The best year for weather I can remember in a long time: an exceptional January storm (the Burns Day Storm) the warmest February on record; the third mildest winter of the century (6.2C CET average); a notable early warm spell in March; the driest spring on record in England and Wales; a warm May, an exceptional record-breaking spell in early August; and a great snowstorm in December. It was only let down by a rather dismal June. A very sunny year. Until 2006 (1999 equalled 1990), it was the warmest year on record in the UK temperature series, with a CET of 10.65C (beating 1921 and 1949). It was a very wet year in Scotland, with an average of 1820 mm. Wonderful.


January. Extremely mild (6.5C CET), wet, and windy. The highlight of this month was of course the Burns' Day Storm on the 25th that affected the midlands and south. It lasted 8 hours, with winds peaking in the SW at dawn, and in the east at midday. I remember seeing small people blown over on the Warwick campus; more seriously, it killed 47. (The death toll was higher in this storm than the Great Storm of October 1987 because this one occurred in the daytime.) It obviously caused major traffic and shipping disruption. There were inland gusts of 80 mph, although there were some gusts on the south coast around 100 mph. The highest gust was 108 mph, at Aberporth (Cardiganshire). A wider area was affected than with the 1987 Great Storm. A heavy snowfall on the Welsh hills on the 27th led to flooding.

February. The equal mildest of the century (7.3C CET, with 1998). A very warm spell 22-24th. The record high for February this century was set at March (Cambs.) on the 23rd, where 19.2C was attained, and possibly 19.4C at Buxton (Norfolk), with a warm air mass, clear skies, and sunshine. (This record was broken eight years later.) Even 16.3C was reached at Lossiemouth in Moray, Serious flooding of Towyn after the sea wall broke. Very wet, with some severe gales. Parts of western Scotland had the wettest February on record. Flooding in the Severn valley at the start of the month, following heavy rain and gales on the 1st. Snow caused disruption further north. There was lightning damage to a block of flats in Cardiff. More heavy rain and gales on the 4th. Some notable storms on the 7-8, particularly affecting the Thames and Severn valleys. Gales and rain affected the north and the west on the 17th. The worst storm was on the 26th; St. Abbs head recorded a gust of 100 mph. Towyn (north Wales) was partly evacuated after flooding and for fear of the large waves. The Severn bore reached its highest level for 80 yrs.The lowest temperature of the whole year was attained this month: -8.4C (at Grantown-on-Spey) on the15th; this is the highest yearly minimum on record.

March. Very mild overall (8.3C CET) - the mildest since the record-breaking March of 1957. There was a notable warm spell midmonth with temperatures in lows 20s C. 22.3C at Cambridge on the 18th, and 22.2 at Enfield and 22.0 at Heathrow on the 17th. I remember it was very pleasant to be able to sit out in the garden so early in the year; it was a weekend, too. Frosts at the end of the month caused cereal damage. Very wet at Fort Augustus (729 mm at Kinlochewe), but the driest over England and Wales since 1961.

April. There were some notable sharp frosts, including -9.0 at Thame, Oxon, on the night of the 4th. For many places the 4th or 5th were the coldest nights of the year. I remember the hoar frosts being particularly spectacular that year, even right on the Cornish coast. These severe frosts caused much crop damage. Ireland saw some snow on the 3rd. Yet it reached 25C at Aberdovery on the 30th, as a hot spell started on the 29th. The month was extremely sunny in eastern Scotland. April was unusually colder than March.

May. Very warm (12.6), dry, and sunny. There was a notable heatwave in the first week, which started on April 29th. The highest temperature was 28.6 at Worcester on the 3rd, but perhaps most noticeably, Glenlivet reached 28C on the 2nd. 26C was widespread on the 3rd. 25C was exceeded every day from 30 April to 6 May, and 28C was reached on the 2, 3 and 4th. The hot spell ended on the 6th. It was a component of a magnificent spring: the driest since 1893, and the sunniest since records began. The hot spell also included the first decent May Bank Holiday since it was introduced in 1979. There was only 1 mm of rain in parts of NW London all month.

June. Cool, wet, and dull (only 90 hours of sunshine in London).

