“The blackest month in all the year"
For me, January should be cold. I expect January to be full of snow and severe frosts. Sadly, it so rarely is.
The length of day changes imperceptibly at first, but by the end of the month we have well over an hour's more potential sunlight than at the beginning.
The first two weeks of January are supposed to be quite stormy. Then there is upposed to be an anticyclonic period peaking on the 20-21st. It is supposed to end on a stormy note, from the 24th on. Statistically, storms are strongest between the 5th and 15th of January, because the temperature contrast between the cold polar regions and warm Atlantic is at is maximum then. St. Hilary's Day (13th or 14th - there is some confusion) is supposed to be the coldest day of the year. I don't think this has received much support, although as this is the depth of winter, on average it is likely to be pretty cold about now. January is statistically the windiest month of the year.
Statistically as well, January is the coldest month of the year over 40% of the time, although February is very close behind (both 3.8C CET on the 1961-90 averages, and both 4.2C on the 1971-2000 averages). In winter the most important determinant of temperature is the source of the airmass. Unsurpringly, air from the Arcitc and Siberia is very cold, and air from the SW is relatively warm. The sun has little heating power at this time of year. Hence we can have bitterly cold but clear, sunny days. On the other hand many of the warmest days tend to be cloudy, as moist, warm air is drawn up from the SW Atlantic Ocean. The trend seems to be for January to be getting wetter; although there were several exceptionally dry Januaries in the eighteenth century, there were only two in the nineteenth (1855 and 1880) and only one in the twentieth (1997).
A particularly daft weather saying is of 2 January, "As the weather is this day so it will be in September". Hardly surprisingly, there is no truth in this saw whatsoever. St Hilary's Day, 13 January, is said to be on average the coldest day of the year.
Extremes for January in the 20th century
Highest January average overall = 7.5 (1916, also coldest in the CET series; in recent years 2007 has been mildest at 7.0)
Lowest January average overall = -2.1 (1963; 1740, 1814, 1684 were coldesr, and January 1795 coldest of all at -3.1)
Highest maximum = 18.3C (1958, on the 27th, at Aber, Gwynedd; 1971, on the 10th, same location; and 2003, on the 27th, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire).
Lowest minimum = -27.2C (1982, on the 10th at Braemar)
Some extreme weather events in January in the twentieth century
1900 The century (for those of us who like to define it as when the numbers change) started off with a very wet, mild, changeable month.
1902 Mostly mild, but cold at the end. A dry month. The pressure reached 1047 mbar over southern England on the 15th. The month also saw highest ever pressure reading in Britain: reportedly 1054.7 mbar at Aberdeen on the 31st, and 1054.9 at Coupar Angus (although the most accurate figure is likely to be 1053.6 mbar at Aberdeen; see Weather, 2006, 61, 210-211.)
1903 The record rainfall for a week in Britain was supposedly recorded in at the end of the month 20.57 inches (527 mm) from 24th to 30th January 1903 at Ben Nevis; however, this figure is almost certainly erroneous. (However, this total will have been surpassed at Seathwaite in November 2009.)
1905 Very dry. 1052 mbars recorded in the SW on the 28th.
1906 Very wet - the wettest for nearly 30 years in the south.
1907 Mostly mild and dry in the first half, with westerlies. It became much colder from the 18th with frosts. A pressure of 1052 mb was recorded at Aberdeen on the 23rd. On the 29th a blizzard, with thunder and lightning, produced 8 inches of snow in two hours at Huddersfield. There was a gale on the 30th. Overall, a sunny month.
1910 A mild, dry, windy start, and then very cold and unsettled from the 21st, with some heavy snowfalls. It reached 14C in places on the 2nd. On the 27th the maximum at Aberdeen was only -8C; at Balmoral the minimum was a respectable -23C.
1911 Very dry. The month was rainless after the 12th. No rain fell at Dursley, Gloucester, between 12th January and 17th February.
1912 Mild and fine at first. More unsettled with rain and snow between the 5th and 12th. There was more than a foot of snow at Birmingham on the 18th. The last ten days of the month were dry.
1913 As a depression moved E into cold air in the south of England on the 11th, 30-40 cm of snow fell in the Midlands and north. A very wet month across most of the UK.
1914 There were mild westerlies at the beginning and end, but there was a cold anticyclonic spell midmonth. 82 mm of rain in 12 hours at Fort William on the 25th. It was very dull in London. A dull month overall. Apart from being very wet in NW Scotland and the Borders, it was very dry elsewhere, with some places having just half the expected rainfall.
1915 Mild and very unsettled for the first three weeks, with heavy rain and gales, but then colder with snow. Up to 30 cm of snow was lying for a while at Croydon on the 22nd.
1916 The warmest ever (7.5C CET) on record. Not surprisingly, a month of persistent southwesterlies, often stormy with frequent gales. The record for New Year's Day (until 2022) was set this year, with 15.6 at Bude (although presumably this implies 60 ºF and a small range in possible temperatures). There were some high temperatures on the 6th: e.g. 17C at Rhyl; 16C at Tynemouth and York. On the night of the 21-22nd the minimum over the south was over 10C. High pressure over the south with depressions passing over the north meant that the south and east was very dry, while the west was very wet: 12mm in Lincs but 750mm in Kinlochquoich. 85mm in two days at the end of the month around Fort William and Fort Augustus. The only real frost all month was on the 23rd, and the lowest temperature all month was only -6 at Balmoral on the 28th.
1917 The coldest January (1.6C CET) of the Great War. The River Mersey partly froze. Five inches of snow fell at Newquay on the 16th.
1918 Very cold, especially in the north, with severe frost and much snow in the first half of the month. There was a widespread maximum of only -6C on the 8th. The temperature fell to -19C at West Linton on the 14th. A rapid thaw on the 18th led to flooding in the southeast.
1919 A naval ship sank by a gale off the Scottish coast on the 1st claimed 20 lives. Wet in the south. Cold early and late in the month, with substantial snow cover in the Home Counties on the 28th. Dull and stormy.
