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Timmytour

Notable UK Lengthy Cold Spells

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With the Chuckle Brothers currently playing on the models with the air masses over the UK, I thought I'd take a look at notable, rather than extraordinary, cold spells the UK has had.

For this, I've defined a Notable Lengthy Cold Spell to be a period of 20 or more successive days where the daily mean CET has remained at or below 4c.

Of course the years of 1947 and 1963 would be the first that many think about in this context and indeed, at 57 and 73 days respectively, they are definite highlights.  But our more recent cold spells have been marked by short severity rather than length, so for example the winter including Dec 2010 doesn't fit in here.

In fact the most recent spell to make it's way in here under my definition is from 2013, which is also the only spell in over 240 years of records to extend into the month of April.

2013 ended a record wait for such a spell of 16 years. And yet its lateness in the season probably detracted from how well received it was in here!  The only other waits in double figures were the ones that ended in 1979 (14 years)  and 1929 (10 years). But through the 20th century as a whole, the average wait was only three years!!!!

To me that seems incredible...an average wait of only three years while we waited 13 years in the internet age for one that didn't land in the prime of winter!   I wonder what this place would be like if one did?   I wonder if we could be on the cusp of one now? <crossed fingers>


  

 

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I don't know about daily CET values but at my location snow lay on the ground for more than 20 days in Dec-Jan 09 and Nov-Dec 10.

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There was a run in 2008 of 18 days from 28th November  to 15th December. From thereon the Daily mean CET went from just over 4c to reach an average of 10c for the two days 21 and 22 December. After that, going into January, another sequence of 17 days built up, with a further one of 14 days in the first two weeks of February . So very conceiveable that on a local lever 20 consecutive days would have been reached.

In 2010 it was only a daily mean CET of 6c on the 11th December that stopped a run of 30 days and broke it up into 17 and 12 instead......so very possible to imagine snow lying all that time.

2010 was very close, but you have to go back to 1952 to find a thread-defined lengthy cold spell that started in November....and before that you have to go back to the decade of the 1870s which bizarrely had three such occasions!

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Up here the Dec 2010 run more than fitted the criteria. From 23rd Nov to mid January 2011. Max temp here in Dec was 6 C and the snow cover persisted until the 16th Jan from 25th Nov. Dec 2009 to Jan 2010 also had more than 20 consecutive cold and snow covered days. Further inland there were 90 days with snow cover that Winter and with a little altitude in the highlands places like Speyside an d upper Deeside had more than 100 days.

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Seeing this thread prompted me to look back through my own records at this site, which began in 1977. Obviously at this altitude a daily mean of 4c in winter is more easily achievable than in lowland England but here's a summary.

 

The longest spell was 64 days from Dec 29th 1978 to March 2nd 1979 however in 2009/ 2010 there was a spell of 38 days from Dec' 11th to January 17th followed by a mean above 4c on the 18th and then a 54 day spell from Jan' 19th-March 13th, so very close to a 93 day spell

The only other year to produce a spell of more than 40 days was 1986 with a 44 day spell from Jan 20th to March 4th.

The latest spell was in 1986 with a 21 day spell from March 30th-April 19th; 2013 was also notable with a 32 day spell from March 6th-April 6th

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I suspect March- April 2013 was the last time this occurred here - very very late in the season. There was a short mild blip in December 2010 from around the 10th-14th, otherwise I suspect we saw a mean average of 4 degrees less from about 20th Nov right through until 8 January, very good going. 20 day mean of 4 degrees easily achieved in Dec 09 - Jan 10 period.

 

The period 17 Dec 09 - second week of March 2010 overall was a very cold period sparring the milder blip mid Jan, a winter up there with 1978/79 as one of the coldest of the 20th century, duration wise much more so than the infamous winter 1946/47 but obviously no where near as severe as 62/63. It was quite remarkable that we endured the severe Dec 2010 on the back of it.

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Seeing this thread prompted me to look back through my own records at this site, which began in 1977. Obviously at this altitude a daily mean of 4c in winter is more easily achievable than in lowland England but here's a summary.

 

The longest spell was 64 days from Dec 29th 1978 to March 2nd 1979 however in 2009/ 2010 there was a spell of 38 days from Dec' 11th to January 17th followed by a mean above 4c on the 18th and then a 54 day spell from Jan' 19th-March 13th, so very close to a 93 day spell

The only other year to produce a spell of more than 40 days was 1986 with a 44 day spell from Jan 20th to March 4th.

The latest spell was in 1986 with a 21 day spell from March 30th-April 19th; 2013 was also notable with a 32 day spell from March 6th-April 6th

Interesting to see March mentioned so often there. I'd imagine it's a month than can be just as severe as the "proper" winter months in your location, especially in comparison to much of the rest of England.

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