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TomSE12

The onset of the severe wintry spell of Jan.1987

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Many years ago whilst living in Bromley, N.W.Kent/S.E.London border, I did some research on some of S.E.England's most severe, wintry spells. I looked at those Winters from the 1960's to the 1990's. My local, main Library in Bromley, has a huge Reference Section. They keep copies of The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and other newspapers, on microfiche. 

In those days, the "broadsheets", such as The Times and Daily Telegraph, featured detailed forecasts (supplied by the Met Office) and accurate reports of Weather events (**NB**, Nathan Rao and the Daily Mail).

I decided to make copies of all the forecasts, leading up to and during some of the most severe, wintry spells between the 1960's and 1990's. Obviously, I had plenty of sheets of A4 copies of the 1962/63 Winter. I kept all of these copies in a folder and would wile away many hours reliving those wonderful, wintry synoptics from yesteryear.

I vividly remember the lead up to the onset of the severe, wintry spell of Jan.1987. The onset of that spell gave the Met Office, a major forecasting "headache", at the time. My copies of The Times and Daily Telegraph during that time, confirm this to be the case. They changed the "extended outlook", twice in as many days. From becoming very cold with snow at times to less cold with rain at times and back again. 

Now a few archive charts and personal recollections, of that time:

                    JAN.6th 1987

archives-1987-1-6-12-0.png

Perhaps on the cusp of something special?

                 JAN.8th 1987

archives-1987-1-8-12-0.png

Or perhaps not?

               JAN 9th 1987

archives-1987-1-9-12-0.png

But then again?

                JAN 11th 1987

archives-1987-1-11-0-0.png

Come to Daddy, you beauty!! Think there were a few fairly light snow showers on Saturday 10th but the main action started on Sunday 11th. Does anybody remember John Kettley's famous Countryfile Forecast, on that Sunday? "The only bright thing about this forecast is my tie" (yellow)……………

                JAN 12th 1987                   

archives-1987-1-12-12-0.png

Finally, a "Beast from the East", in it's full glory!! (The above chart, still my screensaver to this day.)

archives-1987-1-12-12-1.png

Never mind about "Thames or Mid-Kent Streamers" (as some of you know, my pet subjects!!) In response to 850 temps of around    minus 20c or so, interacting with relatively warm SST's in the southern N.Sea, an Ocean of snow engulfed the whole of the South East. On that Monday 12th January I was working for the C.W.S, in their accounts department, in Bromley. During that afternoon, due to the heavy snow, the whole of the transport system around the Borough of Bromley, was in lockdown. Consequently, we were sent home early. I spent the rest of the afternoon at my parents house, down the road from my place of work. By early evening the falling snow had eased off but not before depositing around 4 to 6 inches in places. Thought it prudent to start to make my way back home to Anerley, S.E.London (some of you will remember me as TomSE20). Arrived at Bromley South station by early evening, with a view to getting a train to Penge East, a short walk from where I lived in Anerley. The station staff informed me that no trains were running. Chaos ensued, east of Bromley, further into Kent. South-Eastern trains had attempted to run "ghost trains" (with deicing formula) but these had broken down in the intense cold and snow. Eventually come mid-evening, I caught an all stations to London Victoria train and arrived back home to my wife and children, very cold and tired. 

That spell produced the heaviest snow I'd seen, in the Bromley area (around 9 inches in places, by the end of that spell and some of the coldest temperatures, whilst living in the Bromley area.)

Would like to hear other members recollections of that incredible spell of weather!! 

Do you also remember the chopping and changing of the extended outlook, from the Met Office??

As we know, these "Beast from the East" synoptics seem to cause forecast models all manner of problems. Perhaps because it "rails against", the Climatological norm?

As we know, some 10 months later, the Met Office faced huge criticism over the Michael Fish,  "Hurricane" that wasn't saga. If memory serves, I think it prompted a major overhaul of their computer systems. I wonder if January 1987 was on the "Chief's" worry list, as well.