1920 A cold start, then mild, wet and windy.
1921 Very warm (7.3C CET), and largely mild and wet - the last wet month for a while. It reached 15.6C (60F) at Llandudno on the 4th and 14.4C (58F) at London on the 9th. There was a severe gale across the night of the 17th and into the 18th.
1922 There was a warm January day in London (approximately 16.0C on the 9th at Kensington). It was a very wet month.
1925 Mild, windy and wet in Southern England. There were gales on the 1st and 2nd. Very mild, mostly unsettled, and frequently windy. There were some short spells of dry but foggy weather. A pressure of 1044 mbar was recorded at Aberdeen on the 19th.
1926 Generally mild and unsettled but with a severe cold snap midmonth. 85mm of rain at Treherbert (South Wales) on the 1st. 16C at Aber (North Wales) on the 10th. Then easterly winds developed on the 13th, and then there was a persistent frost in the south from the 14-16th; -17 in Luton on the 17th followed a maximum of -6 in Lincs. the previous day. High pressure over Scandinavia and low pressure in the south brought snow to the south; depth of 30cm at Farnborough on the 16th. More snow on the 17th followed soon after by a thaw.
1927 Severe gale in Scotland on the 28th: the Paisley Storm. A highest gust of 89 kn, 11 people killed, and damage across the Clyde Valley.
1928 The thaw of the Christmas 1927 snowstorm on the 3rd, combined with heavy rain in the first week of the new month, and a North Sea storm surge on the 6-7th, along with a very high spring tide, with northwesterly winds and the depression sitting over the North Sea, led to severe flooding of the southeast. Central London was particularly badly affected. It was said that the Houses of Parliament stunk of dead fish! 14 people drowned. The estuary flooded over the banks of the Thames as far west as Hammersmith. There was also flooding around Balleter and Blairgowrie on the 22nd. It was a very wet month -indeed, it was the wettest January of the century in Scotland (600 mm at Loch Quoich; 394 mm at Eskdalemuir).
1929 Mostly cold, with easterly and northerly winds. Very wet over Scotland. There were a few milder spells with SW winds at the end of the month. In one such spell, Aber (North Wales) recorded 17C on the 30th.
1930 Changeable and stormy first half; mild in the second half, with 16C recorded at Chester on the 19th. Notable gale in Hampshire on the 12th. It was settled in the south and east from the third week on.
1931 Cold and dry for the first three weeks, with some thick fog at the start, and then mild, unsettled and wet.
1932 Very mild, with mainly SW winds: the mildest of the century in Scotland. It reached 17C at Killarney on the 3rd. A reading of a minimum of 10.5C on the 3rd might have been the highest January minimum in England on record. It was also a very wet month, especially in the north and west.
1933 Mild during first 10 days with rain and gales. Cold any dry, anticyclonic from the 20-29th. Generally sunny, with less than an inch of rain at Holyhead and Ross-on-Wye.
1934 Largely sunny and mild in the west.
1935 Changeable but mainly dry. It was mostly mild but with some frosty, foggy cold snaps. Snow around the 27th.
1937 Cold. Temperatures stayed below freezing all day on the 29th in a snowstorm.
1938 Mostly unsettled, mild and wet, sunny in the north and east but duller than average elsewhere.
t1939 The second wettest of the century in England and Wales. Also some violent gales. The month cycled between cold and snowy and wet, mild, windy spells. The area between London and Norwich had three times the normal rainfall: 128mm at Chelmsford, 221%. Many lives were lost on the 23rd when the St Ives lifeboat capsized off Cornwall. The 4th was very cold: a minimum of -17 at Dalwhinnie was followed by a maximum there of only -6; and it was -15 at the Newport (Shropshire) cold spot early on the 6th. There was heavy snow on the 25th and 26th in the south, with a severe snowstorm over high ground in the SW. 50cms of snow in Berks, Wilts, and Hants; 35 cm in Hampstead Heath. Strong winds caused drifting. The preciptation fell as heavy rain or sleet further east: 64 mm at Hadleigh, near Ipswich. 24 hrs of continuous rain at Ipswich lead to the worst floods for 38 years.
1940 The coldest month of any kind since 1895 (-1.4C CET), and eventually the second coldest January of the century (after 1963). The month started with a northerly airstream, but early in the month the winds turned to the east, bringing very cold continental air. It was clear and sunny, with hard frosts at night and several frost days. There was a severe blizzard on the 16th. On the 17th, the Thames was frozen over for the first time since 1880. The morning of the 21st gave the lowest temperature of the month: -23.3C was recorded at Rhayader (Wales), the record lowest Welsh minimum, with many places continuously well beneath freezing (e.g. only -4C maximum at Boscombe Down, Wilts.). There were heavy snowfalls in Scotland, with many places cut off. By the third week the Atlantic westerlies tried to return, bringing some heavy snowfalls. Most remarkably, there was a great snow and Ice Storm during the 27-30th, peaking on the 28th, but continuing in parts into February. Mild air approaching behind warm fronts from the SW met the cold easterly all the way from Russia. There was heavy snow over the north; four feet of snow in Sheffield on the 26th, and 10' drifts reported in Bolton on the 29th. Further south the lower air was warming up and was too warm for snow, but the rain froze as it fell, coating everything with a thick layer of glaze. The effects of the freezing rain was one of the most extreme weather events of the century. The south was particularly badly affected. Everything was coated in a thick layer of ice: phone wires 1.5 mm thick were coated with a 300mm diameter sheath of ice - up to 15 times their weight. Many large tree trunks and power lines were brought down. The area affected by the glaze reached from Kent to Exmoor and the Cotswolds, and from Sussex to Cambridgeshire and the north Midlands. It was a week before all the ice thawed; some places had snow on top of the glaze, with both remaining until the 4th February. Heavy snow and a violent gale swept the southwest.
1941 Another very cold (0.5C CET), easterly War January - the fifth coldest January of the century (after 1945, 1979, 1940, and 1963). There were some severe frosts, especially in the north. On the 2rd, during an air raid on Bristol, water from the hose pipes froze into huge icicles. The maximum at Eskdalemuir on the 4th was only -9C, then the minimum at Houghall (Durham) on the 5th was -20C. There was much snow midmonth: 40 cm lay at Birmingham on the 20th. Thaw and fog further south, as the snow moved into Scotland: 50 cm at Balmoral on the 22nd. There were two consecutive nights of -17C at Eskdalemuir. It was also a very dull month, with only about 1 hour sunshine a day on average in the southeast.
