This photo was posted to Facebook recently, taken (we think) in December 1895. It shows people sweeping the ice on the river, perhaps preparing it for skating or maybe a curling competition. The location is just below Prebends Bridge.
December 1895 was one of the coldest Decembers ever recorded in Durham.
Noticeable is how little vegetation cloaks the slopes below the Cathedral. The building to the left of the photograph is the Old Fulling Mill.
Prebends Bridge can be seen in this photograph, everyone is skating!
February started very cold, with the first 3 days averaging below freezing. Rain was plentiful until the 9th, but then the dry weather of February returned, accompanied by increasingly warm unseasonal temperatures.
The airstream was coming from the Canary Islands. The all-time February record was smashed in England and Wales on 26th and 27th, topping 20 degC for the first time in a winter month.
Here at my site in Durham, the maximum got to 17.1 degC on 26th, which is a very close to the February record at Durham Observatory, 17.4 degC observed on the 28th February 2012. I wait with baited breath to see whether that has been beaten.
Temperatures returned to normal for the last day, the maximum dropping 10 degrees from 27th. The average for the month was 6.3 degC based on hourly values, and 6.8 deg on the more traditional (max+min)/2 method of calculation. This made February 2018 very warm.
The rainfall total was below average again – only 33.6mm in total, with the two wettest days being the 7th (8.7mm) and the 3rd (6.6mm).
The New Year opened much the same as the old one ended, with dry benign weather and extraordinarily persistent High Pressure for the first half of the month. The high was a cloudy one, so temperatures stayed above freezing, with no fog or frost. It’s very unusual for a January to have such a high average pressure and not be cold and frosty.
Alarmist headlines were again plentiful in the tabloids, with lots of doom laden promises of snow-bombs and Polar vortices, the writers not really having a ‘scooby’ what they were writing about. All done to generate paper sales.
By 17th we got a strong Northerly flow and this drove snow showers inland along areas exposed to the wind. A slight covering of snow resulted.
Conditions continued generally cold in the second half, with the coldest weather reserved for the final day. Temperatures fell overnight 30th/31st to -5.9 degC, which is pretty impressive without any snow cover. The snow did arrive the following night though, with a 2″ powdery covering going into February.
Mean temperature for the month was 4.1 degC, which is slightly above the long term average for January (3.8). There were 10 days with air frost altogether.
The low level of rainfall was remarkable for a January total. 10.1mm is about 20% of what is normally expected here.
January 1947. Cold (2.2C CET), but not excessively so overall. The month is most memorable for the start of a severe, prolonged, and exceptionally snowy cold spell. Although there had been some significant snowfalls in December, and again on the 4-5th, the harsh winter did not really get going until the third week, after quite a mild interlude (hence the average). After some early cold snaps, there was a very pleasant, mild interlude. The first five days were mild and wet, with a heavy snow fall early on the 6th and snow lying on the ground until the 9th. It then turned very mild with westerly winds from the 14th to 18th.
It reached 14C in places on the 16th; Saturday 18 January was sunny and mild, and then … The severe winter really started on the 20th January, with the first frost since the 7th. On the 22nd, a NE airflow brought cold air all the way from Siberia. There were frequent snow showers on the 22nd and 23rd. On the 26th much of England experienced continual frost. There was a major blizzard in the southwest on the 28th. There was a minimum of -21C early on the 29th at Writtle (Essex), and then a maximum of -5C over much of eastern England. There was 17cms of snow on the Isles of Scilly on the 30th.
February 1947. The coldest February ever recorded (-1.9C CET), the second coldest month of the century (after January 1963), and the coldest month overall since January 1814. Many places in England were beneath freezing from the 11th to the 23rd; Greenwich registered 14 consecutive days beneath zero. At Oxford frost began at 6 pm on the 10th and continued until 6 am on the 26th. The record low average was mainly determined by the very low maxima. Low minima were not outstanding because of the extensive cloud cover, until clearer skies at the end of the month, when -21C was recorded at Wolburn on the 25th.
It was a persistent easterly month of the sort that weather people long for: large amounts of snow in the east (e.g. 1.35 m of snow lay at Forrest-in-Teesdale (Durham) on the 18th. It was also very dull. There was no sunshine at Kew at all from the 2-22nd inclusive, and only 17 hours of sunshine in total (compared with the average of 61). A side-effect of the easterlies was that the Scottish Highlands had no rain at all this month, for the first time in recorded history, where it was also very sunny. It was, of course, also snowy, with snowstorms particularly affecting the south, midlands, and east. There was a major snowstorm on the 25-26th. It was also quite a windy month. Buxton had 30 consecutive days of frost. At Kew the maximum temperature of the month was 5C. Hence I vote this to be the most interesting February of the century.
March 1947. The severe winter continued into the first half of the month. There were some very low temperatures -21.1C at Haughall, Durham, Peebles, and Braemar, on the 4th; widespread flooding after a rapid thaw of the famous winter; ice storms, blizzards, heavy rainfall, and on average the wettest March on record (177mm , which was 300% of average). Heavy snowfall over England and Wales on the 4th and 5th, including several cms in the London area, caused more disruption. There were more readings of -20C on the 8th, including -21.1C at Braemar. Much of the country was covered in snow for the first part of the month, with drifts up to 5 m deep on the Pennines, and even up to 3 m at Whipsnade on the 9th.
Warm air and heavy rain started to move in on the 10th March. This led at first to a great snowstorm in Scotland on the 12-13th. 85 kn wind was recorded at Mildenhall, and a mean windspeed of 38 kn at Edgbaston, both in a severe SW gale on the 16th that affected south Wales and the south of England in one of the worst March storms of recent times. Flooding was particularly severe in the east, particularly the Fen country. More heavy sleet in Sussex on the 28th, as temperatures fell again at the end of the month. It was the coldest month of the century in Scotland, and the wettest of the century in England and Wales (177.5 mm, 292% – the highest percentage, too). Clearly this must be the most interesting March for weather of the century!