1955 was a classic year. February's record minimum was set this year. The winter was the coldest and snowiest between the very severe winters of 1947 and 1963, particularly in Scotland. There were two very cold, snow spells, from 4-22 January and then 8 February until 11 March. This year also saw the last May snowfall in London of this century. A good summer, as well, with the highest ever 24 hour duration rainfall total in July. It was Scotland's sunniest year on record. A cold winter, and a cold June; July and August were then the hottest since 1911, giving a memorable summer.
January. There was prolonged snow on the 4th on strong northerly winds; 15 cm in London was the heaviest fall there since 1947. There was more snow on the 13th, after an intervening mild spell. The 16th was a very interesting day: there was a blizzard over Lancs. and Yorks., with many snow showers over Scotland. "Operation Snowdrop" was instigated to provide air relief to cut off villages in the far north. Eskdalemuir had continuous frost from the 10th to the 15th. Snow also fell in London on the 16th, accompanied by "daytime darkness" which happened suddenly at 1.15 pm. It was perhaps precipitated by pollution interacting with the approaching cold front, as a SE wind carried polluted air to the Chilterns, where it became trapped beneath the warm air; when the wind changed to the NW, the polluted air was carried back again. A layer of polluted air 4000' thick quickly cut out virtually all daylight. Light levels fell to 1/1000 th of the normal level on a clear January day; no wonder thousands of people phoned the emergency services and newspapers. No sunshine was recoded in much of East Anglia until the 11th of the month. From the 22nd the weather turned milder, for a while, until early February. Although wet overall in the south it was drier than average in the north.
February. The cold northerlies with snow returned on the 8th. There was very heavy snow on Scotland on the 18th. The February record low this century was set: -25.0C, on the 23rd, at Braemar, following -22C at Dalwhinnie on the 22nd. This was the lowest temperature recorded in the UK since 1895. On the same day there were 16 hours of snowfall in Cornwall. By the 23rd level snow was 2' deep over the north of Scotland, 3' deep near Elgin, and with some villages in the far north and the islands cut off by 30' drifts; the RAF continued Operation Snowdrop to drop supplies to places cut off by the snow. The snow reached the south too, with a maximum depth of 24" at Buxton. I think the famous "Snow drift at Bleath Gill" (the British Transport Film showing the efforts of rescuers to release a train stuck in snow in the north Pennines) was filmed in this spell. There were some huge variations this month, with 72 deg. F. (c. 40 deg. C.) from -13 deg. F. at Braemar on 24th to 59 deg. F. at Cannington in Somerset on 8th, which is almost certainly the highest monthly range in an individual February to date. It was a relatively sunny month in the west.
March. Cold but sunny. The cold weather persisted from February until the 11th. A gale in the southwest on the 23rd caused much damage to shipping. It was very sunny in the far NW. It was the coldest March since 1916 in Birmingham. Dry until the 22nd, when five days of heavy rain brought flooding.
April. Very dry - setting the scene for the "Fen Blows" in early May. There was a heatwave at the end of the month: 25C at Margate and Herne Bay on the 29th.c
May. Gales in a prolonged dry spell caused much soil erosion in the Fens, producing almost a sandstorm effect on the 4th. This type of wind is apparently called, according to Philip Eden, a "Fen blows". 48 hours of a SW gale, averaging 40 mph and gusting to 65 mph, blew the dry soil around, reducing visibility to less than 300 metres, with the dust storm rising 50 metres above Mildenhall. It was worst in east Cambridgeshire, and was particularly bad at Manea (Cambs.). Everything became choked with fine soil. It was then cold and wet. The wettest May in the Hastings region since 1875. 115 mm of rain in Londonn in the month. Most notable for a late cold snap. There was a notable cold snap with northerly winds 10th to 21st. The cold air moved south on the 10th. Snow and sleet showers on the 14th. Early on the 16th the minimum was -6C at Dalwhinnie and -4 at Lincoln. The 17th was the most notable day, as a depression moved east over the south. Rain turned to snow in the NE airflow as the arctic air returned. There was a maximum of only 5C in the south Midlands on the 17th. Widespread snowfall over southern England on the 17th, with a gale. Birmingham had its worst May snowstorm for 60 years. Even London had three hours of snow in the night, although it didn't settle. There was however an inch over the Cotswold and Chilterns, and four inches in parts of Yorkshire. This was the last time this century there was a substantial snowfall in May in the London area. During this cold spell Glenlivet and lying snow on six mornings. The frosts ended on the 22nd. A thundery month.
June. Cool and dull. The equal record low for June of -5.6C was set at Dalwhinnie on the 9th. Generally a dull and cool month. At Rotherham it reached23C on the 6th but only 10C on the 7th. There were thunderstorms in the south and SE on the 9th.
July. Mostly sunny, hot (17.7C CET), and very dry. Parts of Suffolk and Cornwall (e.g. around Camborne) had no rain at all this month. In contrast, there were some exceptional deluges in thunderstorms, particularly on the 18th, as very hot air (30C in the south) met a stationary cold front. In particular, there was 279.4mm at Martinstown, Dorset, on the 18th, in 15 hours; 190 mm of this fell in 4.5 hours. This is the British record for daily rainfall. The rain came with storms in two waves, the first starting at 2.30 pm and the second at 9 pm. Heavy rain fell over a large area of Dorset: Dorchester received 187.5 mm and Weymouth 178.8 mm. Flooding in Weymouth. 108 mm of rain at Maidstone and another lightning death at Ramsgate on the same day, which 84 mm of rain (see October this year). Serious flooding in Weymouth. Thunder first broke out on the 11th, as the high pressure slipped south. There were 5 lightning deaths across the country on the 14th, including 3 people sheltering under a tree in my native Southampton (Please do NOT shelter under trees in storms), and a woman leaning on a metal fence at Royal Ascot. It was Wales's sunniest ever month, with 354.3 hours of sunshine at Dale Fort, and probably the sunniest month on record in the NW generally.
August. Fine, warm (18.1C CET), and sunny. This year contained one of only two fine Bank Holiday Mondays in August in the period 1951-1963. The best weather was in the third week, when 32C was recorded at Chivenor (Devon) on the 23rd, with hot, southerly winds. It was even hot in Scotland, with 87F at Nairn and Inverness on the 24th, and 89F (31.7C) at Elgin on 25th.
September. Warmer than average, dry, and sunny. There was a good first week. 80F was recorded at London Airport on the 2nd, and 78F at Dyce and 79F at Coatbridge (near Glasgow), all on the 6th.
October. A dry start, but then a notable wet spell in the south from the 18th-21st - e.g. 73mm at Lytchett Matravers (Devon) on the 18th. On the 19th, there were 67mm at Winchester and 27mm in two hours at Poole, and 62mm in Edgware. Poole had 102 mm in the 24 hours up to 9pm on the 19th. On the 21st there were 111mm at Ramsgate and 95mm at Ashford. Widespread flooding. Ramsgate had 173mm this month. On the other hand, only 25mm of rain all month at Lincoln. Locally it was the fourth consecutive dry month. As an example of local variability, consider Dorset: Swanage had 132mm, but Shaftesbury only had 47mm. Also a sunny month.
November. Generally dry. Severe thunderstorm on the 6th at Whittlesford (Cambs.) with 4cm damaging hailstones.
December. Wet but dry in the Midlands and SE. It reached 59F on the 28th.