1942 The eighth coldest January of the century - note that there was this run of consecutive cold Januarys in the early war years. There was a great snowstorm across much of Britain on the 19th, causing widespread disruption. The monthe was very dull: Scarborough only had 8 hours sunshine all month
1943 Very wet in London, and wet across most of the country apart from the north of Scotland. The first 10 days were cold with some snow, but the rest of the month was mild.
1944 Unsettled, mild and dull. Dry in the SE, wet in the W and NW. The last week was very mild with 16C recorded at Wrexham on the 30th.
1945 Very cold overal (CET +0.4C - in the top ten) - the last of the cold war January months. It was unsettled and very snowy in the east. The month started mild, but cold northerly winds set in on the 4th and persisted until the 16th, bringing some snow and frost. There was a severe and damaging gale on the 18-19, causing damage and loss of life across the country. At South Shields the mean hourly wind speed was 65 mph. There was a maximum gust of 76 mph at St Ann's Head (Pembroke.), with an average wind speed of 76 mph. A tornado was associated with a thunderstorm around Dunstable on the 19th. As the depression causing the gale moved ESES across Scotland, some very cold air came behind, and the period 19th-30th was very cold again. There was then an exceptionally cold last week, with severe frost and freezing fog. On the 25th, the temperature at Leeming rose from a minimum of -17C to a maximum of -9C; at Dalwhinnie, it rose from -19C to -11C on the 26th. There was some heavy snow, too: Cardiff was cut off for several days after nearly a metre of level snow on the 25th. Deep snow lay widely from South Wales to Yorkshire from 25th-29th. Overall it was a sunny month, unusual for one so cold. The cold weather quickly turned around for February.
1946 A changeable month with no noteworthy falls of snow. It remained below freezing all day in many districts on the 20th. The warmest January night on record was recorded on the 10th-11th, with a minimum of 12.2C around Exeter. It was 14.5C in London on the 11th, in a very mild airstream. The month had a wet and unsettled end.
1947 Cold (2.2C CET), but not excessively so overall. The month is most memorable for the start of a severe, prolonged, and exceptionally snowy cold spell. Although there had been some significant snowfalls in December, and again on the 4-5th, the harsh winter did not really get going to the third week, after quite a mild interlude (hence the average). After some early cold snaps, there was a very pleasant, mild interlude. The first five days were mild and wet, with a heavy snow fall early on the 6th and snow lying on the ground until the 9th. It then turned very mild with westerly winds from the 14th to 18th. It reached 14C in places on the 16th; Saturday 18 January was sunny and mild, and then ... The severe winter really started on the 20th, with the first frost since the 7th. On the 22nd, a NE airflow brought cold air all the way from Siberia. There were frequent snow showers on the 22nd and 23rd. On the 26th much of England experienced continual frost. There was a major blizzard in the southwest on the 28th. There was a minimum of -21C early on the 29th at Writtle (Essex), and then a maximum of -5C over much of eastern England. 17cms of snow on the Isles of Scilly on the 30th.
1948 The wettest of the century over England and Wales, with an average of 177 mm (almost 220% of average). Very mild and stormy, with some serious flooding in northern England. Tynemouth had 160 mm of rain - smashing its previous record by 41 mm. A very dull month too.
1949 The month started unsettled and wet, with some very low pressure on the 1st (950 mbar recorded at Holyhead, Anglesey). It was quieter later, becoming mild and dry. Overall it was the driest January in England and Wales since 1911, but it was a wet month in Scotland.
1950 Very dry, except in the NW. The south averaged less than 25 mm of rain. It was also a dull month. The month had a very mild first half, with 16C recorded at Aber (North Wales) on the 9th.
1951 Cool, unsettled, and wet.
1952 The second sunniest January on record, with an average of 82 hours sunshine across England and Wales. Violent gales with much damage in the far north on the 15th. A westerly first half of the month: wet and mild in the south, cold with snow in the north.
1953 Very dry over much of the UK, particularly in Yorkshire. The first 8 days were cold but it then turned much more mild, reaching 14.4C at Whitby on the 29th. It snowed in the SE on the 5th, with snow lying until the 9th. It then turned mild and quiet. 14.4C was recorded at Whitby on the 29th. The month was of course most memorable for the great storm on the 31st, continuing into 1st February, led to widespread flooding on the North Sea coasts. A depression deepened as it moved SW between Norway and Scotland. A strong north to northwesterly wind (gusts of 100mph +) in combination with low pressure (970 mbar during the afternoon of the 31st) and the high spring tide caused a great coastal surge was great: the tide was 2.5 m above the normal level at King's Lynn. The surge rain ahead of high tide by 90 minutes. 307 people were drowned, and 2500 square miles of land lay under water. 307 people died. (The loss of life was much greater in the Netherlands, where nearly 2000 died. Over one sixth of the Netherlands lay under water.) Earlier that day a British Rail car ferry (the Princess Victoria) sank near Belfast Lough, with the loss of 132 lives.
1954 Cold and dry, and sunny in the south. A quiet start, then cyclonic spell midmonth. 15C exceeded somewhere on the 14th, 15th, and 20th. Severe gales on the 15th. It turned cold and wintry from the 24th. Heavy snow fell in the west and south on the 25th and 26th. There was then a notable very cold spell began on the 29th. The exceptional cold continued into the next month.
