The cold front eventually arrived, revealing the true power of the Arctic airstream we’d been promised. The temperature fell from +1.5 degC at noon to -2.0 degC at 1pm, with a ferocious blizzard of fine powder snow. This is probably the most impressive cold front passage since the mid 80’s, with additions to the lying snow of last night.
I was at work in Aycliffe at the time and we all got stuck in the Canteen. Not a bad thing, but it was quite unbelievable in ferocity and the drop in temp was something i’ve not experienced for a long time, certainly not in this country. It was undoubtedly a squall feature, as it could be seen approaching like a duststorm. It didn’t seem to lose any of it’s intensity either as it swept southward across the country.
The snow has been blowing around this afternoon in the strong NW wind leading to poor road conditions later.
Comments from another local weather station observer
“Yes, incredible conditions as a gust of wind instantaneously blew in a blizzard.
The temperature at 11.57am was 2.3c, and at 12.15 pm was -2.0c, a drop of 4.3c in 18 minutes in Newton Aycliffe.
I’ve seen many occasions with worse snow, as in depth and length of showers, but I have never seen a short blizzard as intense as that one. A truly remarkable sight.”
For the year as a whole, 2003 was:
1) The warmest year in Durham since records began in 1850, with a rounded-up figure of 9.9°C, 1.3°C above the long-term mean (I continue to use the 1961-90 mean; the overall mean for 1850-2003 is 8.5°C). The 2-decimal figure for 2003 of 9.88°C beats 2002 (9.80°C) and 1949 (9.83°C). Remarkably, the monthly running mean never edged above 10°C, but stayed pretty close all through the year! It is worth noting that the mean for the 1960s (a relatively ‘cold’ decade) was only 8.3°C; 2003 was more than 1.5°C above that level therefore, a remarkably large and rapid warming in less than four decades.
2) The driest calendar year in Durham since records began (this time the complete record runs from 1852), 2003’s 408.8mm just falling below the 1989 total of 415.3mm. As noted above, only three months recorded totals (just) above average. The total is a huge 240.2mm below the long-term average for Durham – no wonder there are real worries about severe water shortages in 2004.
This is not, however, the driest 12-month period on record at Durham, but only the 12th driest in a series of 1813 12-month periods since December 1852. Years when there were even lower 12-month totals include 1905, 1949, 1959, 1973 and 1989; the driest 12-month period on record at Durham was from August 1904 to July 1905 inclusive when only 362.5mm rainfall was recorded.
3) The 12th sunniest year in Durham since 1882, but still more than 150 hours less than the record holder, 1989.
Professor Tim Burt
Department of Geography