular depression is known as "The Braer Storm". [** I
have seen 912 or 913mbar mentioned as the absolute lowest PRESSURE, but
remember that these values are estimated from analysed charts, balancing for
reported wind speeds etc.]
3. It was a generally STORMY month, especially over the northern part of
Britain, but even in the south, damaging GALES hit on the 13th, 23rd and 24th.
At Kirkwall, Orkney on the 17th, GUSTS exceeded 90 knots, when Scotland had a
particularly wild day.
1. The COLDEST autumn (September, October & November) since 1952. The CET
anomaly was (minus) 1.7degC on the 1961-90 average; [ c.f. (minus) 2.3degC for
the 1952 event. ]
> October 1993 was a very WET month over much of eastern and southern
Britain, with the wettest weather occurring in the first half of the month -
particularly in the southeastern part of England. The WET spell culminated in
three days of heavy rain between the 11th and the 13th with serious FLOODING in
south-east England, East Anglia, Lincolnshire and parts of the east Midlands.
Parts of East Anglia recorded over 100mm during this period. In spite of the
very dry second half, monthly RAINFALL exceeded 200% of average from Dorset to
the Moray Firth, and 300% on the Suffolk coast. SNOW showers occurred in north
Scotland from the 13th to the 16th, and early on the latter date (16th),
Aberdeen airport (Dyce) reported a snow cover of 4cm - the first in mid-October
since 1973. This is a good example where the England and Wales Precipitation
series doesn't fully reflect the high rainfall of this month: in that series,
October 1993 comes out with only just above average precipitation. (EWP / see
also entry immediately below ...)
> November 1993: From the 20th to 22nd an unstable easterly flow brought
unusually COLD WEATHER with snow showers which were heavy in the east. Some 5
to 10cm of SNOW accumulated in east coast counties from Kent northwards, with
19-20cm in the Aberdeen and Royal Deeside area. FROST was severe at night while
daytime maxima remained near or below freezing in places as far apart as Devon
and Wester Ross. As the gradient slackened after the 22nd, FREEZING FOG formed
widely, and the TEMPERATURE fell to (minus)14.8 degC at both Braemar and
Grantown on Spey early on the 24th, and Braemar's afternoon high on the 24th
was (minus)8 degC.
1. The England & Wales Precipitation (EWP) series doesn't do justice to the
excessively WET conditions suffered by many parts of southern Britain over
these seasons, but even so, it does demonstrate an excess of RAINFALL: for the
months of September 1993 to March 1994 inclusive, the overall %age on the
all-series mean was 130%. However, looking at the Hurn (Dorset) record reveals
the true picture. Here, the total RAINFALL from September 1993 to February 1994
was 815 mm, representing over 170% of the long-term average. Further west, at
Dorchester (Dorset), the 'standard' winter (December, January & February)
was said to be the wettest for 100 years. The total quoted is 504 mm over these
three months. It is no surprise that FLOODING was a feature of the winter &
early spring (1993-1994) across many southern counties of England. (EWP, DWxB)
1. A COLD SPELL from the 11th to the 22nd was only 'unusual' in that it
reminded people that the UK climate may be changing but not that much! On the
11th, SE winds heralded a steady drop in temperature and light snow flurries
occurred widely on the 13th. The 14th was EXCEPTIONALLY COLD (compared to
recent winters), with sub zero temperatures all day over a large area ( minus
3.5 degC max at Dunkeswell/upland east Devon; minus 1.5 degC at St. Albans),
substantial wind chill, and further widespread, though light snow. Overnight,
and during the 15th, heavier SNOW spread northwards, depositing some 4 to 10cm
[ 8cm at morning reading on 15th, with up to 9.5cm over grass for a time during
the snowfall at St. Albans ], followed by fog and a slow thaw in the south, but
further snow fell over northern England on the 16th. Between the 16th and the
19th it was less cold in the south, but SEVERE FROSTS and freezing fog affected
Scotland and northern England, and Strathallan School (near Perth) recorded a
maximum TEMPERATURE of just minus 2.7 degC on the 16th, followed by a minimum
of minus 13.8 degC the following night. Very cold east European air returned by
the 20th, and widespread moderate SNOWFALLS followed, with Fylingdales on the
North York Moors recording 22cm of undrifted snow. Milder air reached southern
counties later on the 22nd bringing prolonged rain and much fog, but there was
further snow over the next few days from the Midlands northwards.
