A 'Sunny January' say the 2023 stats but it's the flooding and frosty spell that standout

January statistics show an average month apart from a lot of winter sunshine. However, the UK has seen heavy rain and flooding with mild weather then days of cold with frost, even UK snow.

A 'Sunny January' say the 2023 stats but it's the flooding and frosty spell that standout

Issued: 3rd February 2023 10:24

What will you remember about the weather in January this year? The lasting cold when the frost stayed by day and night and there were concerns about evening peak time energy supplies. Or the mild and wet weather which brought serious flooding concerns to parts of England and Wales. As the rain just kept on coming and the levels rose, the Environment Agencies and other emergency response partners put up flood barriers. Signs and flood gates went up as drivers had to be rescued from deep waters once again. Statistically, it was the January sunshine that stands out.

The start of January continued with the same wet and mild theme from late December 2022. Low pressures raced in off the Atlantic with wind, rain and mild air thanks to the westerly flow. The middle of the month saw a shift with cold air from the north and snow to start the week. Drumnadrochit near Loch Ness saw the lowest temperature of the month, -10.4 °C on the 19th. The UK January (and all-time) record is -27.2°C. The far north of Scotland recorded a snow depth of 34cm and the Scottish Ski resorts were delighted, once the winds eased.  

UK snow in mid January

Southeastern Britain then got stuck with a frosty chill and hardly any breeze with fog forming.  And yet it was often sunny. The UK Met Office has issued its January statistics which show temperatures, rainfall and sunshine amounts for the first month of 2023. These then add to the December data making up two thirds of this winter.

It’s been sunny. Very sunny in places, which if you have a January birthday, you might be getting used to after the past two years.

2023 – “The UK had its third sunniest January on record in a series which dates back to 1919, though much of the UK experienced a sunnier than average month… England having its second sunniest January on record in a series.”

“January 2022 was the sunniest start to a year on record for England, and the third sunniest for the UK in provisional figures released by the Met Office.”  

It was last year which was the sunniest for England, but is January sunshine memorable? If you have solar panels, then yes but often people can’t get out to enjoy it as much as, say, a very sunny May. It can be accompanied by cold weather with ice which puts off cyclists, runners and others who might want to head out.

UK January sunshine and rainfall figures

You can see the golden yellow areas on the sunshine chart above. A winter blocking high pressure will steady the UK weather and can bring stagnant, gloomy low cloud or clear skies. The clear skies option means lots of sunshine by day but the temperatures tumble by night with a frost. However, around high pressure there can still be weather fronts with rain and cloud and it is often NW Scotland that keeps those. That has certainly been the case as we moved from January into February this year, accompanied by strong winds. The darker grey shading is evident over the Western Isles and the dull conditions extending to the NW Highlands.

atlantic jetstream

Changes in the jetstream during the month from the zonal bombardment to a great meander north as high pressure built in.

The chart also shows the rain amounts compared to average. Wales had a quarter more rainfall than average. Northern Ireland was drier than average with only 82%. The UK as a whole saw around average rainfall for January. However, looking at the rainfall chart eastern Britain is brown (drier than average) and NW England, Wales, SW & central southern England are blue (wetter than average).

Winter 2022 2023 UK weather

These areas are from the Atlantic bombardment when weather systems moved in from the west of southwest and rain just kept on feeding into river catchment areas such as the Severn. It also saturated the ground of southern Britain with flood warnings appearing for groundwater levels.

UK temperatures, another warm month

The westerly flow also brought mild air and helped keep the January temperatures around average, or for a central swathe of the UK, just above average. Also included is the temperature comparison to averages from 1961-1990, which shows it was milder this January everywhere. The base comparison data is updated over the decades but the previous Anomalies are available.

Frosty Reigate Heath
Frosty Reigate heath (from the Southeast, London & East Anglia community forum group) by Great Plum 

As the southeast shivered in their pool of cold air, Scotland and Northern Ireland, even western fringes of Britain benefited from much milder air feeding up from the southwest. It was a topsy-turvy time for the UK. the highest temperature of the month was in Aberdeenshire when Dyce, Aberdeen Airport recorded a balmy 15.8 °C on the 24th. The January record for the UK is 18.3°C which was along the north coast of Wales. The Foehn effect with these sites being to the lee of high mountains will have aided both.

Weird topsy turvy UK weather mild and cold January 2023

So, January was officially very sunny but will probably be remembered for the heavy rain and flooding in parts of England and Wales. The lasting cold and frost in others. Scotland just seems to have been windy for quite a while now but there was some snow. Northern Ireland has also seen blustery winds and some heavy rain over the long month but less than average overall.

It’s been a mixed start to 2023 with the switching from mild unsettled westerly setups to colder northerlies. It has been very sunny but otherwise, the figures say around average for January, and winter, so far. Memories might just pick out the extremes. 

Tags: UK Weather  Climate

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