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Winter 1962-63

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The winter of 1962-63 is the third coldest winter ever recorded.

December began with an anticyclone near the UK and this gave cold frosty, foggy conditions. There was a fear of a repeat of what happened during early December 1952 when thick smog was believed to have killed thousands but fortunately it was not on the same scale


The weather became more unsettled and milder mid month as lows moved in from the Atlantic


Although, there was a short cold blast on the 13th


It wasn't until the 23rd that the real intense cold started


Christmas Day 1962 was a white Christmas across Scotland largely and this spread to northern England later in the day.

A frontal system moved into Scotland during Christmas Day and this brought rain to places but with snow over higher ground.


The rain increasingly turned to snow over lower ground as it pushed through Scotland and there was a covering.

The snow had set in across northern England by the end of the day. Further south it was bitterly cold with sub zero maxima, it wasn't until Boxing Day that the snow arrived here but when it did it,it snowed for many hours. Depths of snow approached two and a half feet in places

A new low pushed into the Bay of Biscay and this gave strong easterly winds and heavy drifting snow to the south adding to the depths of snow that had already fallen. Conditions were very severe with blizzards, whiteout conditions and numerous roads became impassable because of huge drifts.


Into the start of January, the cold easterly flow continued with low pressures to the south bringing further snowfalls to the south although the intensity of the cold was lost somewhat by the 4th in the south and the snow turned to rain in places, even freezing at times.


A fresh pool of very cold air poured into NE parts on the 7th and the intensity of the cold increased


The intensity of the cold was to wax and wane as fresh pools of cold Arctic air was directed by the Greenland block and Atlantic air trying to push in, the 12th was a particularly cold as a blast of Arctic air poured in from Scandinavia


Frosts were severe with -16C being recorded at Gatwick and Shawbury recording a maximum of just -7C in

freezing fog. Snow showers fell in places exposed to the wind flow.

The block pulled out of Greenland and moved into Scandinavia with clear skies and calm conditions across Scotland and this made the night of the 18th especially cold night with -22.2C at Braemar.


Further south, the gradient intensified on the 19th and it was a bitterly cold with sub zero maxima and heavy snow showers. Yet again, there was further drifting.

The high pressure became centred over the south of the UK and with a snow cover and calm conditions, nighttime minima were very low in the south. -20.6C at Stanstead Abbots on the 23rd, the record minimum for that date.


The mildest day of January 1963 widely was the 26th as less cold air moved around the high centred near Ireland as a system pulled into Scandinavia.


The less cold interlude was shortlived however as the high pulled towards Greenland and a new Arctic blast poured down from the north


February continued the very cold theme with fresh pools of Arctic air pulled around the block around Iceland and Greenland.


A low pressure moved down on the flow and intensified to the west of the UK bringing strong southerly winds, heavy snow and blizzards to a number of western areas. Some areas had a huge snowfall with as much as 5 feet in parts of Gwent and 1.6ft at Belfast.


Milder air was attempting to come into the south as February progressed and this gave occasional thaws here but the cold continued unabated further north


There were further snowfalls as Atlantic systems try to push in but again the cold maintained its grip


During the last few days of February, high pressure started to assert itself and although frosts remained sharp the intensity of the cold was losing its grip during the day and a slow daytime thaw occurred.


By the 6th of March, the frosts ended and the great winter of 1962-63 finally ended. By this stage a number of places have had continous snow cover since December 26th


Data for Winter 1962-63

December 1962: 1.8 (-2.9)

January 1963: -2.1 (-5.5)

February 1963: -0.7 (-4.7)

January 1963 is the 5th January coldest on record

February 1963 is 7th coldest February on record

The first half of December: 3.1

The second half of December: 0.6

The first half of January: -1.6

The second half of January: -2.6

The first half of February: -0.8

The second half of February: -0.6

The mean CET max for winter: 2.5

The mean CET min for winter: -3.1

23rd December-19th February: -1.6

Coldest spells of the winter

2nd-6th Dec 1962: -1.1


23rd Dec 1962-3rd Jan 1963: -2.4


7th-26th Jan 1963: -3.6


1st-7th Feb 1963: -2.1


16th-20th Feb 1963: -0.7


The coldest CET maximum day: -3.6C 23rd/24th January


The coldest CET minimum night: -13.2C 23rd January


The mildest CET maximum day: 12.6C 15th December


It was a very sunny winter. For England and Wales, it recorded over 200hrs, for Scotland it was

the sunniest winter ever recorded and just over 170hrs for Northern Ireland.