1. Summer: DRIEST at Heathrow since 1976.
2. ONE OF THE SIX BEST SPRING+SUMMER PERIODS SINCE 1953.
3. One of the WARMEST years in the GLOBAL record.
1. Exceptionally MILD across the UK. The temperature reached or exceeded 15degC
on several days during the period: 2nd to the 12th, and the 3rd was
particularly warm with 19.1 degC at London Weather Centre, the highest November
temperature in Britain for five years, and the highest in the London area for
10 years. The night of the 13th/14th was the warmest in November since 1947
with minima of 14 or 15 degC.
> The CET of 10.1 degC was 0.6 degC above the previous November record set
in 1818 and represents an anomaly of +3.6 degC on the 1961-1990 average. This
is (up to 2009) the WARMEST NOVEMBER by CET in the record.
1. Winter 94_95: Another (after the previous year) VERY MILD and VERY WET
overwinter (Nov to Feb). Exceptionally WARM, certainly when compared with the
records since the mid 1960s with good amounts of SUNSHINE. Looking at mean
minima temperatures for Dec to Feb, THIRD MILDEST winter this (20th) century.
2. WETTEST winter since 1869 taking Britain as a whole. Using the England &
Wales series, the total represented circa 160% of the 1961-90 average, and at
the time, made it the 4th wettest winter in the EWP series.
> January 1995 was in the 'top-5' WETTEST Januarys in the EWP series. Very
WET across many areas of central and southern England and south Wales. Heathrow
airport/west of London had 224% of normal (January) rainfall highest percentage
rainfall in UK, and it was the wettest January that site since records began
1946, and in the London area since 1943.
1. 30 month PRECIPITATION totals up to September 1997 were the LOWEST on record
in England and Wales, with estimated return periods exceeding 200 years in many
> One of two notable DROUGHT periods in the England & Wales composite
area at the end of the 20th century (see entries elsewhere for 1990-92). For
the 31 month period March 1995 to September 1997, the EWP total=1899 mm,
representing 82% of the 1961-90 average. (Some sources consider that this
drought, indeed the whole spell of 'dry' periods did not properly end until the
exceptionally wet April of 1998.
> In a listing [starts 1910] of notable DROUGHTS across the 'English
lowlands', the period April 1995 to April 1997 (25 months, 1004 mm, deficit 422
mm) is ranked number 1 in the dataset. [Kendon et.al., 'Weather'/RMetSoc, April
1995 (Summer): A 'CLASSIC' BRITISH SUMMER - NOT OFTEN
1. Summer: HOT, DRY and notably SUNNY. Some discussion as to whether it beat
1976(*), though in the southeast I think 1976 remains unbeaten. Notable August:
record breaking in all respects. (*)=Now confirmed that it was the DRIEST
summer in the EWR record (since 1767) i.e. just beating 1976, and taking July
& August together, for this combined period, it was the WARMEST in the CET
series. Also, for Britain as a whole (i.e. including Scotland), it was the
DRIEST June to August period.
> In the five month period April to August 1995 the RAINFALL total for
England and Wales (EWR) was the lowest for 200 years. For Scotland only, it was
the second driest summer on record.
1995 (December): GREATEST DIURNAL RANGE IN TEMPERATURE?
1. Altnaharra (Highland / Sutherland) had a daily TEMPERATURE RANGE of 29.3degC
on the 30th December, 1995 (according to Burt in 'Weather'), an 'unprecedented
daily range), when it equalled the record UK minimum temperature of -27.2degC
on the morning of the 30th.
1. This year was one of the WARMEST in the GLOBAL surface temperature series,
with an anomaly of +0.47 degC. Using the CET record, with a value of 10.5degC,
this year was in the 'top-10' of warmest years in that long series representing
the 'English lowlands'.
2. For the UK as a whole, a notably SUNNY year (amongst the "top-5",
with 1989 & 2003), with many stations breaking records for the highest
sunshine totals for individual months, and also for annual totals ... beating
by a wide margin the values of 1990 in central and northern areas. In March,
Elmdon (165h) and Heathrow (195h) exceeded the previous records for that month;
In June, Abbotsinch (280h) achieved the same distinction, and August was a
notably SUNNY month, with Elmdon (283h), Ringway (284h), Abbotsinch (254h),
Rhoose (325h) and Heathrow (295h) exceeding maximum values for the month. For
the year, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham had highest totals for at least 30
years (and perhaps longer), with London and Cardiff coming close to the 1990
values, which was probably the sunniest in the south in all time.
