Recent Weather

Weather over the UK during February 2004
Very cold northerly and easterly winds blew throughout the last two weeks of February, and as the month drew to a close snow lay 10-15cm deep over much of northern Scotland, in parts of Northern Ireland and Wales, and locally in northeast England. Some areas had eleven consecutive frosty nights from the 19th onwards, and overnight 26th/27th the mercury sank to minus –10.9ºC at Sennybridge in mid-Wales. Statistically, this has been the sixth most “northerly” February over the British Isles in 132 years of records and yet it was still warmer than average. It is interesting to note that the first half of February was the warmest since at least 1869, while the second half was the coldest since 1986.

The month began in an entirely different mood. During the first four days the UK was bathed in air of tropical origin and records were smashed the length and breadth of the country. On the 3rd a maximum of 16.7ºC was logged as far north as Lossiemouth in northeast Scotland, and on the 4th the temperature peaked at 17.9ºC at Gravesend in Kent, a new UK record for the first week of February. The overnight minimum of 13.2ºC at Chivenor, north Devon, on the 2nd/3rd established a new February record for England.

The cold weather of the last fortnight failed to offset the abnormally mild start, and as a consequence February’s mean Central England Temperature was 5.4ºC, which is 1.2 degC above the mean for the standard reference period 1971-2000. In the last 100 years, 37 Februarys were warmer and 73 colder. Scotland and Northern Ireland were more nearly in balance: Scotland was 0.4 degC warmer than average and Northern Ireland just 0.2 degC warmer.

The tropical air at the beginning of the month was moist as well as warm, and the first four days were very wet especially in western Britain; parts of northwest Wales suffered serious flooding. At Capel Curig in Snowdonia 164.6mm of rain fell in the 24 hours ending 2100gmt on the 3rd, and 417.2mm fell in the six days from January 30 to February 4. Since then, however, the weather has been relatively dry especially in southern England and the Midlands. At Portsmouth, February’s total of 14.4mm is less than one-quarter of the normal amount, and of that only 2mm fell after the 7th.

Averaged over England and Wales the month’s total of 53mm was 31 per cent below normal, and in the last 100 years 39 Februarys were drier while 61 were wetter. Northern Ireland’s 32mm was 52 per cent below, while Scotland’s 72mm was 9 per cent below. Monthly rainfall totals ranged from 387mm at Capel Curig to 14.4mm at Portsmouth, while percentages varied between 193 at Capel Curig and 24 at Portsmouth.
It was a sunny month except in northern Scotland and southeast England, and Northern Ireland had its sunniest February since 1960. Averaged over England and Wales the monthly total was 88.5 hours (111 per cent), in Scotland it was 82.3 hours (107%), and in Northern Ireland 109.7 hours (142 per cent). Lerwick in Shetland was the cloudiest place with just 46.7 hours of sunshine, while Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man was sunniest with 126.0 hours. Percentages ranged from 183 at Buxton in Derbyshire to 71 at Margate in Kent.

(C) Philip Eden