Regards,

Tom.  :hi:

 

Edited by TomSE12

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1 hour ago, TomSE12 said:

Many years ago whilst living in Bromley, N.W.Kent/S.E.London border, I did some research on some of S.E.England's most severe, wintry spells. I looked at those Winters from the 1960's to the 1990's. My local, main Library in Bromley, has a huge Reference Section. They keep copies of The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and other newspapers, on microfiche. 

In those days, the "broadsheets", such as The Times and Daily Telegraph, featured detailed forecasts (supplied by the Met Office) and accurate reports of Weather events (**NB**, Nathan Rao and the Daily Mail).

I decided to make copies of all the forecasts, leading up to and during some of the most severe, wintry spells between the 1960's and 1990's. Obviously, I had plenty of sheets of A4 copies of the 1962/63 Winter. I kept all of these copies in a folder and would wile away many hours reliving those wonderful, wintry synoptics from yesteryear.

I vividly remember the lead up to the onset of the severe, wintry spell of Jan.1987. The onset of that spell gave the Met Office, a major forecasting "headache", at the time. My copies of The Times and Daily Telegraph during that time, confirm this to be the case. They changed the "extended outlook", twice in as many days. From becoming very cold with snow at times to less cold with rain at times and back again. 

Now a few archive charts and personal recollections, of that time:

                    JAN.6th 1987

archives-1987-1-6-12-0.png

Perhaps on the cusp of something special?

                 JAN.8th 1987

archives-1987-1-8-12-0.png

Or perhaps not?

               JAN 9th 1987

archives-1987-1-9-12-0.png

But then again?

                JAN 11th 1987

archives-1987-1-11-0-0.png

Come to Daddy, you beauty!! Think there were a few fairly light snow showers on Saturday 10th but the main action started on Sunday 11th. Does anybody remember John Kettley's famous Countryfile Forecast, on that Sunday? "The only bright thing about this forecast is my tie" (yellow)……………

                JAN 12th 1987                   

archives-1987-1-12-12-0.png

Finally, a "Beast from the East", in it's full glory!! (The above chart, still my screensaver to this day.)

archives-1987-1-12-12-1.png

Never mind about "Thames or Mid-Kent Streamers" (as some of you know, my pet subjects!!) In response to 850 temps of around    minus 20c or so, interacting with relatively warm SST's in the southern N.Sea, an Ocean of snow engulfed the whole of the South East. On that Monday 12th January I was working for the C.W.S, in their accounts department, in Bromley. During that afternoon, due to the heavy snow, the whole of the transport system around the Borough of Bromley, was in lockdown. Consequently, we were sent home early. I spent the rest of the afternoon at my parents house, down the road from my place of work. By early evening the falling snow had eased off but not before depositing around 4 to 6 inches in places. Thought it prudent to start to make my way back home to Anerley, S.E.London (some of you will remember me as TomSE20). Arrived at Bromley South station by early evening, with a view to getting a train to Penge East, a short walk from where I lived in Anerley. The station staff informed me that no trains were running. Chaos ensued, east of Bromley, further into Kent. South-Eastern trains had attempted to run "ghost trains" (with deicing formula) but these had broken down in the intense cold and snow. Eventually come mid-evening, I caught an all stations to London Victoria train and arrived back home to my wife and children, very cold and tired. 

That spell produced the heaviest snow I'd seen, in the Bromley area (around 9 inches in places, by the end of that spell and some of the coldest temperatures, whilst living in the Bromley area.)

Would like to hear other members recollections of that incredible spell of weather!! 

Do you also remember the chopping and changing of the extended outlook, from the Met Office??

As we know, these "Beast from the East" synoptics seem to cause forecast models all manner of problems. Perhaps because it "rails against", the Climatological norm?

As we know, some 10 months later, the Met Office faced huge criticism over the Michael Fish,  "Hurricane" that wasn't saga. If memory serves, I think it prompted a major overhaul of their computer systems. I wonder if January 1987 was on the "Chief's" worry list, as well.

Regards,

Tom.  

 

This was followed by a very mild winter, and springlike Christmas Day. 

1987 was an interesting year. 