1955 There was prolonged snow on the 4th on strong northerly winds; 15 cm in London was the heaviest fall there since 1947. There was more snow on the 13th, after an intervening mild spell. The 16th was a very interesting day: there was a blizzard over Lancs. and Yorks., with many snow showers over Scotland. "Operation Snowdrop" was instigated to provide air relief to cut off villages in the far north. Eskdalemuir had continuous frost from the 10th to the 15th. Snow also fell in London on the 16th, accompanied by "daytime darkness" which happened suddenly at 1.15 pm. It was perhaps precipitated by pollution interacting with the approaching cold front, as a SE wind carried polluted air to the Chilterns, where it became trapped beneath the warm air; when the wind changed to the NW, the polluted air was carried back again. A layer of polluted air 4000' thick quickly cut out virtually all daylight. Light levels fell to 1/1000 th of the normal level on a clear January day; no wonder thousands of people phoned the emergency services and newspapers. No sunshine was recoded in much of East Anglia until the 11th of the month. From the 22nd the weather turned milder, for a while, until early February. Although wet overall in the south it was drier than average in the north.
1956 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 Scandinavian 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.
1957 The month started cold with some snow, but it was mostly a mild, westerly month, but anticyclonic from the 10-20th, with a pressure high of 1051 mbars recorded at Benbecula (Western Isles) on the 16th. It was a stormy month at times. It was quite dry and sunny in the east and Midlands, but wet in the west. A cold northerly outbreak on the 20th led to some heavy snowfalls, particularly in Northern Ireland. Stormy end: a gust of 112.7 mph on Tiree on the 31st. In some places the pressure fell more than 15 mbars in 3 hours as an intense depression passed by.
1958 Cold and snowy at first, later very mild. Cold air swept south on the 19th, with 15cm of snow over large parts of the country; 40cm of snow lay over northern Scotland, and 25cms of snow lay across Essex on the 24th. It was -18C at Driffield (Yorks) and Shawbury (Shrops) on the 24th. There was persistent freezing fog; maximum of -5 at Dishforth (Yorks.) on the 23rd. Then the winds changed the SW bringing a dramatic change in temperature as some very mild, wet air crossed the country. Aber (north Wales) reached the record 18.3C on the 27th, thanks to the Fohn effect (whereby air is warmed by descent from mountain ranges) - a record equalled in 1971 and 2003. It also reached as high as 59F (15C) at Prestwick. On the morning of the 25th the minimum at Grantown-on-Spey was -21C; the maximum at Onich (Highland) later was 17C. There was flooding in the north after the thaw and heavy rain.
1959 The sunniest January since records began (in about 1875). The average for England and Wales was 84 hours. Leuchars (Fife) set its record January sunshine total of 101 hours. Bournemouth enjoyed the record January total sunshine yet: 115 hours. It was a cold month overall (CET 1.6). There was snow at times, with some heavy snow in the north. The 5th was a cold day, with a maximum of -5 C at Stanhope Farm in the Scottish Borders. The 15th was a cold day, with a maximum of only -5C at Renfrew. Dalwhinnie recorded a maximum of just -7.8 on the 15th.
1960 Slightly cooler than average. There were some heavy snowfalls midmonth across the south. A blizzard closed the east coast railway in Scotland on th 18-19th, with 1 m drifts. A wet month overall.
1961 A wet month.
1962 A very wet month, particularly in west Scotland. It had a very cold start, with low maxima in the Midlands: it reached just -1 C max at Cardington (Bedfordshire). The year's lowest temperature was -18.5C at Eskdalemuir on 1 January (the Met Office has recently rejected the reading of -21.1C Corwen (Clwyd) on the 2nd). London recorded its lowest ever minimum (under standard conditions), with -16.1C at Northolt on the 1st. It turned milder, sunnier, but with storms, from the 7th. Strong NW gales affected the Midlands on the 11th; a gust of 104 mph as recorded at Hartland Point, north Devon. The month became more settled from the 25th. As is common with very wet winter months, it was also sunny in the south, particularly London and the Midlands.
1963 The coldest month of the 20th century (-2.1C CET), the fifth coldest month ever, and part of the Big Freeze. Indeed, this was the coldest month since 1814. There was not a single westerly or southwesterly day in sight: there were 20 easterly days (with the rest calm or northerly). Much of England and Wales was snow-covered throughout. A notable snowstorm occurred on the 3-4th in the Southwest and Welsh Borders, with drifts up to 5 m deep, and 10-20 cm of fresh level snow in places; the snow was accompanied by a strong wind. The easterly winds lessened for a while in the second week, and there were some very low temperatures. The minimum was -19.4C at Achany (Sutherland) on the 11th. Shawbury had a maximum of -7C on the 12th, and Braemar just -11.7 on the same day. -16C was recorded at Gatwick and Eskdalemuir on the 13th, with freezing fog. It was slightly less cold midmonth, as winds turned slightly more northerly; however, many places still managed to stay beneath freezing from the 14-15th. Winds turned easterly again on the 17th for the most severe week of the winter. There was a minimum of -22.2C at Braemar on the 18th: this was the lowest minimum of the winter. There was another notable blizzard on the 19-20th, particularly affecting the southeast, with widespread maxima of -5C in the south. There was freezing rain in places on the 20th. In this spell, the highest hourly mean wind speed records were set (99 mph, at Great Dun Fell, Cumbria, on the 15th, and Lowther Hill, Scotland, on the 20th). The lowest minimum reported in England was -20.6C at Hereford on the 23rd; also -20.6C at Stanstead Abbotts (Herts.), early on the 23rd, and then a maximum of only -8C at Ross-on-Wye the next day. There was a snowdrift 25' deep on Dartmoor on the 21st. There was much freezing fog on the 24th. For the first time since 1947, there was pack ice on large estuaries such as the Solent, Mersey, and Humber. Many places in the SE stayed beneath freezing from the 16-25th. At Eastbourne the sea was reported as frozen to an extent of 100' offshore for a length of 2 miles. The weather turned less cold on the 26th, with some places having the first frost-free night of the month. Pressure of 1048 mbar in Scotland on the 27th. Winter as a whole was the worst since 1739-40. One consequence of the prevailing easterlies was that some sheltered westerly locations were very sunny: St Mawgan (Cornwall) reached 114.4 hours (a record). Also some westerly spots were extremely dry. See also December 1962 and February 1963. It will be no surprise that hence I rate this month as the most interesting January of the century.
