January 2003 a two-faced month

 

January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god of doorways and bridges, because the month looks back at the old year and forward to the new. January 2003 was two-faced in a less complimentary way as it was characterised by exceptional contrasts between bursts of wintry and summery weather. This was especially true of the last week.

 

Mean maximum temperature last month ranged from 4.0C at Aviemore in the Scottish highlands to 9.6C at Pendennis Point in Cornwall. Averaged over England and Wales the equivalent figure of 44.5F was 0.6 degC above the average for the standard reference period 1971-2000, and during the last 100 years 35 Januarys were warmer while 65 were colder. Daily temperature was below normal from the 3rd to the 11th inclusive and also during the last three days; the rest of the month was mild relative to the seasonal average.

 

There were some severe frosts during the early cold snap especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland; lowest readings were minus 18.3C at Aviemore early on the 7th and 15.6C at Altnaharra in Sutherland on the 8th. Avimore's maximum temperature on the 7th was a mere 8.8C.

 

There were several very mild days during the middle and latter parts of the month, but the surge of warm air on the 26th and 27th was quite exceptional. The high of 18.3C at Aboyne in Aberdeenshire last Sunday equalled the all-time UK record for January which was established at Aber in north Wales in 1958 and repeated at the same location in 1971. It also set a new January record for Scotland, and a new record for the date. The warmest weather transferred to south-east England on Monday when East Malling in Kent recorded 17.4C, a new January record for England.

 

Rainfall last month, taking the country as a whole, totalled 82.5mm which is eight per cent below the long-term average. There were 31 drier Januarys and 69 wetter during the last 100 years. Parts of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire reported 70 per cent more rain than normal whereas a few localities in west Wales and Cumbria logged deficits of 50 per cent.

 

The aggregate sunshine, averaged nationally, was 74 hours which is 42 per cent above average. In southern England it was the sunniest January on record, and Weymouth topped the list with 122.6 hours.

 

Philip Eden

 

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