For the UK as a whole, it was a dry winter generally.

Data for January 1963


Mean Max: 4.5 (-2.1)

Mean Min: 0.4 (-2.2)

Highest Max: 7.3 (25th)

Lowest Min: -7.2 (12th)

Days with lying snow: 3

Days with falling sleet/snow: 12


Mean Max: 2.6 (-3.2)

Mean Min: -2.7 (-4.0)

Highest Max: 8.8 (26th)

Lowest Min: -13.8 (13th)

Days with lying snow: 1

Days with falling sleet/snow: 12


Mean Max: 2.6 (-3.6)

Mean Min: 0.1 (-2.5)

Highest Max: 5.9 (26th)

Lowest Min: -6.2 (23rd)

Days with lying snow: 8

Days with falling sleet/snow: 18


Mean Max: 0.8 (-5.3)

Mean Min: -3.6 (-4.9)

Highest Max: 5.0 (26th)

Lowest Min: -10.2 (13th, 24th)

Days with lying snow: 22

Days with falling sleet/snow: 14


Mean Max: -0.1 (-6.3)

Mean Min: -5.5 (-7.1)

Highest Max: 4.3 (26th)

Lowest Min: -16.0 (23rd)

Days with lying snow: 31

Days with falling sleet/snow: 16


Mean Max: 0.6 (-6.1)

Mean Min: -2.7 (-5.5)

Highest Max: 5.5 (26th)

Lowest Min: -9.7 (25th)

Days with lying snow: 27

Fays with falling sleet snow: 21


Mean Max: 1.9 (-4.5)

Mean Min: -2.9 (-5.0)

Highest Max: 5.0 (26th)

Lowest Min: -10.6 (23rd)

Days with lying snow: 8

Days with falling sleet/snow: 19


December 1962




January 1963







February 1963





















Edited by Mr_Data

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yes I've posted my data from a met station called Langar that I was working at over that winter before. I will dig it out and put it in this thread as the temperatures have to be seen to believed at times. I was pretty gobsmacked some morning at the 06z observation, just how low it was.

And thanks for another superb post Mr D.


Edited by johnholmes

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Wow, that's a long but very informative post Kevin.

Was watching a program recently on BBC2 about winters past around Xmas and it showed film footage of ice flows down the river Thames and ice forming along the North Sea coasts during winter 1962/63 - truely amazing spell.

Almost 20 years to the day when we saw one of the coldest spells of the 20th century back in Jan 1987, doesn't time fly, still seems fresh in the mind.

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this is pretty long but its a complete day by day breakdown of max and min at Langar along with my comments about that winter. I hope it copies and I hope anyone enjoys reading it. That post by kevin will keep most of us occupied for many hors.


My memories of the 1962-63 winter.

I was working as a weather observer at a Royal Canadian Air Force Base called RCAF Langar, a few miles south of Nottingham, in the Vale of Belvoir.

My first recollection is that the late autumn was rather cold but beyond that I do not recall anything of note until the weekend before Christmas 1962. High pressure had settled over much of the country and it became quite cold with frost and then dense fog developing. By the late evening this fog had lifted and it was just very cold. I spent Xmas with my parents near Chesterfield and went to Sheffield on the Boxing Day to see Sheffield Wednesday play, or so I thought. The pitch was white over with frost (long before the days of underheating) and the match was called off. By evening it began to snow and that really was the start of that ‘famous’ winter. As the Excel file below shows the ground at my parents house remained snow covered (more than half cover) until xxxx and at Langar until xxxx.

Travelling backwards and forwards on the old style double decker buses which just had a small heater just behind the driver was a nightmare. The so called heater was rarely on as the driver needed that heat to keep his windscreen clear of ice and frost, and probably himself warm. Sleeping at my parents with just two coal fires downstairs was, compared to the over the top central heating the Canadians had, a cold time. At Langar I slept with the window partly open with just one sheet on me. At home I often had more clothes on than during the day, including woolly hat, gloves and socks along with 2 hot water bottles!

Some of the minimum temperatures had to be observed to be believed, certainly by the standards of today. Langar was in a slight dip in the Vale of Belvoir and it was not unusual for it to be quoted as the coldest place in Gt Britain. Just look at some of the values on consecutive nights.