1964 Very dry - one of the driest of the century.
1965 Slightly colder than average.
1966 Cold, dry, and dull. It was -19C on the morning of the 19th at Elmstone in Kent, with a maximum later that day of only -4C. The sea froze over at Pegwell Bay. Much snow in the east 14-22nd. An ice storm affected the south on the 20th as a depression hit the cold polar continental air brought in on the easterlies.
1967 Slightly milder than average overall, although the first half was cold and dry, with a notable snowfall in parts, particularly the SE, on the 6-7th. The mild second half of the month more than made up for it.
1968 Quite mild. There was some unexpected light snow in southern central England on Saturday 6th. There was a notable snowstorm in the south on the 8-9th, affecting a large area of the country from North Wales down to the southeast of England Snow started in Southampton just before 2 pm. By the next morning in some areas there were drifts 3 m deep, with strong SE winds, and level snow of up to 30 cm in mid Wales, with 10 cm of cover over a wide area. After the cold start the month became much more mild from the 13th. The Clyde Valley storm in Glasgow on the night of 14-15th killed 20 people (9 in Glasgow alone) and injured 40 others, with over 1000 homes damaged. Electricity was lost across most of the city. 50 or so had to be abolished. The damage was said to resemble the effects of the Clyde Blitz in March 1941. The storm affected much of the north of Britain. At Glasgow the average wind speed between 2 and 3 am was 61 mph, with a gust of 102 mph; there was a gust of 117mph recorded on Tiree; and Great Dun Fell in Cumbria recorded a gust of 133 mph, at the time the highest recorded in Britain. Tornadoes were reported. Pressure dropped very quickly on the 14th as mild Atlantic air met a cold block over Europe, and as the depression passed, pressure rose very quickly (18.5 mbars in three hours at Stornoway).
1969 Mild. At 5.5C, it was the mildest January of the 60s - indeed, to get one more mild you'd have to go back to 1944 or forward to 1974, although 5.5C is nothing compared with what you get these days. (1949 and 1957 were as mild.) It turned mild and unsettled from the 7th, and was very mild around the 21st, although it then turned colder.
1970 Not a great deal happened this month. The overall temperature was almost exactly average (3.7).
1971 A mild and unsettled month. The cold spell over Christmas 1970 ended on the 6th when it turned mild. There was an exceptional warm spell from the 8-11th. Aber (north Wales) once again reached a record 18.3, this time on the 10th, thanks to the Fohn effect. However, temperatures over 15C were widespread. Lairg (Sutherland) reached 16.7, Scotland's highest ever January temperature. The end was quite stormy, with tornadoes reported around the London area on the 25th.
1972 There was an intense but brief cold spell four days at the end (from the 28th). Temperatures fell to -15.6C at Gatwick on the morning of the 31st. At Cromer and Binbrook (Lincs.), the maximum on the 31st was -6C, and then there was a low-level British low for the month of -17.7C at Warsop (Notts.) and East Malling (Kent) on the the 31st. Places in the SE had 72 hours of continuous frost. I don't remember it at all!
1973 Another unexciting month - slightly warmer than average (4.5).
1974 Very stormy, wet, but mild. It was particularly stormy in the first half of the month, on the 4th, 7th, 8th, and 10-13th. A gust of 102mph at Port Talbot on the 8th; the same day 125mm of rain fell in the southwest. Flooding in Wales, and four people died. Thick fog in the south and Midlands on the 9th, contributing to a severe accident on the M1. On the night of the 10-11th, 21 tornadoes were reported across southern Britain, with a gust of 104 mph at Lyneham (Wilts.). The storm of the 11-12th was particularly windy; 123 mph was recorded at Kilkeel (County Down). Waves caused flooding at Blackpool and Aberystwyth. Disruption to power supplies was widespread. 238.4mm of rain fell at Sloy, Loch Lomond, on the 17th: this total (over 9"!) is a record for daily rainfall in January. Whereas some sites in western Scotland exceeded 1000 mm for the month, some in northeast Scotland only made 25 mm.
1975 One of only two wet months this year. It was also extremely mild; at 6.8C, only January 1916 and 1921 have been milder.
1976 Very dry. Extreme gale at the start of the month on the 2nd, accompanied by very mild (14C) air (earlier in the day -12 was recorded in NE Scotland). A gust of nearly 105 mph was recorded atRAF Wittering, near Peterborough. Large areas of the north, north Wales, north midlands, and East Anglia reported gusts over 50mph. Widespread damage and deaths. A caravan site near Doncaster was destroyed. Some flooding on the North Sea coast: 4' of flood water in Mablethorpe and Sutton-on-Sea (Lincs.). A "black frost" at the end: from the 28-30th, polar continental air brought continual frost to much of southern England, but without any visible signs of white frost.
1977 Colder than average (2.8C CET). Unsettled, often stormy, with heavy snow in the second week. There was a minimum of -18C at Braemar on the 18th.
1978 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 mbars.
1979 A very cold (-0.4C CET) and snowy month. The last really cold January (average beneath freezing). Much of the south started the month snowbound after the blizzard of December 30-31st. Stithians (Cornwall) could only manage a maximum of -4 on the 1st, after widespread severe frosts; there was even a minimum of -16C in Cornwall on the 1st, the county record for Cornwall. There were some very low maxima were widespread on the 1st, with places as far apart as Exeter and East Anglia unable to go much above -5C. For much of the month there were severe frosts and heavy snowfalls. The record low for Northern Ireland (before December 2010) was set at -17.5C at Magherally (Co. Down) on the 1st. There was heavy snowfall in the northwest and Midlands on the 2nd; a maximum of -11.5. at Burton-on-Trent on the 3rd, in freezing fog, following a minimum of -16C the night before. There was a blizzard on the Channel Islands on the 4th; Torcross (Devon) hit and damaged by very large waves that night. Dense, cold, freezing fog midmonth. It was -24.6C at Carnwath (Strathclyde) on the 13th (possibly 18th) - this was the lowest temperature in the UK in the 70s. There was then a maximum of only -7C at Abbotsinch.On the 14th the diurnal range at Lagganlia (near Aviemore) was a record 30.1º (from -23.5 to +6.6). There was another severe snowfall on the 23rd in southern England; six inches of snow, followed by freezing rain in London. Even the Scillies had three days of laying snow. Oh for another month like it.
