A mixed year; often cloudy, but with a fine late summer. It was very cold from mid January to the middle of February, with an average temperature of 0C. One of the most notable February cold snaps of the century for very low daytime maxima (see also 1929 and 1956). Overall 1990-91 was one of the colder winters of recent times. A poor spring delayed the return of migrant birds.


January. Snowy, unsettled start, but very anticyclonic from the 12th. Dry and cold second half. Generally very sunny (e.g. the sunniest January on record in Manchester and Wick), but parts of the southeast had no sun at all in the last ten days.

February. A very cold first half in the south, but mild second half. Overall temperature: CET average of 1.5. There was a notable ten day cold spell at the beginning, as NE winds brought in some very cold air from north Russia, leading to snow across most of Britain and some very low temperatures, making this the most severe spell of weather since 1987 (until 2010). The cold air arrived from Siberia on the 4th, with temperatures falling on the 5th and 6th, with the 7-9th as the coldest days. Barbourne (Hereford & Worcs.) recorded -15.6C on the 14th; Cawood (North Yorks.) had the lowest at -16.0 on the 14th. There was much powdery snow over England in this period, with some places having 48 hours of snowfall; snow depths of 30 cm+ were widespread, particularly in the NE: 50 cm at Bradford and Longframlington. Even London had 20 cm of snow, the deepest cover since December 1962. The temperature in many places did not rise above freezing from the 5-10th. Some places in the southeast had the coldest February day of the century on the 7th, with maxima around -6C, and very low maxima were widespread: it reached -5.7 at Bastreet (Cornwall), -5.2C at Whipsnade (Deds.), and at Brighton. The minimum at Guernsey airport on the 7th was -7.2, the equal low for February. On the 8th the maximum at Princetown (Dartmoor) was -6.0C. There were many injuries from falls on ice and sledging accidents, and a woman in Dartford received severe head injuries from falling icicles. It was the last time that most of Britain had snow cover until 2010. This was the infamous "wrong type of snow" for British Rail: dry and powdery. The thaw caused flooding in north Yorkshire. Milder air and a thaw arrived in all parts on the 15th, with Torquay recording 12.6C. An anticyclone enabled a thaw by day, with some sharp frosts at night, until the 19th, when it became unsettled. There were 133mm of rain in mid-Wales on the 22nd.

March. Dull, mild after cold start. Dense fog on the 13th resulted in a pile-up on the M4, killing ten. Dustfall of Saharan origin.

April. Bad weather retarded the return of bird migrants. Tummel bridge went from -4.2 to +16.5 on the 14th. Strangely a very dull month in the western isles, but very sunny in Shetland.

May. Dull but very dry: the dullest May of the century in the east, due to a preponderance of north-easterlies. Only 1mm of rain in Cornwall.

June. Cold (12.1) and wet; 25 rain days in some places. Dull (79% average). Snowfall in the Grampians on the 2-3rd. Midday temperature on the 7th of only 9C in the London area. Chipstead (Surrey) recorded -1.7C on the 2nd. On the 9th, there was snow down to 600 m, causing travel problems in northern Scotland.

July. Changeable and warm. Very dull in Cornwall. 30.3C at Kinlochewe in Scotland on the 4th. Very wet in the southwest.

August. Sunny, warm, and very dry. In Doncaster it was the driest August since 1937. There was only 3 mm of rain at Hastings. There was a severe thunderstorm at Guildford on the 1st, resulting in local flooding. At its height a rainfall rate of 1 mm every 15 seconds was recorded. On the same day a storm at Sheringham (Norfolk) gave 45 mm in an hour and a half, and areas around Tonbridge and Woking had 22 mm in half an hour. It was very warm towards the end of the month, with 30C recorded at Jersey on the 21st.

September.Very warm and sunny. There was a notable heatwave at the start of the month. 29.8C was reached near Peterborough (Marholm) on the 1st along with 29.7C at Heathrow and 29.5C at Cambridge. These were the highest September maxima since 1973. 29C was also recorded in places on the 2nd and 3rd. The final week was very unsettled. On the 28th a gale affected the north while it was very wet in the south: 109 mm of rain at Poole. Overall, in many places it was the warmest September since 1959, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Many places had quite a dry month, although some locations in the south were wet as a consequence of the rain in the last few days.

October. Cool and cloudy. The maximum at Fylingdales (North Yorks.) on the 19th was only 4.8C. On the 21st, the minimum at Thurleigh, near Bedford, was -2.6C.

November. A changeable, cyclonic month that was dull and wet in the west and north. A deep depression on the 12th brought severe gales, heavy rain, thunderstorms, and even some snow to the country; a tornado was reported near Newmarket. That's the sort of day we like.

December. Very dry and anticyclonic. Tropical air led to a temperature of 15.6 (60F+!) at (Elmstone) Canterbury on the 22nd. I particularly remember however the severe freezing fogs of the second week. -10.8 in Berkshire early on the 12th. A maximum of only -3.1 at Great Malvern on the 12th (and ever lower, -4.6 in south Yorkshire on the 11th).


1991