I was in primary school during January 1987, and it was extremely cold. Only Feb 1991 comes close in modern times. 

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Though many think that Jan 1987 was a South East event it also impacted all the way up the East coast. We had a foot of level snow here in Dundee with drifting even in town. Kinross just to our SW had over 45cms level. Not much however got past high ground so the West Highlands were dry but cold but the snow however did make it through the Central belt as far as Glasgow. Started on the Saturday with the peak here from Sunday to Tuesday. It was however really one glorious week in what was otherwise a pretty innocuous Winter.

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10th Jan 87 ...FA CUP 3rd round ..standing on the terraces at Brisbane Road watching Leyton Orient v West Ham...horrible cold with a bitter wind must have stood there for a good 3-4 hrs..first snow flurries started round the end of the game

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Wasn't the Luton-Liverpool FA Cup tie abandoned due to the pitch freezing solid, by half time?

Went see Crocodile Dundee at the MK Dome, for a birthday treat...Passed a broken-down car on the way there; all that was left, by the time we returned (21/2 hrs or so) everything but the chassis/body had been stolen. With the snow and all, MK was more like downtown Detroit, that night...

Snow really got going in the early hours of the 13th and lasted until very late in the afternoon. Next day, work was abandoned, so spent the entire time sledging on Clifton Reynes. Max temp of -5C and freezing drizzle worked wonders with sledge-momentum too!

What a shame it was that that one severe spell was the only highlight in an otherwise crappy winter!

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1 hour ago, Ed Stone said:

Wasn't the Luton-Liverpool FA Cup tie abandoned due to the pitch freezing solid, by half time?

Went see Crocodile Dundee at the MK Dome, for a birthday treat...Passed a broken-down car on the way there; all that was left, by the time we returned (21/2 hrs or so) everything but the chassis/body had been stolen. With the snow and all, MK was more like downtown Detroit, that night...

Snow really got going in the early hours of the 13th and lasted until very late in the afternoon. Next day, work was abandoned, so spent the entire time sledging on Clifton Reynes. Max temp of -5C and freezing drizzle worked wonders with sledge-momentum too!

What a shame it was that that one severe spell was the only highlight in an otherwise crappy winter!

Crappy winter? There’s not many winters that surpass 86-87, in the last 50 years.

63, 47, 78/79 and 81/82, with 2009 and 10 only being the other winters to compare.

I know the list is much longer, but I can’t be bothered to type the rest.

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Remember it v well Tom.

Got woken up at 6.45am by Dad for work. He was 60 back then; i was 25.

"Heavy snow is falling my son; deep snow and it is still snowing".

I replied "Oh i'll ring office later and tell 'em i cant get into work".

"Well i'm walking in" replied Dad.

My workplace was about 4 miles from our Bristol suburbian home; Dad's about 3 miles. Walk in same direction. So i couldnt really NOT walk in whilst my 60 year old dad was walking in!

Main roads into Bristol were blocked with cars. I reached the office by 9.30. Probably about 20% employees made it. At about 11.00am snow stopped but at 1 oclock our HR people came around the office to say local weather were forecasting return of blizzard by 2 so we were sent home.

Walked the 4 miles home with colleague passing gridlocked traffic stuck on main roads out of Bristol.

That evening the East Bristol suburb i was living in was effectively cut off by road. My local back then was one of most popular and busiest in East Bristol. That night it was rammed and at 10.30 that eve the biggest snowball fight i ever witnessed took place outside fuelled by snow excitement and many pints of lager.

Legendary day and evening!

Edited by Bristle boy

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32 minutes ago, Sunny76 said:

Crappy winter? There’s not many winters that surpass 86-87, in the last 50 years.

63, 47, 78/79 and 81/82, with 2009 and 10 only being the other winters to compare.

I know the list is much longer, but I can’t be bothered to type the rest.

It was a winter with only one memorable spell: a single week in January...1985 and '86 were both better, overall, than that one was...IMO... :santa-emoji:

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42 minutes ago, Ed Stone said:

It was a winter with only one memorable spell: a single week in January...1985 and '86 were both better, overall, than that one was...IMO... 