July. Warm (16.9), and very dry: only 7 mm at Heathrow, the driest since records begain in 1947. The first week was cool, windy, and unsettled; it then became consistently hot, sunny, and dry. The temperatures peaked on the 20th and 21st, with temperatures of 32C in parts of the south, and 33.3C at Jersey on the 21st. There were some cool nights at the end of the month, with 0.9 at Glenlivet on the 23rd, and some reports of ground frosts.

August. An exceptional month: it was very warm, dry, and sunny, with record-breaking temperatures at the beginning. July ended with the Azores high well established, and with hot air and sunny skies temperatures soared. 33C was recorded at Jersey and Heathrow on the 1st, 34C in places on the second, and a nation held its breath for the 3rd as the breeze died down to still air. 35C was widespread, with 37.1 ÂșC (98.8F) at Cheltenham on the 3rd, the highest temperature ever recorded under standard conditions in Britain (before 2003), beating the previous record set in 1911. It was 36.5C at Heathrow on the 3rd; until then this was London's highest ever maximum (unless you count Epsom as London, in which case 9 August 1911 just pipped it.) The Welsh record high of 35.2C was also set on the 2nd, at Hawarden Bridge, Flintshire. The record for Scotland was almost, but not quite broken, with Kelso seeing 32.2C. Cardiff (33.5C) and Birmingham (34.9C) saw their records set on the 3rd. Sadly I was out of the country that day, which is one of my greatest weather regrets. Manchester (airport) had its highest ever standard reading of 33.7C on the 2nd. The following night the temperature in London did not fall below 23C. The record for the highest minimum recorded under standard conditions was set on the night of the 3-4th at Brighton, where the minimum was 23.9C. There were three days where somewhere in the country exceeded 35C, the best such spell since 1976. It was cooler on the 5th, with NW winds. In many places, a drought of 38 consecutive dry days ended on the 14-15th, as a depression moved NE across Scotland, bringing wind and rain to much of the country. There were some notable thunderstorms in the east and in Ireland on the 24th and 25th, and then there was another hot spell at the end of the month, with 31C in the east on the 29th, before the month ended on a cool note. The figure of 28.3C in Cambridgeshire occasionally quoted as the record for the late August Bank Holiday is now considered to be highly suspect, being out of line with other nearby readings. Overall, the month's CET was only 18.0C, which just about fails to make the top ten. Nevertheless, with such a record, it's got to shave it as the most interesting August for weather of the century.

September. Some windy spells. Slightly cool, but with some warmer spells. It was -1.4C at Hurn (Dorset) on the 28th. It was wetter than average in the north and west but dry everywhere else.

October. Warm, sunny in the east, but very wet in some places (Edinburgh - the wettest October since 1954 - and Sussex). On the 6th there were 61,3 mm of rain up to 9pm, leading to flooding. There was a notable heatwave midmonth 12-15th, with southerly winds and warm sunshine, with temperatures including 24.3C at Northolt (London) on the 12th, and the same temperature at Wyton (Cambs.) and Valley (Gwynedd) on the 13th - the highest temperature for such a late date since 1921. It even made 22.3C at Kinloss (Grampian). With heavy rain and strong winds at the end of the month, there was some serious flooding along the south coast.

November. Dry, and very sunny in the south and west.

December. Overall, normal temperatures. Most famous for the Midlands snowstorm of the second week. Wet snow on the night of the 7-8th led to widespread disruption in the Midlands, particularly around Birmingham. I remember this well. In Leamington Spa, I said we'd be snowed in, but no one believed me. Very cold air moved south from the north on the 7th, and a depression formed on the cold front that brought it down across the country. It stalled over the Midlands, with snow on its western flank, accompanied by a northerly gale. Severe disruption to power and transport, with many people trapped in their cars on the M6 near Coventry. The snow didn't freeze, so the thaw was quite rapid. Very stormy over Christmas. Thunder on Christmas Day quite widespread, and a number of minor tornadoes were reported, particularly in Wiltshire and Somerset, as an active cold front moved quickly eastwards across the country, bringing spells of very heavy rain, thunder, and hail. There was a damaging whirlwind in South Wales on the 29th.


1990