1978

Some interest in the winter, with snow, and a notable summer storm. At 11.53C, the equal warmest autumn of the century, and perhaps the driest, with many good spells of sunny weather.


January. Unsettled, windy, and wet, with heavy snow in the north. There was a storm on the 3rd, with tornadoes: a bad one damaged Newmarket. In particular, it caught a flight of geese, 136 falling dead out of the sky. As temperatures fell as low as 1C in the storms some of the precipitation fell as snow. There was another notable storm on the 11-12th when a northerly gale caused a storm surge in the North Sea; Margate Pier was destroyed. Flooding along the east coast. Gusts of 80 mph in London, with thunder, and snow in the north. Freezing fog in the south on the 18th (-3C), followed by snow. There was a great blizzard over the north of Scotland on the 25-29th, peaking on the 28th, as strong northerly winds brought down cold air following a deep depression. People were trapped in cars, and helicopters were needed to rescue passengers from the Inverness to Wick train in the evening. This was the worst blizzard in the area since 1955. At Glasgow 17 cm of snow was the heaviest fall there since 1947; near Aviemore the level snow depth was around 66 cm. The pressure near Durham was down to 963 mbar.

February. Generally quite a cold (CET 2.8C) and snowy month. The start of the month was mild and unsettled. It then became very cold for two weeks from the 7th as a large anticyclone over Scandinavia directed easterly winds our way: the classic great cold setup. Snow showers in the east: 15 cm in parts of Kent by the 9th, 30 cm at Newcastle by the 13th. There were some exceptional blizzards as depressions ran close to the south, particularly in the southwest on the 18th-20th, centering on the 19th. 34 cm of snow at Exeter and Cardiff, with 8m drifts. 1m fell on Dartmoor. Snow fell over much of the south and Midlands. The great southwest blizzard was one of the great blizzards of this century, with the loss of several lives. Devon was particularly badly hit, by disruption extended to Hampshire and Wiltshire. Many places were cut off; Lynmouth until the 24th, and Hawkrdige on Exmoor remained cutoff until the 27th. Some low temperatures too, with many places beneath freezing throughout this cold period. -21C at Braemar on the 15th; and -17C at Edinburgh on the 17th, its equal record low; and the lowest of all, -22 at Keith (Grampian) on the 20th. Heavy freezing rain fell in Surrey on the 20th. The thaw set in about the 23rd: up to 15C in London. The rapid thaw caused flooding.

March. An unexciting month: slightly milder than average (6.7). Easter was windy and thundery.

April. There was heavy snow in the Scottish Highlands early in the month. Early on the 10th, the minimum was -10C, and the temperature then never rose above freezing all day. Snow fell in places on the night of the 10-11th.

May. A low of -7.0C on the 9th, at Tummel Bridge, near Pitlochry; yet in the afternoon it was 22.0C, a range of 29.0C, the highest temperature range recorded in Britain.

June. Somewhat cooler than average. The highest temperature of the year was recorded on the unusually early date of the 4 June: only 28.8C at Poolewe (Highland) in Scotland. This is the last time the year's highest maximum was recorded in Scotland. 18 June was a very sunny day in the west, with close to maximum possible for a day recorded in parts of the west.

July. At 14.8C, the coldest July of the 70s. The first week was cool and very showery, with predominantly northwesterly winds. At Manchester the temperature remained below 15C until the 9th. On the 5th, there was a maximum of only 10C in northern Scotland, and of only 12C in parts of England. It was often windy, too. There were 79 mm of rain at Glenmoire Lodge in the Cairngorms on the 3rd.

August. Cooler than average. The first half was particularly cold and wet, and often thundery, with some heavy downpours. For example, 10 mm of rain fell in 4 minutes at Bristol on the 7th. There was 31 mm of rain in 20 minutes at Coventry on the 12th.

September. A dry month in England and Wales. Ex-hurricane Flossie brings strong winds - 104mph to Fair Isle.

October. One of the driest of the century, and particularly dry in the south. There was only 0.1 mm of rain all month at Gravesend, and some local spots had no measurable rain all month. It was very similar in style to 1969, with high pressure dominated the south of Britain, with westerlies bringing much rain to the north and west. It was also a consistently warm month in the south. Very mild midmonth - 25C in parts of the southeast in the 11th, and then 25.2C was recorded at Martyr Worthy (Hants.) on the 12th - this is the latest date 25C has been exceeded this century. At Nettlecombe (Somerset) the warmest day of 1978 was on 12th October at 24.3C, the latest date a warmest day has corrued. It was often foggy at night.

November. Very warm until a northerly outbreak on the 24th. Although it was mild and dry in the south, it was wet and often stormy in the north. There was a gust of 115 mph at Fair Isle on the 14th. 1978 was the last time we saw a November providing less than 50 mm of rain.

December. The start of a memorable winter: the Winter of Discontent was also often cold and snowy. The were frequent gales early in the month. On the 13th, there was a damaging hailstorm in south Devon. Some snofwalls in the week before Christmas, although Christmas itself was mild and dominated by SW winds and heavy rain. The Scandinavian blocking high was then in place at the end of the month, laying the ground work for the severe winter to come. The cold winter started on the 28th, when there was a marked contrast on the 28th: maximum of 14C in Guernsey, but beneath freezing all day in parts of Scotland. There were 255 mm of rain in 48 hours over the Mountains of Mourne at this time. The floodwaters in northern England froze, and snow fell on top. A severe blizzard struck southern England on the 30-31st, with deep drifting. New Year's Eve was the coldest for 40 years, with local maxima of -4C.