1980 On the cool side.
1981 Slightly milder than average. 20 cm of snow brought Glasgow to a standstill on the 16th, and the Lossiemouth reached 15.5C on the 29th.
1982 A good winter continues - if you like it cold and snowy. It began mild and wet at the New Year, but then became very cold from the 5th to the 15th with some record low temperatures. December's cold air was never far away, and with anticyclones in place over Greenland and Scandinavia a cold front moved south, pushed down by northeasterlies, with cold air slowly reintroduced from the 3rd, preceded by heavy rain. Between the 5th and 8th over 100 mm of rain fell on the Southern Uplands and Pennines. As the ground was frozen, it just ran off. As a result there was severe flooding in the York district when the River Ouse broke its banks after rising to 5m above normal. Ice floes became jammed under bridges. The flood waters then froze over. On the morning of the 5th there were over 40 cm of level snow at Braemar. There was more snow in the north on the 7th; and -23C at Braemar; the next day Grantown-on-Spey fell to -26.8C. The battle between very cold and mild air in the south led to blizzards; the Midlands and Wales had 30-50 cm of snow on the 8-9th with easterly gales. Many places were cut off (e.g. Torquay and Weymouth, and the South Wales for three days). Some drifts were 20' high. Lasting 36 hours, this was one of the most severe blizzards of the century across the Southwest, Midlands, and Wales.Throughout the snowfall temperatures hovered around -3C. In the far SW mild air encroached, giving an ice storm as rain fell onto frozen ground and surfaces. Electricity pylons were particularly susceptible to ice damage. As the cold front straddled Devon, the temperature was 10C to the south, but at the same time only 2C a little further north. Then with clear skies, light winds, and snow cover, Braemar fell to -27.2C (equal British record for the lowest reading) on the morning of the 10th, and logged several other very low minima that month. The maximum on the 10th was only -19.1C: a record low maximum for Britain; with a freshening easterly wind even Weymouth did not rise above -4C that day. The following day the minimum was -26.3C. There were some other very low temperatures in Scotland on the morning of the 11th, including -26.6 Cat Bowhill, and -26.2 at West Linton, both in the Borders. The English record lowest minimum was also set early in the morning of the 10th (beating that just made in December 1981!): -26.1C at Harper Adams College, just outside Newport (Shropshire). The maximum at Benson (Oxon.) was only -10C on the 13th. The nights of the 11th and 14th were also extremely cold. Bedford (the closest reading I have for Cambridge that year, where I wsa at the time) went down to -15.9C on the 14th. Many places had continuous frost from the 7th to 11th. Then there was some freezing fog. Mild air reached Scotland on the 13th and the south on the 15th. Nevertheless, there was snow cover at Balmoral from 4 December to 28 January. However, as it was mild at the beginning and end of the month the month overall was not that cold.
1983 An extremely mild month (6.7), wet in the west, and windy. Dull in the north: Orkney could only manage 7 hours sunshine all month. A storm surge hit the NW on 31 January, but as the sea defences had been improved flooding was much less extensive than in 1977.
1984 A westerly month, but it was very wintry in the north.The month was very wet: the wettest January since 1948 in England and Wales. Snowy over Scotland and Northern Ireland. A violent gale in the Midlands on the 11th, and another on the 13th gave a gust of 104 mph in the NE England. On the 13th, the north suffered prolonged snow showers and strong winds. There was a destructive tornado in Doncaster on the 14th, and lightning in Leeds. It was very cold in Scotland: there was a minimum of -23.6C at Grantown-on-Spey on the morning of the 20th, and -20.6C at Aviemore, followed by a maximum of only -8C at Tummel Bridge the next day. More snow in the north on the 21st. On the 23rd snow lay 65 cm deep in parts of Scotland, with many places cut off. Snow lay for 30 days of the month at Kindrogan, 20 days at Glasgow and Edinburgh, but only 6 at Manchester , and just one in London. Another tornado, with large hail, hit Teignmouth on the 26th. It was milder than average in the south.
1985 Very cold (0.8C CET) with frequent snow in the first three weeks. There was heavy snowfall in Kent on the 5th (25 cm of snow around Ramsgate and Margate), with maxima of -4ºC. The 7th was a cold day, with temperatures beneath freezing over much of the country; -16º at Jubilee Corner (Kent) on the morning of the 8th. As the cold air retreated temporarily to the continent, temperatures rose for a while, but the cold soon returned with a vengeance around the 13th. Some very low maxima on the 16th, which was one of the coldest days of the century in parts of southern Britain: -6C at Brighton and in Kent on the 16th and Shrewsbury and Wittering on the 17th. 20 cm of snow over much of the south. Thaw from the 19th, preceded by a blizzard over the Highlands. There was a minimum of -19C on the 25th, rising to only -9, and a minimum of -22.4º at Aviemore on the 27th, and -23C at Braemar, with the lowest reading being -23.4ºC at Lagganlia (Highland) also on 27 January. The weather was even worse in Europe.
1986 A mixed month; wet but sunny. A low moved SE across Britain on the 28th and 29th, bringing sleet and snow from central England northwards. The winds turned easterly on the 30th, however, presaging the forthcoming severe February.
