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February 1994: 20 years ago

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This a pretty decent winter month, at least around here anyway with snowfalls and a good covering.

CET: 3.2C

Forecasts got the breakdown of the cold weather wrong. John Kettley was sure that it would breakdown quickly with Atlantic making a complete break through on the Countryfile forecast. Infact although there was something of a breakdown, the cold airmass to the east came back and there were more snowfalls the following week. When he did the following Countryfile forecast, he admitted it didn't go to plan but he still got the breakdown timing wrong even though he said he was more certain. We had one of the biggest snowfalls for this area for the 1990s.

Forecasts from that month

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWbt7RniF2aqZ6S8BiQajIq9rorYUEQpJ

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February 1994 definitely saw the best spell of winter weather between Feb 1991 and the winter of 1995-96.  It was fairly mild and unsettled early on and at the very end of the month, but the period 12th to 25th certainly saw a pretty good easterly spell with two significant fairly widespread snowfalls a week apart, though unfortuantely snow cover over low ground largely melted between the 17th and 20th.  This spell certainly made winter 1993-94 one of the better winters of the 1990s, despite coming out milder than average overall, on top of some cold polar maritime zonality in the earlier part of that winter.  I would definitely love a repeat of that winter in a year when we have to see a milder than average winter rather than the dross that this present winter has been.

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Thinking about it, the 90s did have some half decent Scandi high easterly spells such as Feb 1991, November 1993, February 1994, December 1995, January 1996, December 1996 and January 1997 but since then easterlies have largely been weak efforts, February 2005 was probably the most prolonged, February 2009 was potent but brief.

Funny how Scandi high easterly spells have in short supply in recent times.

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Another point is that since the turn of the century, most "easterly" spells delivered by Scandinavian blocking highs have failed to deliver much lying snow near east-facing coasts of Scotland and northern England (the snowy easterlies in winters 2009/10 and 2010/11 arose via eastward-ridging Greenland highs).  The easterly at the end of December 2005 was the main exception but even this was like a watered-down version of the November 1993 one.

 

Winter 1993/94 was a noteworthy counterexample, as many coastal parts of eastern Scotland and north-east England had between 10 and 20 centimetres of lying snow from the Scandinavian high-driven easterly incursion of 20-22 November 1993, and it happened again during mid to late February.  The snowfalls of the 15th/16th in the Tyne and Wear area were relatively modest but snow showers were frequent and heavy during the second easterly spell around the 20th-22nd February, with lightning damage reported from Newcastle on the 21st, and much of eastern Scotland was snow-covered from then until the last couple of days of the month.  Although 1995/96 was a snowier winter than 1993/94 in most parts of the country, I don't think any of the winter months of 1995/96 produced quite as widespread a snow cover as that spell during mid to late February 1994- even Valentia in coastal SW Ireland reported one day with lying snow at 0900.

 

Also worthy of note is that the easterly of mid-February 1994 was a south-easterly that brought air originating near the Balkans- I often talk about watered-down easterlies with modification from the SE resulting in dry cloudy weather and temperatures of 2 to 5C by day and night, but on that occasion the Balkans area was anomalously cold and so widespread snowfalls still resulted.

Edited by Thundery wintry showers
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Yes, true easterly setups have been very rare in recent years despite the increase in cold spells in the last five years or so.  Late Nov / early Dec 2010 saw an easterly setup that brought the snow in that cold spell.  March 2013 saw some long easterly spells.  Jan 2013 saw a bit of an easterly.  There was an easterly in early Feb 2012.

 

Thinking back, true classic cold spells have been brought by easterlies, such as Jan 1987 / Feb 1991.  Feb 1986 saw an easterly setup for most of the month.  Jan 1985 saw a very cold easterly spell.  Feb 1979 had a very snowy easterly.  The infamous 1947 severe spell was largely through easterlies.

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Another point is that since the turn of the century, most "easterly" spells delivered by Scandinavian blocking highs have failed to deliver much lying snow near east-facing coasts of Scotland and northern England (the snowy easterlies in winters 2009/10 and 2010/11 arose via eastward-ridging Greenland highs).  The easterly at the end of December 2005 was the main exception but even this was like a watered-down version of the November 1993 one.