1. On the 5th, heavy SNOW spread to much of Scotland, Wales, and south-west
England, extending to most of northern England and the Midlands the following
morning, and SEVERE DRIFTING occurred in the strong southerly wind. Worst hit
were Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria with over 50cm at Eskdalemuir, while a
fall of 35cm at Boltshope Park on the Durham flank of the Pennines took the
aggregate snow depth there to 70cm. Motorists were stranded for over 24hr on
the M74, with thousands trapped in homes, offices etc.
2. The 7th brought HEAVY SNOW to the West Country moors, with a SEVERE GALE for
a time in Cornwall and Devon.
3. On the 18th, a vigorous depression tracked south eastwards from Scotland to
north Germany, and a very strong northerly airflow swept across the country in
its wake. It became very cold, with snow showers over the next four days, with
a period of HEAVIER DRIFTING SNOW across eastern, central and southern England
1996 (May): TEN-TORS ABANDONED
1. An unusually COLD month with noted enhanced wind chill. By the CET value
(9.1 degC), it was the second COLDEST May of the 20th century, and only just
outside the 'top-10' of coldest Mays in the entire series. Mean temperature was
below normal throughout the British Isles; by 2 to 3 degC locally in
eastern-England. Notably low day maxima included 7 degC at Manston (Kent) on
the 3rd, 6 degC at Dunkeswell (Devon) on the 17th and 7 degC at Bournemouth on
> On the 16th, a VERY COLD end to the day in the south-east; TEMPERATURES
just about reached 5degC and SNOW was reported on the Surrey downs.
>On the 19th, a small but INTENSE DEPRESSION tracked northwards across
south-west England and Wales, bringing further HEAVY RAIN with SNOW over the
West Country moors and the Welsh hills, and very strong GUSTY WINDS; the
Ten-Tors adventure training competition for young people held annually on
Dartmoor had to be abandoned, with military helicopters used to rescue some of
those taking part.
1. THUNDERSTORMS developed widely on the 7th, and HAIL fell unusually widely
during the evening; BALL LIGHTNING was reported from Tewkesbury
(Gloucestershire). From a 'Journal of Meteorology' article, 73.9mm of RAIN fell
during the evening of the 7th at Kitford Gardens, near Lockinge on the
Oxfordshire/Berkshire border*. TORRO report that this was the most WIDESPREAD
occurrence of 'giant hail' in a single outbreak since 1983 (also on 7th June.)
[giant hail>=30mm diameter.] LARGE HAIL over: Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire,
Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. Lesser diameter hail
from: Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Norfolk. The combination of HAIL/LIGHTNING and
localised INTENSE RAINFALL caused severe (but irregular) DAMAGE to buildings
and crops, together with loss of power supplies etc. The rainfall totals
exceeding 30mm occurred in a narrow swathe from just inland of Weymouth,
Dorset, NNE'wards across Wiltshire - through west Berkshire and culminating in
the heaviest rainfall (~ 74mm) over south Oxfordshire - near Wantage. (* based
on radar analysis, which showed rainfall rates of 72mm in 2hr, this would
equate to a 'VERY RARE' event. This is judged to have occurred just southeast
2. A HOT spell arrived suddenly (after decidedly indifferent/late spring
weather) around the 4th: The 5th was a HOT day with TEMPERATURES up to 29degC
in the London area, and heat spread over the next couple of days to large areas
of SE England & E. Anglia. On the 7th (see above) MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES
exceeded 31 degC in Kent, East Anglia and London, with a maximum of 33.1 degC
at St. James' Park, Westminster, which was a NEW DAILY RECORD for that day.
1. On the 3rd, SNOW was particularly bad in the Scottish/English border
country, upwards of 25 cm deep, with SEVERE DRIFTING, roads closed, and power
supplies badly disrupted.
> On the 27th, and again on the 30th/31st, some HEAVIER FALLS OF SNOW
occurred in parts of eastern England 25 cm over the North Downs in east and mid
Kent. Many other areas from East Anglia to Sussex/ east Hampshire experienced
falls up to 10 cm, with DRIFTING SNOW on the 31st in Essex reported some 60 to
1. DRIEST year in the Heathrow record (started 1947). COLDEST year since the
mid 1980s as well.