1987 This month saw an exceptional cold spell resulting from an easterly airstream which began in earnest on the 9th, with cold air starting to feed in from the 7th. Before that here was a wet start to the month. Then the maximum at Aviemore was -5C on the 8th and 9th. On the 9th, an anticyclone anchored over Scandinavia forced a depression moved SE over Britain leading to strong NE to E winds across England on the 10th, and bringing exceptionally cold air from an unusually cold Europe. I remember the forecast from the night before very clearly; the cold was predicted accurately well in advance. The coldest air reached England on the 11th. Maxima on the 12th January were commonly around -6C; -8C across large parts of the south; the day probably was equal to or lower than the previous lowest maximum in London (see also January 1841 and 1867). For many places this was the coldest day of the century. For example, Warlingham (Surrey) recorded a 12 hour daily maximum of -9.2C, a 24 hour maximum of -9.0C, with minima of -12.4C and -10.0C either side. Quite often it was clear and sunny, but the cold air crossing the warm North Sea led to a very high snowfall on the eastern coast, with the snow starting in the evening: 45 cm of snow settled at Southend, and 50 cm fell even in Cornwall. The Charing Cross to Dover train took 13 hours to get to Ashford. The highest temperature in Britain on the 12th was +0.1C at the Butt of Lewis; all of mainland Britain remained beneath freezing. The following night was unsurprisingly very cold everywhere, widely beneath -10C, and with -16.0C recorded at Aviemore. There was more heavy snow on the 13th and 14th. There were slightly higher temperatures on the 15th, as the extreme cold slowly eased its grip. A slow thaw began on the 20th. In parts of the south there were 14 consecutive sunless days from the 14th (to the 28th), in many places setting a new "dullness" record. Here are the noon temperatures from Gatwick from the 7th to the 20th: 0, -2, 1, -1, -5, -7, -7, -3, -2, -1, -3, -3, -3, -1. There was severe frost damage to plants on the Isles of Scilly. The lowest reading of this exceptional spell was -23.3C at Caldecott (Leics.) on the 13th; however, this reading was much lower than expected, and it has since been rejected and replaced by a minimum of -19.1C at Warsop (Notts., also on 13 January). There was freezing rain in the south Midlands. Generally it was a very dry month - the driest since 1964. Europe, particularly the Baltic region, saw some exceptionally low temepratures, with maxima around -20 and minima beneathe -40. This was the last significantly cold month of the century (with +0.8C CET, the last month beneath 1C before 2010).
1988 Mild and very wet, although quite sunny.
1989 Extremely mild (6.1): Glasgow had its mildest January of the century. Generally very dry, except for western Scotland, which was very wet. Glen Shiel recorded 855mm, while Aberdeenshire only had 10% of average. Torrisdale, in the extreme north of Scotland, reached 15.5C on the 27th.
1990 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.
1991 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.
1992 Very dry. A very anticyclonic month, particularly from the 11th on. The highest barometer reading for some time was set on the 26th: 1049 mbars. Slightly colder than average overall.
1993 Very mild (5.9C CET), unsettled, with many gales (with 13th, 17th, 23rd, and 24th were worst). It was the wettest January in western and central Scotland since 1929. A record low pressure was set for the north Atlantic, on the 10th: 916 mbar was confirmed (and 913mb claimed) off NW Scotland. This is the lowest pressure in the world outside of tropical storms and the centres of tornadoes. This low pressure accompanied by the Braer Storm on the 10th; the gales led to the final breakup of the oil tanker Braer, stranded by an earlier storm in the previous week. A severe blizzard affected Scotland and the north of England on the 11-12th, with 30 cm of level snow, and 30' drifts. There was severe flooding in the Perth region as the Tay and Earn broke their banks following the thaw.
1994 Unsettled and very wet, especially in the first two weeks, but very sunny. Mild in the south. Heavy rain on the 3rd in Belfast (25 mm). Rain led to more flooding in the south. Flooding almost cut Chichester off for some time at the start of the month (6-10th) as the Lavant broke its banks. Many mudslips and rockfalls in the south. West Sussex was particularly badly affected. There was also a local heavy band of snow to the N and W of London on the 6-7th: Hitchin had 15 cm.
1995 Near average temperatures (4.8C). It was very wet in the south: the wettest in the London area since 1943. Changeable. Major snowstorm around Leeds on the 25th, with 40cms of snow in three hours.
1996 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.
1997 The driest this century over England and Wales (18% of rainfall), following a dry December. On average there was less than 25 mm of rain in England and Wales - the last time this happened was 1880. The winter was dry enough to lead to fears of a water shortage. It was particularly dry in North Wales and the Northwest: Aberporth (Cardiganshire), Prestatyn (Flintshire), and Southport (Lancashire) saw just 3.0 mm of rain all month in total. It was very cold in the first ten days, nut then mild. 21 cm of snow on the Channel Islands on the morning of January 2nd, but it soon melted. Average temperatures in Scotland, but cold in the south. The Thames was frozen at Marlow (Bucks) for the first time in 50 years. Some places in the south did not rise above -3C on the 1st and 2nd. The minimum was -15.0C at Shepshed (Leics.) on the 3rd, -12 at Benson (Oxford) on the 2nd, and maxima beneath freezing on the south coat. Kent was badly affected by snowstorms. The first 100 hours of the month in the south were a continual frost. Thaw on the 11th, as many places in the west reached 13C on the 11th as Atlantic air moved in, and Aberdeen reached 15C on the 13th. The month was cooler than average, but not excessively so (2.5) - although it was still the coldest for ten years!
1998 Very mild overall (5.2C CET), but drier and colder from the 20th on. Sunny and wet. A wet and windy first week, with particularly damaging gales 3-4th. The Sussex area was particularly badly affected, and then Selsey was hit by a damaging tornado on the night of the 6th-7th. Just before midnight (11.45pm) the 100 mph tornado cut a 700m track from west to east through the town, causing much damage (destroying one of Patrick Moore's observatories), accompanied by golf ball size hailstones. The damage was estimated as costing £2 million. Conservatories flattened, walls destroyed, parts of roofs torn off, fences ripped up ... Thunderstorms were widespread along the south coast that night. Warm spell midmonth, including a 17.3 recorded at Prestatyn on the 10th, 17.5 at Betws-y-Coed the same day, 15C at Heathrow on the 9th (the highest for 50 years), 14.1 in Hampstead, 16.7 at Hawarden, and 16.0 at Saunton Sands (Devon). In Scotland, Eilenreach reached 17.3C on 10th. There was a brief cold snap, with snow in the north, midmonth.
1999 Generally very mild, sunny, wet (very wet in the west) and windy. A very westerly month. Although mild, it was not exceptionally so. Storms on the 3rd. Honister Pass (in the Lake District) had 197mm in 27 hours on the 4-5th; no wonder there was extensive and serious flooding in Cumbria around then. One of the warmest days in London in a long time on the 6th. Exactly how warm, and for how long, depends on the reliability of records and where they are taken from. Gravesend (Kent) recorded 16.3; 15.4, a new January record, at Heathrow; 16.1, a new record for London, at Kensington. These are the warmest January readings for the Home Counties this century. At least it was quite sunny overall. The wettest January in 50 years in Bristol. Ball lightning reported on the 26th.