 

Winter 1993/94 was a noteworthy counterexample, as many coastal parts of eastern Scotland and north-east England had between 10 and 20 centimetres of lying snow from the Scandinavian high-driven easterly incursion of 20-22 November 1993, and it happened again during mid to late February.  The snowfalls of the 15th/16th in the Tyne and Wear area were relatively modest but snow showers were frequent and heavy during the second easterly spell around the 20th-22nd February, with lightning damage reported from Newcastle on the 21st, and much of eastern Scotland was snow-covered from then until the last couple of days of the month.  Although 1995/96 was a snowier winter than 1993/94 in most parts of the country, I don't think any of the winter months of 1995/96 produced quite as widespread a snow cover as that spell during mid to late February 1994- even Valentia in coastal SW Ireland reported one day with lying snow at 0900.

Over low ground the snow largely melted between the two snow events in mid to late Feb 1994.  Only higher ground retained snow cover from the 17th to 22nd Feb 1994 I believe.

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Since February 1991, how many Scandi easterlies have brought both low temps AND lying snow to the greater part of England? Only Feb 1994 and late Jan 1996. 

 

Feb 2009 brought lying snow at some point to most places, but it didn't produce the low temperatures of classics like Jan 87 and Feb 91. The snow kept melting in the daytime and we only got so many days of lying snow because of overnight showers replacing the lost cover.

 

Dec 1996 into New Year 1997 was good here, but too many places missed out on significant snowfall (including, strangely, London which usually does OK in easterlies).

 

Feb 2005 was a joke away from the east coast, it barely settled for more than a few hours, despite -10 uppers and temps below freezing. Dec 2005 was too dry, and Dec 2002- the less said about that the better.

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February 1994 was a good month for snowfall over the Lake District. Indeed winter 93/94 was a very snowy one for the fells with frequent outbreaks of polar maritime air.

 

I remember the first easterly spell delivering a shortlived blizzard and a couple of inches. However, the second easterly spell brought one of our heaviest snowfalls of the last 20 years with a good 8-10 inches, I can't remember the exact date but it was somewhere between the 21st and 24th. I remember it being a big surprise. The cold spell ended with further snow from a warm front.

 

It is an often forgotten month from an often forgotten winter, probably because no proper cold weather really established itself, but there have been few snowier ones in the last 25 years, 95/96, 09/10 only beating it. Certainly on a par with the likes of 90/91, 96/97, 08/09 and last winter.

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Indeed, I remember that in Tyneside the

 

Over low ground the snow largely melted between the two snow events in mid to late Feb 1994.  Only higher ground retained snow cover from the 17th to 22nd Feb 1994 I believe.

 

This is true of the 17th-19th- I certainly remember that in the Tyne and Wear area, the 17th began with freezing fog and then the sun came out and the temperature went up to 5C, resulting in a thaw, as milder air came up from the south.

However a renewed easterly blast on the 20th-22nd brought three days of snow showers to much of north-eastern Britain prior to the frontal snowfalls on the 22nd-24th.

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Yes a brilliant month this, got showers in Birmingham on the Monday morning (initial Easterly), belted from a frontal event which was expected to turn to rain but didn't (overnight into Tues) (5 inches), stuck around longer than expected as milder air struggled to get very far NE, reload the following weekend (dusting Monday morning as the high over scandi re - asserted itself), another push on the Tuesday from the south west (1 inch and a half), finally on the last Friday in the month the atlantic smashed through.

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This was certainly one of the better Winter months of the 1990's.  I remember it got progressively colder during Sunday 13th and by the afternoon there was snow flakes blowing around in the wind with temperatures around freezing.  The forecast was for a continuation of just light flurries overnight, but they pepped up into heavier showers and by Monday morning there was a 1 to 2 inch covering.  I slipped over on the way to college in front of quite a few people which was slightly embarrassing but wasn't injured!  Monday was very cold and overcast after a bright start but mainly dry.  A front then moved up from the south during Monday night giving a further few inches of snow but this introduced milder air into the south and by Tuesday lunchtime a gradual thaw was underway.  The snow had practically all gone by Tuesday night, so it was a short lived but potent cold snap.  It turned colder again the following weekend with a little more snow the following week but not as much as previous.  We certainly had better easterly attempts during the 90's than the 00's!