For some reason I don’t remember the 85 and 86 winters. Just remember them being cold in London. 

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47 minutes ago, Ed Stone said:

It was a winter with only one memorable spell: a single week in January...1985 and '86 were both better, overall, than that one was...IMO... :santa-emoji:

as was 77-78, 69 and 90-91..one very cold snowy week doesn't make a winter

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2 hours ago, Ed Stone said:

Wasn't the Luton-Liverpool FA Cup tie abandoned due to the pitch freezing solid, by half time?

 

No, it snowed during first half and I think they used an orange ball. Luton's was an artificial surface anyway. 

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It wasn't just confined to eastern coastal areas.  I live in the west midlands and remember that spell well.  It was some of the heaviest snow of my childhood and one of my fondest memories was building a snowman and snow wall with my Dad, and the epic snowball fight that followed.  😄

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This event changed the way I looked at easterlies forever...I live in Burnham and we were cut off for 2 days and a snow plough eventually got through, but the main road into town was just surreal like one of those scenes you see in the Alps once a road is cleared with snow piled up either side 8/9 feet tall.

There was a lorry stuck on our notorious 'Burnham bends' and on the eastern side the snow drifted right up to the freight and you could get up on it, I still have some archives from that winter which gives an idea of what it was like here on the Essex coast. We had about 12 inches or so of level snow and drifting in areas to 6/7 feet.

The icicles on my parents conservatory were up to 3 feet in length (this picture taken around the 20th when we had a slight thaw) - snow remained in ditches up until April!

 

DSCF3411.JPG

DSCF3413.JPG

DSCF3410.JPG

Edited by Froze were the Days

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Just looking at archived weather maps, the air mass that would produce the severe cold and snow was located in north central Russia (roughly over the northern Urals) on 1st Jan, and spread slowly further west to about the 5th by which time it was engaging with a strong low over the south Baltic region. There must have been quite a snowstorm in southern Sweden around then. Britain stayed in a somewhat mild Atlantic west to northwest flow through this phase then by 6th with the low tracking southeast towards Ukraine, the very cold air made further progress west and began to filter across the North Sea as the Atlantic flow was cut off by a narrow north-south high at about 10-15 W. By the 7th and 8th this weak high was trying to ridge through to the stronger arctic high then centered near Murmansk, but was prevented from doing so by a weak low sliding southeast along the arctic front in southern Norway and later Denmark.

Then the pattern began to retrogress and the coldest air had free reign to move west through the Baltic region, reaching the North Sea late 9th and Britain by 10th. The high drifted southwest into northern Sweden. The coldest phase came from 11th to 15th with the high halting its westward progress in southern Norway. From 16th to 19th the cold spell broke down with the high drifting southeast towards Poland and a slightly milder return southeast to southwest flow commenced. It stayed quite cold to the 20th as the source of the flow was essentially continental.

CET values from 5th to 22nd __ daily records in blue

_ 05 __ 06 __ 07 __ 08 __ 09 __ 10 __ 11 __ 12 __ 13 __ 14 __ 15 __ 16 __ 17 __ 18 __ 19 __ 20 __ 21 __ 22

_ 5.8 __4.1 __1.2 __-1.6 _ -1.6 _ -0.1 _ -5.0 _ -7.7 _ -6.6 _ -3.6 _ -2.0__0.0 _ -2.0 _ -2.4 _-0.5 _ 1.0 _ 3.6 _ 4.9

(another slightly below zero spell followed from 30 Jan to 1 Feb, between -1 and -2 means, otherwise no other subzero days in the winter of 86-87, 0.0 on 19th Feb and 0.5 on 13th of March showed that colder air was in the mix for the rest of the season.)

 

Edited by Roger J Smith

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I have strong memories of this spell - probably the first vivid memory of a weather spell.  I remember it seemed to coincide with lots of flu at school and everyone being off except me..

We were doing a weather project at the time - and remember taking daily readings of -5 degrees in the morning. 