2. A VERY DRY year in the EWP series: 682.2 mm/5th DRIEST in that series (as at
1. The 10-year running mean PRECIPITATION total was running at an ALL-CENTURY
LOW. (This confirms the marked lack of RAINFALL over the period since 1995.)
1995-1997 (April 1995 to September 1997):
1. 30 month PRECIPITATION totals up to September 1997 were the LOWEST on record
in England and Wales, with estimated return periods exceeding 200 years in many
> One of two notable DROUGHT periods in the England & Wales composite
area at the end of the 20th century (see entries elsewhere for 1990-92). For
the 31 month period March 1995 to September 1997, the EWP total=1899 mm,
representing 82% of the 1961-90 average. (Some sources consider that this
drought, indeed the whole spell of 'dry' periods did not properly end until the
exceptionally wet April of 1998.
1. An exceptionally WARM month. By the CET series, with a value of 18.9degC,
this was some 3.1degC above the 1961-90 average, and was the second-warmest (at
the time) such named month in the series. Of even more note, it was the third
HOTTEST any-named month of the series, with only July 1983 &
August 1995 hotter. Much of eastern and central Britain reported mean maximum
temperatures 4 to 5 degC above the long term average, and a few locations in
East Anglia were more than 5 degC above. Mean monthly minimum temperatures were
also well above: some 4 to 5 degC: reflecting the frequent EXCESSIVELY WARM AND
UNCOMFORTABLY HUMID NIGHTS. (Part of a notably WARM summer, which, unusually,
was also WET: by the EWP series, the anomaly for the summer was 140%.)
1. The SUNSHINE total for Heathrow for the 3 autumn months was 423 hr, which
was the highest total since 1971, and was quite exceptional. Note that 1996 was
also very sunny. (See also 2003).
2. Another DRY autumn: 57% of average rainfall, when we were looking for a wet
spell to offset the DROUGHT. This makes the third below average autumn in a
row. (q.v. the late 80s/early 90s).
1. The TEMPERATURE reached 20.7degC at Aber (North Wales) on the 17th. This is
one of the latest dates for temperatures this high in the UK (but see 1906).
Only a very few Novembers produce temperatures >=20degC, e.g. 1906, 1938,
1946, this one & 2003.
1. On the 17th, many south coast resorts woke to a 5 to 10 cm winter SNOWFALL
on this day (up to 15cm in the Portsmouth area, the Mendips and on Dartmoor:
20cm SNOWDRIFTS in the Brighton area). This was preceded by a spell of BITTERLY
COLD/STRONG EAST WINDS that had set in on the 15th, and other parts of
southwest Britain, including many parts of Wales had some significant SNOWFALL
accompanied by STRONG or GALE-FORCE WINDS/DRIFTING early on the 17th, with many
schools in the West of England and Wales closed for the day (250 in Wales, 100
in Cornwall and 180 in Devon). Air, railway and ferry services badly DISRUPTED
with SNOWDRIFTS blocking many roads in the south. (However, on the following
day, temperatures in places reached 14 degrees!)
1. For the WORLD, one of the WARMEST in the record that has been worked up
since 1860. The record El Nino, with anomalies of well above +4degC, and in
some places up to +5 or +6 degC, was a major contributor.
For the CET SERIES,( 10.54 degC/1.0 degC above the 1961 to 90 average) the
sixth warmest, after 2006 (10.8x degC), 1990 & 1999 (10.63 degC), 1949
(10.62 degC) & 2002 (10.60 degC [ series begins 1659 ]. Only because the
January of 1997 was cold, does this year not touch the record.
2. For the UK, British TORNADO total probably the highest since 1984. There
were 36 tornadoes in 1997, the highest annual total since 1984. February had 8,
which is the equal second highest total on record for that month. Seven
tornadoes in May, easily exceeding the previous record of 4 in 1950, and nine
in June, exceeding the old record of seven in 1968. August had 5, which was the
highest number reported for that month since 1985.
