I was rooting about in the loft the other day and came across an old logbook of mine from when I lived in Ferryhill. It covered the period of late 1990 and early 1991. Immediately I took interest because there was a memorable period of heavy snowfall in February 1991. What is striking was that snow was 15” deep on 9th and 10th. I know I took some photos at the time, but can’t find them now unfortunately.
Here’s the page from the log.
As you can see, there was an air frost every night for the first 19 days. This sequence actually extended a lot further back into January 1991. There were actually air frosts every night from 21st January until 19th February. There were 24 air frosts in all in January.
February 1991 averaged 2.0 degC and January 1991 was only slightly warmer at 2.1 degC. As you can see, the last few days of February lift the average considerably, hiding what was quite a severe month, especially from 4th-14th.
This is really a forgotten winter for most people. Do you remember it?
February 1991. A very cold first half in the south, but mild second half. Overall temperature: CET average of 1.5. There was a notable ten day cold spell at the beginning, as NE winds brought in some very cold air from north Russia, leading to snow across most of Britain and some very low temperatures, making this the most severe spell of weather since 1987 (and still not bettered, if that’s the right word).
The cold air arived from Siberia on the 4th, with temperatures falling on the 5th and 6th, with the 7-9th as the coldest days. Barbourne (Hereford & Worcs.) recorded -15.6 on the 14th; Cawood (North Yorks.) had the lowest at -16.0 on the 14th. There was much powdery snow over England in this period, with some places having 48 hours of snowfall; snow depths of 30cm+ were widespread, particularly in the North East: 50 cms at Bradford and Longframlington.
Even London had 20 cm of snow, the deepest cover since December 1962. The temperature in many places did not rise above freezing from the 5-10th. Some places of the southeast had the coldest February day of the century on the 7th, with maxima around -6C, but widespread very low maxima on the 7th: -5.7 at Bastreet (Cornwall), -5.2C at Whipsnade (Deds.), and at Brighton.The minimum at Guernsey airport on the 7th was -7.2, the equal low for February.
On the 8th the maximum at Princetown (Dartmoor) was -6.0C. There were many injuries from falls on ice and sledging accidents, and a woman in Dartford received severe head injuries from falling icicles. This is the last notably cold snap I remember. It was the last time that most of Britain had snow cover.
This was the infamous “wrong type of snow” for British Rail: dry and powdery. The thaw caused flooding in north Yorkshire. Milder air and a thaw arrived in all parts on the 15th, with Torquay recording 12.6C. An anticyclone enabled a thaw by day, with some sharp frosts at night, until the 19th, when it became unsettled. There were 133mm of rain in mid-Wales on the 22nd.