1947

In my opinion, 1947 was the best year of the twentieth century for interesting weather. An amazing cold, snowy winter; a wonderful summer; devastating floods - a candidate for the best year of the century? The winter is thought to be the snowiest of the century, with snow falling across the country from 22 January to 17 March. The conditions of course exacerbated the hardships brought on by the war. Snow covered much of the country for 52 consecutive days (compared with 67 days in 1962-63). The record amount of non-drifting snow for the century was set this year, with 150 cm at Clawdd-Newydd (near Ruthin, in NE Wales). It was the second coldest winter of the twentieth century (CET 1.1C, after 1962-63), and caused a sever fuel shortage. Reputedly remnants of snowdrifts lasted in the Cotswolds into July. It is the only year on record where 30C has been reached or exceeded somewhere in the country in every month of the "extended summer" (May to September inclusive). There were 14 consecutive days over 30C in August 1947, and there had also been 6 in a row 26 May to 3rd June. It was the warmest extended summer on record, until 2006.


January. Cold (2.2C CET), but not excessively so overall. The month is most memorable for the start of a severe, prolonged, and exceptionally snowy cold spell. Although there had been some significant snowfalls in December, and again on the 4-5th, the harsh winter did not really get going to the third week, after quite a mild interlude (hence the average). After some early cold snaps, there was a very pleasant, mild interlude. The first five days were mild and wet, with a heavy snow fall early on the 6th and snow lying on the ground until the 9th. It then turned very mild with westerly winds from the 14th to 18th. It reached 14C in places on the 16th; Saturday 18 January was sunny and mild, and then ... The severe winter really started on the 20th, with the first frost since the 7th. On the 22nd, a NE airflow brought cold air all the way from Siberia. There were frequent snow showers on the 22nd and 23rd. On the 26th much of England experienced continual frost. There was a major blizzard in the southwest on the 28th. There was a minimum of -21C early on the 29th at Writtle (Essex), and then a maximum of -5C over much of eastern England. 17cms of snow on the Isles of Scilly on the 30th.

February. The coldest February on record (-1.9C CET), the second coldest month this century (after January 1963), and the coldest month since January 1814. Many places in England were beneath zero from the 11th to the 23rd; Greenwich registered 14 consecutive days beneath zero. At Oxford frost began at 6 pm on the 10th and continued until 6 am on the 26th. The record low average was mainly determined by the very low maxima. Low minima were not outstanding because of the extensive cloud cover until clearer skies at the end of the month, when -21C was recorded at Wolburn on the 25th. It was a persistent easterly month of the sort that weather people long for: large amounts of snow in the east (e.g. 1.35 m of snow lay at Forrest-in-Teesdale (Durham) on the 18th. It was also very dull. There was no sunshine at Kew at all from the 2-22nd inclusive, and only 17 hours of sunshine in total (compared with the average of 61). A side-effect of the easterlies was that the Scottish Highlands had no rain this month, for the first time in recorded history, where it was also very sunny. It was, of course, also snowy, with snowstorms particularly affecting the south, midlands, and east. There was a major snowstorm on the 25-26th. It was also quite a windy month. Buxton had 30 consecutive days of frost. At Kew the maximum temperature of the month was 5C. Hence I vote this to be the most interesting February of the century.

March. The severe winter continued into the first half of the month. There were some very low temperatures -21.1C at Haughall, Durham, Peebles, and Braemar, on the 4th; widespread flooding after a rapid thaw of the famous winter; ice storms, blizzards, heavy rainfall, and on average the wettest March on record (177mm , which was 300% of average). Thre was heavy snowfall over England and Wales on the 4th and 5th, including several cms in the London area, caused more disruption. There were more readings of -20C on the 8th, including -21.1C at Braemar. Much of the country was covered in snow for the first part of the month, with drifts up to 5 m deep on the Pennines, and even up to 3 m at Whipsnade on the 9th. A level snow depth of 1.65 m was recorded at Ruithin (North Wales); this is the recorded deepest snow in an inhabited area in Britain. Warm air and heavy rain started to move in on the 10th. This led at first to a great snowstorm in Scotland on the 12-13th. A wind speed of 85 kn was recorded at Mildenhall, and a mean windspeed of 38 kn at Edgbaston, both in a severe SW gale on the 16th that affected south Wales and the south of England in one of the worst March storms of recent times. Flooding was particularly severe in the east, particularly the Fen country. There was more heavy sleet in Sussex on the 28th, as temperatures fell again at the end of the month. It was the coldest month of the century in Scotland, and the wettest of the century in England and Wales (177.5 mm, 292% - the highest percentage, too). Clearly this month must be the most interesting March for weather of the century!

April. Unsettled and cold for the first 8 days. It was then anticyclonic between the 9th and 18th, with some warm and sunny days. A deep low caused severe gales on the 23rd with a gust of 85 mph at Hullavington and Ringway. It was very wet in NW Scotland.

May. A heatwave began on the 29th and gave some of the highest May temperatures of the century (after 1922 and 1944). On the 29th, 31.7C around Lincoln (Waddington). On the 30th, 31.7 was recorded at Kensington, and many places were above 30. On the 31st, Camden Square reached 32.2, Mildenhall and Kensington Palace 31.7, and many places across the south and east reached over 30C. This is only one of five occasions 32C has been exceeded so early in the year in the century - another indication of what an extraordinary year this was. Overall the equal second warmest (with 1919) May this century, at 13.5C.

June. Very warm (15.5C CET). It was very hot at the start, with a few thunderstorms. The temperature exceeded 30C on five successive days (starting in May), with a high of 34.4C on the 3rd in London and Lincoln (Waddington). A thunderstorm in London on the 27th resulted from cloud so dense it was almost completely dark at midday.

July. Very warm (17.0C CET). 140 mm of rain in a storm on the 16th at Wisley (Surrey), 102 mm of it in 75 minutes, the ninth highest rainfall rate this century. There was damaging hail across East Anglia.

August. Very hot (18.6C CET) and dry; there was no rain at all around Glasgow and Aberdeen, Borrowdale (Lake District) and parts of eastern England (e.g. Boston, Lincoln). Even the Isle of Skye (August average 125mm) only had 5mm. On average England and Wales had only 17% of the long-term average. It was the warmest August of the century for some places (such as Scotland), the driest in many places, and the sunniest, with an average of 10-11 hours of sun per day. Unsettled start. It was 34C in Bournemouth on the 16th. One thunderstorm, on the 23rd, at Sudbury, gave 84 mm of rain. There were 14 consecutive days over 30C. This was clearly the best summer month of the century so far, but was overtaken by 1976.

September. A warm month (14.9). There was a prolonged dry spell in Kent (for 50 days ending September 17th).

October. An anticyclonic month: very dry in the south - one of the driest of the 20th century in England and Wales. There were just 4 mm of rain at Kew all month, and 10 mm at Birmingham. It had a warm first half, although there was rain at times in the north and west.

November. The sunniest November on record across much of SE Scotland and NE England - Durham saw 120 hours of sunshine. The first half was largely mild but changeable. There were some severe frosts and mild spells. There were some notable temperature variations as a warm front passed through midmonth: -17.2C at Dalwhinnie on the 19th, but +18C at Harwarden (Clywyd) on the 21st; also, the maximum at Leeming (Yorks.) was only 3C on the 19th, but it was 18C on the 20th. The Royal Wedding day was dull and drizzly but mild (15th).

December. Flooding at Chesil (Dorset) on the 13th. A notable thunderstorm on Christmas day night in the south, with marble-sized hail.