3. HEAVY SNOWFALLS rare over the UK. (reflecting the warmth noted at 1. above).
1997/98 (Winter - extended where necessary):
1. The EWP value for this winter was 96% (242 mm)...not excessive when you
consider that most people would have thought it was a 'wet-one'! The importance
was that we were in the middle of a DROUGHT and the near-average RAINFALL was
very welcome. The individual monthly % values were: December: 106%; January
132% and February 31% (20 mm) ... note the exceptionally DRY February! Looking
at a longer period ... Autumn + Winter (September to February), for the west
London area, this gives rise to just 69% of average rainfall, and was the
second DRY autumn/winter in a row.
2. SUNSHINE for Heathrow was 226 hours: the highest winter total for at least
3. It was an EXCEPTIONALLY MILD winter, with little 'real snow' to speak of.
For Heathrow, although not record-breaking, the fact that it wasn't
exceptionally wet was noteworthy.
1998 (June + July):
1. Noted as being the SECOND WETTEST combination of months in the Scottish
composite rainfall series (started 1869). ( The wettest is noted as being 1938
1. According to the MetO/Hadley updated (in 2012) dataset, 1998 was the
third-WARMEST year (since 1850): it was narrowly beaten by 2005 and 2010.
2. In the CET record, 1998 value is 10.34degC (+0.8degC on 1961-90 mean). This
value just falls outside the 'top-10' of warm years in that record.
3. 1997 & 1998: (Christmas holiday period): STORMY WINDS FOUR
On the 24th December 1997 (Christmas Eve), an INTENSE SECONDARY
DEPRESSION tracked north-east across Scotland, bringing WIDESPREAD RAIN and
SEVERE GALES. Altogether, six people died, many buildings were SERIOUSLY
DAMAGED, thousands of trees were uprooted, electricity supply was disrupted for
up to four days, and Blackpool pier was breached. On the 4th January,
1998 an INTENSE SECONDARY DEPRESSION crossed Ireland and northern England
and a SEVERE GALE swept Wales and southern England. Probably the most severe as
a whole across southern England and South Wales since the "Burns Day
Storm" in 1990. Power and communications were disrupted, structural damage
occurred widely, and there was FLOODING along rivers and coasts. 26th
December, 1998: Severe gale over Northern Ireland (also affected the
Republic of Ireland badly), central and southern Scotland and northern counties
of northern England. Widespread disruption, with considerable loss of power
supply over Northern Ireland and southern Scotland. 29th December, 1998:
Severe gale - again - across Northern Ireland and Scotland. Not quite so bad as
on the 26th, but too soon after the earlier event to allow repairs to be fully
4. A disappointing year ... a marked lack of sunshine and plenty of rain. No
winter to speak of at either end! No month was very cold ... only April, July
and November had CET values below normal, but by only a few tenths of a degree
C. Several months in the year were NOTABLY WARMER: Jan (+1.4), Feb (+3.5),
March (+2.2) and May (+1.9). However the three 'summer' months of June, July
and August were nondescript, coming out slightly colder than normal. The warmth
of the early year came at a time when people can't make use of it.
5. RAINFALL: a NOTEWORTHY year. At Glasgow (Abbotsinch), it was the WETTEST
year since 1990, which itself was the wettest year in the 1970-99 series. At
Ringway (Manchester) it was the WETTEST year since 1981, again the wettest in
the 1970-99 series. At Birmingham (Coleshill), it was easily the WETTEST in a
composite record for Elmdon/Coleshill in the 1970-99 period; the previous
wettest year in this period was 820mm in 1992; in 1998, 913mm of RAIN was
recorded. It is also worth noting that this record year for Birmingham comes
only 2 years after the DRIEST year in the 30 year period. Finally, at Heathrow
(London), it was the WETTEST year since 1974. In the EWP series, the very WET
April (131 mm/214%) was the 4th wettest April in that series; October was also
very wet. The Midland FLOODS of just before Easter, and the October FLOODS in
the Severn/Welsh valleys were the result.
By the EWP series, not quite so remarkable (circa 1063 mm/~110%), but as we
were on course for a notable DROUGHT up to the end of the 1997/98 winter, an
'average' year was just what was needed!
> A notable year for TORNADOES: highest total for reports since 1984, which
was also a warm year by the CET series.
