Overall a year of average temperature but with a very cold March and May. Winter 1996-96 was one of the colder ones of recent times. There was an exceptional early heatwave in June. This was the first year since 1959 when no snow patches at all survived all year in Scotland. (Usually there are two in the Cairngorms.) It was dry and sunny. The months November 1996 to January 1997 were all colder than average. The summer got off to a great start, but then became a little disappointing.

January. An extremely dull month. It was generally mild but there were cold easterlies in the last ten days; very mild in the north, cold in the southeast. Minima generally well above average. Wet in the southwest but very dry in the east, with frequent easterly and southeasterly winds. On the 8th it was wet and windy, with a gust of 75 mph recorded in the southwest. There was a great deal of fog around midmonth. Notable freezing rain and ice affected the south on the 23-24th as a low moved slowly northwards; there were disruptions to power supplies in the Cardiff area, and many road accidents in the Birmingham region. There was snow in the southeast at the end of the month. It was particularly cold around the 25-28th, with some days having maxima beneath freezing.

February. Cold (2.5C CET), wet with frequent snow, but also very sunny: parts of the southwest had the sunniest February this century. The lowest temperature for February 1996 was -14.5C at Camps Reservoir (Strathclyde) on 1 February. There was a blizzard in the northwest on the 5th: heavy snow in the NW of England and SW of Scotland. Lancaster was particularly badly affected. 13cm of level snow, with 2m drifts. The 6th was a cold day, -1.2C max at Hazelrigg (Lancs.). The duration of snow was from 5pm on the 5th until just before midnight on the night of the 6-7th. There were 70 mm of rain in 36 hours around the 11th in the Aberdeen region. There was more snow across the south on the night of the 19-20th.

March. The most easterly March since 1969, and consequently the coldest March since 1987 (CET 4.5), and in some places since 1970. It was also very dull. Snow in the east on the 11th.

April. Exceptionally dry in the southeast, but very wet in the west.Some snow in the south on April 14. Notable later warm spell: 23.8 at Weybourne (Norfolk) on the 21st.

May. Unusually cold (CET 9.1) - only 1902 was significantly colder. On the 18th the maximum in Bournemouth was only 7C. 20C was only reached for the first time in the month anywhere in the country on the 29th. Quite dry first half, but generally wet, particularly in the south.

June. A plume of hot air up from Spain gave a very hot first week - the earliest such hot spell since 1976. Temperatures were hot on the 5th and 6th; Atlantic fronts brought more cloud to parts on the 7th, although the SE remained sunny. 33.1C at St. James's Park, Westminster, London, on the 7th; a temperature this high so early in the year only happens a few times this century. The temperature has exceeded 32C (90F) on only four other occasions in the twentieth century (1950, 1947, 1944, and 1922). Rickmansworth recorded 29.4 on the 5th, 31.7 on the 6th, and 32.7 on the the 7th; 32C was widespread across the southeast on the 7th. That day Lerwick reached ... 8.6. As a cold front moved south in the evening on the 7th there were violent thunderstorms, particularly from Dorset through the East Midlands into East Anglia. There were 8 damaging hail swaths. 30mm hail, a tornado in Basingstoke and Sherborne, 73.9 mm of rain at Wantage, 30 mm widespread, squally winds, golfball-sized hail, lightning strikes causing power loss, and perhaps best of all, ball lightning in a factory in Tewkesbury, where it exploded with an orange flash, knocking out the switchboard ... The 7th was quite a day. A warm, dry, and very sunny month.

July. Dry, sunny, and warm. There were some cool nights at the start of the month, and NW winds brought sunshine, showers, and thunder. It warmed up on the 9th. 33.0C on Jersey on the 22nd. The 16 month period from April 1995 to the end of July 1996 was the driest at Manchester (airport) since records began. Violent thunderstorms on the 23rd, with flooding in Sussex and Aberdeen. Heavy hailstorm at St Albans on the 23rd.

August. Warm and sunny, with an unsettled final week. Quite wet in the south. Severe storms in Kent on the 12th, with flooding in Folkestone: 115 mm of rain, most of it falling in 7 hours. Nottingham reached 31.4C on the 18th and 31.8C on the 19th. A notable depression affected East Anglia 28-39th: there was flooding in Norfolk (Wells-next-the-sea, one of my favourite birding haunts): 102 mm of rain rain fell in 36 hours at Coltishall, Norfolk, on the 29th; it was windy, too, with northerly gales (60mph).

September. Dry; sunny and warm in the west, cooler in the east. Sunniest September in Glasgow since 1906. The first above average temperature for five years. The driest across parts of central and eastern England since 1971. Before some downpours at the end of the month, some parts of the west and mid-Wales had a 29-day drought. Average sunshine of 142 hours, but 214 hours at Hartland in north Devon.

October. Warm but dull. On the 24th it reached 22C at Prestatyn. Some windy spells: severe gale (the remnants of Hurricane Lili) in southern England on the 27th with gusts of 90 mph along the Devon and Hampshire coasts; 92 mph recorded at North Hessart Tor in Devon. This was the worst gale to hit the south since that of December 1993. Overall it was wet in the north and west, but dry in the southeast.

November. Overall, generally cold, wet and very sunny. There was a very mild spell on the weekend of the 2-3rd; it reached 19C in London on the 3rd. It was overcast though, as very mild days in late autumn and winter often are. Very windy in Scotland on the 6th. It was wet in the south around the 10th. There were some sharp frosts midmonth across the north: -11C at Carlisle early on the 18th, and then -12c was recorded at Altnaharra on the morning of the 19th, with a maximum of only -1C at Glenlivet during the day. There was snowfall across the Midlands and south on the 19th, with gales, and a pressure of only 960 mbar. The snow was particularly heavy over Staffs., Cheshire, Merseyside, and north Wales, with several centimetres drifting before the snow later turned back to rain. There was of course as ever in Britain when there's snow traffic disruption. Buxton was cut off. There was thundery snow sleet and snow showers around the Firth of Forth. Gales brought trees down in the south. Some places in Scotland stayed beneath freezing from the 19th-23rd, with 20 cms of snow on the hills. There was more snow on the 24th. Bognor Regis saw 117 hours of sunshine.

December. Cold, but not exceptionally so, and dry, except in the north-east. The southeast recorded only 15.5mm (28%) of rain. An easterly month. Notable cold spell from the 21st on, particularly across the south. Dull first three weeks, but sunny end more than compensated. Some local light snow on Christmas Day, but heavier falls on the 27th and 30th, particularly in Kent. Thick snow cover in the Channel Islands - 12 cm on the 31st. Dry. A deep depression crossed Scotland on the 1st, with 943 mbar at its centre. Gales, and a tornado near Wilmslow uprooted trees. The coldest temperature of the month was -13C at Aviemore on Christmas morning.