1956

1956 was marked by the worst summer since WW II. It was one of the wettest summers on record in the London region, with Kew recording 291mm. The record lowest amount of monthly sunshine was set this year in December. February 1956 was one of just 8 months since 1900 with a CET mean beneath zero.


January. After a mild December, most of January was mild or only slightly beneath average, with frequent SW winds. That was all to change however as the Scaninavian high built from the 27th. A low moving into the English Channel on the 30-31 brought rain turning to snow and very cold polar continental air behind. On the 31st, at Worthington, there was a dramatic fall in temperature from 7C at 8am to -2C by noon, with rain turning to powdery snow. Apparently many cars were immobilised by the freezing rain.

February. Very cold (-0.2C CET). On the 1st, maxima beneath -5C were widespread in the Midlands; the maximum was as low as -6.7C at several places (e.g. Lincoln, Stone, Silsoe, Throwley). Generally it was a frosty month, with most of the heavy snow along the east coast. Many places had continuous frost from the 18-25th. Snow lay to a level 12" in the SE, with 12' drifts.

March. Dry and sunny with northerly and easterly winds. Cold in the east.

April. Cold.

May. The driest May for England and Wales on record. There was virtually no rain anywhere between the 10th and 28th,

June. Generally a cool, unsettled, thundery month. The temperature was only 9C at Wittering on the 7th. There was a notable thunderstorm in the Bradford area on the 11th gave an exceptional downpour: 155 mm of rain in 120 minutes at Hewenden Reservoir, with 156 mm in total, obviously leading to flooding. This thunderstorm occurred in cool surface weather, although the upper air temperatures were warmer, associated with a depression centred over the North Sea. The rainfall was heaviest on the hills between Denholme and Flappit. Storm water in the Ellar Carr and Manywells Becks caused flooding in Cullingworth village. Damage to the Keighley-Halifax road after the verge and a wall collapsed. Also on the 11th, several bridges were swept aside following flooding after a storm at Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms.

July. Part of the worst post-war summer - cold, dull, and wet. Any sunny spell ended in thunder! It was the wettest July in London since records began. There were some heavy thunderstorms in the south on the 9th: 56 mm of rain fell on Kew. There was also flooding in the east on the 9th. 79 mm of rain in a storm fell early on the 9th at Epsom. Very large hailstones disrupted flights out of Heathrow on the 18th. 82.9mm of rain in a storm at Hascombe (Surrey) on the 18th, and flooding at Swanley (Kent). There was another 39 mm of rain at Kew on the 19th. 98 mm of rain fell in nearly 2 hours (114 minutes) at Staines on the 18-19th. After a short spell of warm weather, there was an unseasonable and violent gale on the 29th, with the pressure falling to 976.6 mbar (the deepest July low on record) in Somerset (Yeovilton), disrupting a Channel boat race, and flooding in Blackpool. There were, unfortunately, many fatalities, mostly from falling trees. The south and west were particularly affected by the gale; the highest gust was 93 mph, at the Lizard, but even central London recorded a gust of 69 mph. Many beech trees in Arundel Park were felled. At Ardclach (near Nairn) there was 109 mm on the 29th and 124 mm on the 30th. That's wet.

August. One of the coldest (at CET 13.5C) and wettest of the century: only 1912 was colder. The month was characterised by a succession of depressions crossing the country. Some places in the northwest had their wettest month of the century. The highest temperature recorded was 25C, widely, midmonth. Bank Holiday Monday (6th) was one of the worst Bank Holidays on record. There was a severe thunderstorm, with large hail and 4' of water causing flooding, in Tunbridge Wells. The storm started midmorning with thunder and heavy rain, and the hail started just before midday. At one point parts of the centre of the town was buried beneath a foot of ice, with drifts of hailstones 4' deep. Cool northerly airstream. On the same days, storms affected other parts of the country: 62 mm of rain in an hour at Swanage and Arundel; 80 mm of rain at Faversham. The midday temperature in London was only 13C. 75 mm in Somerset on the 25th and in the Borders on the 27th. A ground frost on the 31st in some places. 239 mm of rain this month in Blackpool. Locally in the northwest, it was the wettest month of the century up to this point. It was a thundery month: 11 thunder days at Tangmere (Sussex).

September. The only time this century that September has been warmer than the preceding August. Some high minima, with a small number of sites on the south-east coast never falling beneath 10C. This situation was easily surpassed in 1999. The month although warm was often dull, and it was particularly wet and unsettled in the first and last weeks. With southerly winds, the temperature reached 26C in places on the 23rd.

October. After a miserable summer there was at least an Indian summer this year. Unsettled till the 5th, fine and dry after that.

November. Very dry.

December. Very mild and very dull, but with a true White Christmas. Rochdale recorded just 1.8 hours of sunshine this month, which is the record lowest amount of sunshine this century. Even some places in the SE had less than 8 hours of sunshine all month. The first twenty days were particularly mild. It was unsettled and stormy midmonth, with a gust of 110 mph on Stornoway on the 12th. It turned colder towards the end of the month. After some foggy days, there was snow cover on Christmas Day as Atlantic air pushed the continental cold air away. It then turned mild again from the 27th.