At Langar although we had snow cover for almost 2 months without break the depth was never very much, 5-10cm being the most ever from memory. However it was a different story on the very edge of the Derbyshire Peak at my parent’s house. Nothing as bad in terms of depth or drifts as 1947(that is another story I could tell) but often over the tops of Wellington boots in level depth with drifts 4-6 feet deep.

Really the story of cold is best illustrated by my copies of the daily records from RCAF Langar through that period.

I hope you enjoy the read.

Data for RCAF Langar for the 1962-1963 winters, with a comparison with 1947

(temperatures are all in deg C)

Langar is about 10 miles ese of Nottingham in a slight ‘bowl’ with minor hills all around it. The diary as such starts on December 26th 1962 and finishes at the end of February 1963.

General notes

The ground was snow covered continuously (Met Office definition for =/>half cover) for 44 days from 26.12.62 until 8.2.63

(At my parent’s house near Chesterfield, Derbyshire that was extended until 27th February,

A total of 63 days).

The ground at Langar was continuously frozen from 22nd December 1962 until 4th March 1963, a total of 63 days.

There was an air frost on every night, apart from 4, between 22nd December 1962 and 4th March 1963. (The only nights without frost were; 5.6.28 and 29th January)

There were 32 consecutive nights with frost from 1st February 1963 to 4th March 1963.

General notes on rainfall:

And there was a continuous frost(air temperature constantly below 0C) from 1500Z on 18th January 1963 until 0900Z on 26th January 1963(186 hours); put another way, almost a WHOLE week!!

There was 3.73 inches of rain (and melted snow) from 1 October 1962 to 28 February 1963

This = 38% of the average.

