1953

1953 will be remembered for the catastrophic flooding of the North Sea coasts at the end of January. The flooding was soon followed by a notable drought.


January. Very dry over much of the UK, particularly in Yorkshire. The first 8 days were cold but it then turned much more mild, reaching 14.4C at Whitby on the 29th. It snowed in the SE on the 5th, with snow lying until the 9th. It then turned mild and quiet. 14.4C was recorded at Whitby on the 29th. The month was of course most memorable for the great storm on the 31st, continuing into 1st February, led to widespread flooding on the North Sea coasts. A depression deepened as it moved SW between Norway and Scotland. A strong north to northwesterly wind (gusts of 100mph +) in combination with low pressure (970 mbar during the afternoon of the 31st) and the high spring tide caused a great coastal surge was great: the tide was 2.5 m above the normal level at King's Lynn. The surge rain ahead of high tide by 90 minutes. 307 people were drowned, and 2500 square miles of land lay under water. 307 people died. (The loss of life was much greater in the Netherlands, where nearly 2000 died. Over one sixth of the Netherlands lay under water.) Earlier that day a British Rail car ferry (the Princess Victoria) sank near Belfast Lough, with the loss of 132 lives.

February. The Great Storm and North Sea coast flooding continued right at the start of the month (see January 1953). It was cold and snowy around the 13-14th, but it was anticyclonic, dry, sunny, mild, and generally very springlike from the 20th onwards. Some high temperatures were recorded on the 20th, 22nd, 26th, 27th, and 28th, such as 16.7C at Leeming on the 26th and 15.6C at London Airport on the 27th. A foggy end in places: there was a severe London smog at the end of the month.

March. Very dry and sunny. Dominated by a persistent anticyclone. It overlapped with a spell of 36 consecutive dry days in eastern England. Some places in the NE had no rain at all between 20 February and 26 March, and at Lowestoft there was no rain between 18 February and 25 March (although it was probably beaten by a dry spell in spring 1893). It was foggy at the start of the month: persistent fog for the first six days in parts of England and Wales. The pressure reached 1045 mbars in central England on the 10th.

April. Unsettled, but with a fine spell between the 18th and 25th.

May. Sunny in the SE and East Anglia. There was some fine, sunny weather in the first half of the month. It turned colder for a while before SW winds in midmonth. It then became very hot. This month saw the last time 30C was exceeded in May (before 2005): 31.7C at Heathrow and Farnham on the 25th. Some notable thunderstorms. Nearly 45 mm of rain fell at Worthing on the 1st.

June. A dull month. The month had a cold start. Coronation day was on the 2nd, with heavy rain; it was cold, too (about 12C in London). There was some flooding, particularly bad in the northwest. It became warmer for a while, before turning cooler midmonth. There were then some spells of heavy rain. There were notable thundery outbreaks on the 16th and 26th. On the 16th thunder was widespread across the east and north, with a particularly notable storm near Sedbergh (Cumbria), where 186 mm of rain fell. There was flooding in the Lune valley, houses and crops damaged; 106 mm of rain was reported. A larger area was affected by the storms of the 26th. 72 mm in 55 minutes at Windermere. 43 mm in 15 minutes at Melton Mowbray, with flooding in Leicestershire. Large power failure over south Wales. It was hot later in the month. The 30 minute rainfall record was set this month, with 80.0 mm at Eskdalemuir on the 26th (with 107 mm in total, and 97mm in 45 minutes.).

July. Wet in the NW, dry in the east, particularly Fife and East Yorkshire. Sunnier than average in the SW and west but duller in eastern England and Scotland. There were few warm days.

August. A sunny month, particularly along the central south coast. 240 hours of sunshine were recorded at Kew. Some parts reached the magic 32.3C on the 12th. It was dry across most of the country but wet in SW England. In the middle of the month a waterspout at Westcliff-on-sea (Essex) reportedly threw a number of holidaymakers into the sea ...

September. Dry, sunny, and warm first half. 26.7C (80F) was recorded at Poole on the 7th.

October. Generally mild, quiet and dull, with a more changeable final week and a widespread gale on the 26-27th. It was cool and and dry during the first 11 days, and sunny in the south, with some foggy mornings. There was an absolute drought in the Scilly Isles for 15 days. Only about an inch of rain fell in NE England and SE Scotland all month.

November. A warm month (8.5C CET). It was dry in the SE (with less than an inch of rain in Essex, Suffolk, and the West Midlands), but wet in SW Scotland. There were strong winds and rain on the 1st.

December. Very dry, mild, and dull. Very warm at Llandudno and Aber (north Wales) on the 2nd as a result of the Fohn effect. The month saw London's highest December maximum: 17.2C (63F) at Kensington Palace on the 4th, on an overcast day with a SW.