I don't recall lots of snow, but yes definately remember the cold. The rest of the winter wasn't exactly mild, February brought further cold conditions at times, and March especially so with lots of snow.

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A fortnight there (7th to 20th) with a mean of -2.2 C, the month of course averaged +0.8 so that tells you the rest of the month averaged over 4 C. Still, that is one of the colder two-week periods in modern times (for the CET). 

By comparison ... 1-14 Feb 1991 averaged -1.5

... 1-14 Jan 2010 averaged -1.2

... 25 Nov to 8 Dec 2010 averaged -1.9

... 14 - 27 Dec 2010 averaged -2.3

So while the second part of the late 2010 cold was marginally colder than 1987, nothing else has gone below -2.0 for two weeks since then. The coldest in 2012 was about -0.7. 1996 also had a spell in that range. 

 

(corrected dates for Dec 2010, any mod can delete my earlier post)

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Hi Roger,

Thanks for all those amazing "stats". Reading about the complex synoptic pattern unfolding in the early part of January (with an Arctic High, making an appearance), it's no wonder the Met Office were having major problems with their extended outlooks!!

Regards,

Tom. :hi:

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What were the forecasts? (I wasn't living in England at the time, don't have any idea). With today's model performance being what it is, a fairly decent forecast of this would likely have been available around the 7th to 9th time frame. 

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4 hours ago, Roger J Smith said:

What were the forecasts? (I wasn't living in England at the time, don't have any idea). With today's model performance being what it is, a fairly decent forecast of this would likely have been available around the 7th to 9th time frame. 

Hi Roger,

In answer to your question re. the forecasts at the time, I'll just repeat the first few paragraphs of my introduction, to this thread. I've underlined the important paragraph, re. Met Office forecasts at the time.

Quote: 

"Many years ago whilst living in Bromley, N.W.Kent/S.E.London border, I did some research on some of S.E.England's most severe, wintry spells. I looked at those Winters from the 1960's to the 1990's. My local, main Library in Bromley, has a huge Reference Section. They keep copies of The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and other newspapers, on microfiche.  

In those days, the "broadsheets", such as The Times and Daily Telegraph, featured detailed forecasts (supplied by the Met Office) and accurate reports of Weather events (**NB**, Nathan Rao and the Daily Mail).

I decided to make copies of all the forecasts, leading up to and during some of the most severe, wintry spells between the 1960's and 1990's. Obviously, I had plenty of sheets of A4 copies of the 1962/63 Winter. I kept all of these copies in a folder and would wile away many hours reliving those wonderful, wintry synoptics from yesteryear.

I vividly remember the lead up to the onset of the severe, wintry spell of Jan.1987. The onset of that spell gave the Met Office, a major forecasting "headache", at the time. My copies of The Times and Daily Telegraph during that time, confirm this to be the case. They changed the "extended outlook", twice in as many days. From becoming very cold with snow at times to less cold with rain at times and back again."

Thanks again Roger for your very informative contributions, to this thread.

Regards,

Tom. :hi: 

 

 

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Sorry, I think I skipped over that part, models must have failed to recognize the retrograde, I think judging by late Feb of 2018 they would have nailed this down and allowed for a better warning. 

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I had a paper round during this period but can't recall much snow (like the 'Beast from the East; not much snow but very cold) but I certainly remember the cold; however I had these pouches that slip into your gloves that would heat up...they seemed to do the trick. 

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It was also bad here, my Nan was alive in and living in Newton Ferrers but she was cut off for several days, as the amount of snow caught Devon County Council out. You couldn’t get a gritter or snowplough out between Yealmpton and Newton. The back road was closed for about 10 days. Utterly magical the snow drifts

 

It was also grim in Plymouth, we had days with no school and we kids in my road had a blast, using a long piece of kitchen countertop as a sledge as I lived on a hill!

There were snow drifts up on Dartmoor until April as I recall! 

Edited by philglossop

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, Froze were the Days said:

Green lane, Burnham Jan 1987

 

DSCF3415.JPG

Looks a lot like White Lane, to me...😁

Edited by Ed Stone

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