Monthly figures for the start of the cold spell on 22nd December 1962

Date min max mean

22 -4.4 2.2 -1.1

23 -6.1 0.6 -2.8

24 -9.3 0.0 -4.7

25 -11.8 -3.9 -7.9

26 -11.1 2.2 -4.5

27 -1.4 1.1 -0.2

28 -7.7 -2.2 -5.0

29 -5.1 -1.7 -3.4

30 -1.7 0.0 -0.9

31 -0.6 0.6 0.0

Mean temp for 10 days = -3.0C

Values for January 1963

Date min max mean

1 -0.1 0.7 0.3

2 -1.3 -0.6 -1.0

3 -0.7 0.5 -0.1

4 -0.1 1.0 0.5

5 0.6 1.1 0.9

6 1.1 1.8 1.5

7 -3.5 1.3 -1.1

8 -5.7 0.7 -2.5

9 -8.0 1.3 -3.4

10 -6.6 1.5 -2.6

11 -10.4 -5.0 -7.7

12 -5.4 -3.3 -4.4

13 -8.3 0.0 -4.2

14 -1.4 2.8 0.7

15 -7.7 2.3 -2.7

16 -2.7 0.0 -1.4

17 -9.2 -2.1 -5.7

18 -13.8 0.9 -6.5

19 -5.9 -0.3 -3.1

20 -3.3 -0.8 -2.1

21 -4.1 -1.4 -2.8

22 -13.6 -3.4 -8.5

23 -15.4 -3.3 -9.4

24 -12.2 -5.6 -8.9

25 -8.6 -0.6 -4.6

26 -6.2 5.3 -0.5

27 -3.9 2.3 -0.8

28 0.5 2.4 1.5

29 1.4 2.9 2.2

30 0.1 1.3 0.7

31 -1.7 2.5 0.4

Mean temp for month = -2.4C

Values for February

Date min max mean

1 -3.5 -0.7 -2.1

2 -9.8 -3.5 -6.7

3 -6.7 -4.1 -5.4

4 -10.2 1.6 -4.3

5 -8.4 0.2 -4.1

6 -3.7 -0.7 -2.2

7 -1.6 1.6 0.0

8 0.0 2.9 1.5

9 -1.7 2.9 0.6

10 -1.4 1.7 0.2

11 -1.8 0.6 -0.6

12 -0.1 2.1 1.0

13 -0.7 4.1 1.0

14 -2.6 1.7 -0.5

15 -0.1 1.2 0.6

16 -1.9 0.4 -0.8

17 -1.7 1.7 0.0

18 -1.7 2.2 0.3

19 -1.5 0.3 0.6

20 -4.8 2.6 -1.1

21 -3.9 4.1 0.1

22 -2.1 2.8 0.4

23 -2.8 1.9 -0.5

24 -6.7 0.6 -3.1

25 -9.8 2.2 -3.8

26 -5.2 4.8 -0.2

27 -4.6 2.8 -0.9

28 -3.3 5.4 1.1

Mean temp for month = -1.1C

Mean temp for January and February = -1.7C

Comparison of temperatures at Langar between 1947 and 1963

1947 January avge min=-1.0 avge max=3.5 mean=1.3

1963 January avge min=-5.0 avge max=0.2 mean=-2.4

1947 February avge min=-4.2 avge max=1.5 mean=-2.3

1963 February avge min=-3.7 avge max=1.8 mean=-0.9

So for the two months being compared 1947 showed a mean temp of -0.5 and 1963 gave -1.7C

I cannot get data for frosts and snow for 1947 but for 1963 these were;

days with snow falling= 20 in Jan and 19 in Feb; lying snow=31 in Jan and 19 in Feb.

Air frosts in January were 26 and 27 in February.

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What a wonderful post Kevin! I especially like the Coate Water picture you could feel the cold just looking at it. Thanks.

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What an enjoyable read John! I certainly don't think that people in general would cope nowadays with those conditions at all well. Having experienced a winter like that must have made you compare each subsequent winter against those of '63 and as we know none have! I look forward to your 1947 story if and when you can find the time.



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bit young for an objective account I'm afraid but lots more deep snow, and very little sun, very unlike the fairly sunny 62-63.

I'll try and make an objective series of comments if I can find the local rag back numbers to help my memory.


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evening all

This is a Local paper cutting that i came across today showing Luton in the midst of the winter of 62/63, ive only seen luton this bad on one occasion and that was the thundersnow event three years ago that struck in the November and brought the town to a standstill, i know because i got caught up in it. Anyway enjoy this item from the archives.

Image and story courtesy of Luton Line.


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bit young for an objective account I'm afraid but lots more deep snow, and very little sun, very unlike the fairly sunny 62-63.

I'll try and make an objective series of comments if I can find the local rag back numbers to help my memory.


Hi John

I've been reading many accounts of the 47, 63 winters and what suprised me is just how severe the 47 winter actually was. As you say the 62/63 winter was very cold and prolonged but when it comes to deep snowfall and general disruption to the country the 47 winter was far more severe by what I have read.

What I also noticed during these winters is how many people lost their lives with many accidents being those of people falling through frozen lakes,ponds,rivers. Ever since I was a child i've always craved a winter like 47,63 but upon reading my weather books I recieved for Xmas I never want to experience a winter like those.

I shall have to post some of the literature from these weather books because one of the books has weather accounts dating back from 1700's!.

P.S I've got some pics of Met O weather forecasters back in the 60's, I shall have to post their names and see if you remember them. Also I was reading how George Cowling used to travel on the tube with his hand drawn weather charts to the studio to present his weather forecasts!. You know in a strange way I wish our forecasts were still presented like this.

Nice post by the way Mr D.


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Fantastic thread. I applaud Mr. Data and John Holmes for posting their extensive account\research on that year. All these winters from so long ago sound exotic and alien to me (i'm only 24) but I can imagine how tough it must've been back then to experience such cold weather for so long.

Makes me sad though, because there was a romance about it I guess; and I doubt that we will be seeing cold spells near those sort of severity\length ever again.

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tks again Kevin

I especially like in the forecast section

further outlook for TOMORROW!

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Wonderful to read those posts Kevin and John. Proper winters but I don' think I would want to see one as bad again.

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I love the UK weather chart. I remember at school always going into the libray, not jsut in summer, to look at those charts.

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What was perhaps more remarkable than anything else in the winter of 1962/1963 was the average minimum temperature.

DJF 1963 had the lowest average minimum temperature on record with an average of -3.10c. The second lowest ever was 1879 at -1.57c!

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Found these articles "Negative NAO and cold Eurasian winters: How exceptional was the winter of 1962/1963?" https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/wea.34

"The 1962/1963 winter as observed at Belstead Hall (Suffolk) and through investigation of the synoptic charts"  https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wea.2040

"Tropical origin of the severe European winter of 1962/1963"  https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/qj.2346


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My grandparents farm at 350 metres in 1963 near Halifax Dad would have had lots of digging to do in his early 20s


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