Edited by Don
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Even though i was living in SE London at the time i dont really remember Feb 1994 as being particularly special..i think i had a couple of light snowfalls mid month and that was about it..in terms of winter easterlies i have experienced it would be well down the list.

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Even though i was living in SE London at the time i dont really remember Feb 1994 as being particularly special..i think i had a couple of light snowfalls mid month and that was about it..in terms of winter easterlies i have experienced it would be well down the list.

Well it was no February 1991 but I would say it was the 3rd best February of the 90's after 1991 and 1996 (for southern areas at least).
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It was snowier than Feb 1996 here, not quite as snowy as Feb 1991 but not far off.

There was virtually no snow between the Feb 1991 and 1994 events, that's what made the latter particularly memorable, especially as after a 3 year wait two came along at once within 10 days. The second Feb 1994 event on the 22-23rd was the last time 10cm fell in one go during a winter month- its only happened since in March 2006. Decembers 1995 and 2010 recorded deeper snow, but due to repeated falls on top of each other.

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The easterly incursion that preceded the frontal snowfalls and gave heavy snow showers accompanied by thunder to Newcastle:

http://www.wetterzentrale.de/pics/archive/ra/1994/Rrea00119940221.gif

http://www.wetterzentrale.de/pics/archive/ra/1994/Rrea00219940221.gif

 

A very shallow pool of cold air, but the synoptics panned out favourably to keep that cold pool over the British Isles for the following few days while fronts attacked from the SW.  The Scandinavian high retrogressed to Greenland at the same time and this slowed the northward progress of the fronts and milder air:

http://www.wetterzentrale.de/pics/archive/ra/1994/Rrea00119940224.gif

http://www.wetterzentrale.de/pics/archive/ra/1994/Rrea00219940224.gif

 

However the milder air eventually won out from the south setting us up for an unusually "westerly" March.

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The easterly incursion that preceded the frontal snowfalls and gave heavy snow showers accompanied by thunder to Newcastle:

http://www.wetterzentrale.de/pics/archive/ra/1994/Rrea00119940221.gif

http://www.wetterzentrale.de/pics/archive/ra/1994/Rrea00219940221.gif

 

A very shallow pool of cold air, but the synoptics panned out favourably to keep that cold pool over the British Isles for the following few days while fronts attacked from the SW.  The Scandinavian high retrogressed to Greenland at the same time and this slowed the northward progress of the fronts and milder air:

http://www.wetterzentrale.de/pics/archive/ra/1994/Rrea00119940224.gif

http://www.wetterzentrale.de/pics/archive/ra/1994/Rrea00219940224.gif

 

However the milder air eventually won out from the south setting us up for an unusually "westerly" March.

 

In contrast to February, March 1994 is a complete blank for me! Must have been one of those westerly months that aren't notably wet away from the western high ground districts; I don't remember any cold or unusually mild weather either. Can remember things from every other month that year (ridiculously warm November and most of December, disappointing August after good June/July, mostly wet and mild Jan, fairly cold April and May, horrible September, very mixed October)- but March???

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I remember March 1994 in Tyneside for a blustery, squally showery spell around midmonth which brought numerous hail showers, and one day of snow falling (16th), a gale on the 23rd and some more hail showers from a brief northerly on the 25th. But I largely draw a blank for the other parts of the month- it was typical mild changeable westerly fare, dull and wet in the west but sunny and dry in the east.  Westerlies continued into early April but it was often colder then with some wintry showers, especially in the west.

 

It's fair to say that the breakdown at the end of February 1994 initiated a marked step-change in the weather pattern as meteorological winter gave way into meteorological spring.

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