6. SUNSHINE: Also a 'noteworthy' year! At Ringway, it was the DULLEST year
since 1978, itself the dullest in the 1970-99 series; At Coleshill, the DULLEST
since 1969 by a long way. The combination of lack of sunshine, and high
rainfall (and high number of raindays ---- at Heathrow, there were more days
with rain recorded 0.1mm or more, than 'dry' days), really was a depressing
theme to the year. [ Incidentally, we can knock El Nino on the head: the last
major El Nino event was in 1982/83; the year following that (1983) was on the
dry side and certainly warmer ... the summer that year was especially fine. In
my series for Heathrow, it was the 6th finest summer of the 20th century. This
time, we had a wet, dull year, with an indifferent summer. ]
7. Further to the notes re: TEMPERATURES at 1. (above), research in 2000
suggested that not only was 1998 the WARMEST year in the instrumental record
but using proxy data (e.g. tree rings, sedimentary bore-hole analysis etc.),
1998 was probably the WARMEST year in the Northern Hemisphere in the
second Christian Millennium.
1. HEAVY/DRIFTING SNOW affected the northern half of Scotland on several days
between the 5th and 11th: By the morning of the 8th, snow-depth at Aberdeen was
13cm, and up to 27cm of snow recorded at Aberdeen by the 10th. Much disruption,
with schools closed, roads blocked etc.
1. The EWP value was 26 mm, which represents some 40% of the long-period
average, and is in the 'top-10' DRIEST Julys in that series. This was despite
some spectacular thunderstorms, although this is not unusual in such broadly
1. WARMEST September, using the CET series, since 1949.
1999 (Autumn/early Winter):
1. A remarkable SUNNY three months: (September, October and November). In a
broad swathe from southern England (excluding Kent and East Anglia), northwards
across much of the rest of England, and west into mid and south Wales,
anomalies for these three months were in excess of 120%. In the central
lowlands of Scotland as well as into Fife, anomalies were around 120%. Of
particular note was the October in this series, which for England & Wales
was the second sunniest in a series begun in 1909 (sunniest was 1959). In 1959,
the large amounts of sunshine in that October were more evenly distributed,
only Northern Ireland missing out to any extent), with anomalies widely 135% or
more. In 1999, England, Wales were most favoured, with a bias towards southern
2. Also the SUNNIEST December since 1962 over England and Wales.
A WARM (and fairly SUNNY*) year ..... Equal WARMEST (at the time) in the CET
series ... (with 1990 & 1949) with CET values=10.6degC. (but see 2006, now
the WARMEST year in the CET series.)
[ 1999 was also a WARM year globally: The Hadley Centre noted the
anomaly as +0.33degC on the 1961-90 average. As of this year, 7 out of the
'top-10' warmest years have been in the decade of the 1990s. The reason why
1999 was not as warm as 1998, at least in part, was the long-lasting and
notable cooling event in the equatorial Pacific - La Nina. ]
> *The England & Wales sunshine figure (series began in
1909) was 115% of the average.
2. Some areas were notably WET. For example, in the Glasgow area (using a
combination of Abbotsinch & Bishopton** readings), there was a total
RAINFALL for the year of over 1350 mm, beating the highest total (for the last
30 yr) of 1349 mm set in 1990, and perhaps the wettest year in the local record
in the 20th century. The year ended on a very WET note particularly in Wales,
the West of England, along southern counties of England (south coastal
flooding), and across Scotland and Northern Ireland. ( Note however, that by
the EWP series, it turns out to be an 'average' year. ) [ **so
using the two stations together is problematical.)]
3. RJPrichard in JMet says " (1999) the most THUNDERY year of the
nineties". The summary published in JMet (May 2000) states " records
from many of our observers across England & Wales indicated that 1999 was
their most THUNDERY year since 1983 ". Also, probably the year with the
most TORNADOES since 1982.
1. Some notable SEVERE STORMS .. yet again (see also 1997 & 1998). In
particular, a rapidly deepening depression crossed northern areas early in the
month (3rd), a SEVERE STORM affecting northern England, north Wales, south
& east Scotland on Christmas Eve (24th), and around 26th - 28th, although
not immediately affecting the UK, two devastating storms crossing France and
countries further east, with widespread DAMAGE/ DISRUPTION. Over 100 people
died from these latter storms, with large portions of the French national power
supply put out of action. The Channel Islands also caught the edge of these
1. According to research published in 2001 (see for example 'Weather' March,
2001), this decade was the WARMEST decade in the Northern Hemisphere in the
second Christian millennium.