2000 Mild (CET 4.4), sunny, and quite dry. Some very mild days at the beginning and end of the month; 15C recorded at Worcester, and 16C in NE Wales, on the 31st. The lowest temperature of the month was -9C at Redhill on the 27th. Average rainfall was 47% of the expected amount, but the south and east were particularly dry. The far west and north were quite wet. Flooding in North Wales on the 12th after 155mm of rain (at the wetspot Capel Curig in Snowdonia 10-12th). Gales in Scotland and Northern Ireland 2-3rd. There were 99 hours of sun at Bognor, and 97 hours at Leuchars (Fife) - just failing to beat the record of 101 years set in 1959. It was a westerly first half of the month and anticyclonic second half. There were mild SWs at the end of the month. A severe gale affected the Scottish islands on the 29-30th.
2001 Exceptionally sunny. With an average of 78.3 hours (34% above average), it was the third sunniest in 125 years (since records began), and the sunniest since 1959. Some places had their sunniest January ever (e.g. Carlisle, Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry). Folkestone had 114 hours. With a mild start and finish, but a cold, anticyclonic spell in the middle, temperatures were a little below average. It was -14C at Altnaharra on the 18th. Heavy rain in the south on the 26th, with some snow on the northern flank: several cm on the Chilterns. Rainfall was about average over much of England and Wales, but it was very wet along the south coast, extremely wet in the Channel Islands, yet very dry in northeast Scotland: Kinloss only had 11 mm.
2002 A cold start. A very cold New Year, with -10.6C at Sennybridge (Powys) on the 1st, and then -13.6C at Glenlivet on the morning of the 2nd; many places stayed beneath freezing all day, with the maximum at Leeming (Yorks.) on the 2nd only -4C. It then became very mild. The final two weeks were very wet. There was an exceptional gale in Scotland on the 28th: a gust of 115 mph at Cairngorm; 82 mph at Edinburgh airport. Close to home, some exceptional gusts included 108 mph on the Forth Bridge, and 99 mph on the Tay Road Bridge. 7 people died in the gales: a reminder that much as some of us enjoy severe weather, it can bring tragic consequences to some. Overall it was very wet in the NW and quite sunny in the SE. In spite of the cold start it was a mild month overall (the warmest since 1993), but the second half was exceptionally mild.
2003 The month was slightly warmer than average, but contained some amazing contrasts. It was a very sunny month: in the south of England it was the sunniest January on record, with nearly 123 hours in Weymouth. The month had a cold beginning and end, but it was very mild in between (13-28th). The month started with some heavy rain, leading to widespread and severe flooding, particularly in the south. It then suddenly turned much colder, with frost and snow, and freezing of the floodwaters. It was -10.2C at Altnaharra on the morning of the 3rd. London had its first significant snowfall for years, and 20 cm fell in Northumberland, Durham, and NE Wales. The temperature fell to -18.9C at Grantown-on-Spey, as well as -18.3C at Aviemore, on the morning of the 7th, with a maximum of just -8.8C the next day. It turned milder on the 10th as mobile westerlies returned. There was an incredible contrast at the end of the month. It was exceptionally mild, with a maximum of 18.3C was recorded at Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, and Inchmarlo nearby, on Sunday 26th. This is the new highest January maximum for Scotland, and equalled the British record set in Aber in 1958 and 1971. On the 27th East Malling (Kent) recorded 17.4C - a new January record for England. Four days later there was an Arctic plunge, and on Thursday 30th snow and blizzards affected many parts of the country, accompanied by biting winds. There was more snow on the 31st. Transport was severely affected by the snow, particularly in NE Scotland, the S and SE of England, and the E coast. The M11 became blocked for many hours. Snow also caused delays on the London underground ... Amazing what 3 inches can do. The Thames barrier was closed 14 times, a new record.
2004 Milder than average, and slightly wetter - the wettest for five years. Often dull, wet, and windy. Cold at the beginning and end, with an Arctic plunge in the final week giving disruptive snow and even thunder with the snow as the cold and mild air collided on the 28th. The heavy snow caused widespread travel disruption in the MIdlands on the 28th. The warmest day were oddly and unusually both on the 31st (13.9C at Madley, Herefordshire, and -10.2C at Altnaharra. 56 mm of rain fell at Capel Curig on the 15th. There was also some snow in the Midlands, Wales, and NE on the 14-15th. A good-sized waterspout was photographed in the Bristol Channel lunchtime on the 11th.
2005 A month of two halves, as they say. The first half was quite stormy, particularly in the north and west; the second half, quiet and dry. With westerly winds, it was mild everywhere, but the position of the anticyclone meant that while it was wet in the north, it was dry in the south and east. A very disturbed first week with some ferocious gales and severe flooding, particularly across the north and west. In the 48 hours up to 6 pm on the 8th, Capel Curig (North Wales) had 184.4 mm of rain; Keswick had 118.0 mm. There was severe flooding in Carlisle and the Eden Valley. It reached 14.7C at Church Fenton, near York, on the 9th. At Weybourne (north Norfolk coast), the minimum the following night was 12.7C - the warmest January night for 47 years. A particularly severe storm on the 11-12th caused loss of life and havoc, particularly in the NW and W, combined with a very high tide. The pressure fell to 944 mbars off the W coast of Scotland. There were gusts of 90 knots across the NW; Cairngorm recorded 117 knots. The lowest temperature of the month was -9.2C at Dalwhinnie on the 23rd. Overall with a CET of 6.1C it was the warmest January since 1990. Many places along the south and west coasts had a frost-free month. England and Wales rainfall averaged 56 mm (40% beneath average); Scotland had 45% above average rainfall, while the western Highlands and Lake District had twice the average.
2006 High pressure ruled the month, and it was very dry, particularly in the south. The England and Wales average total was just 30.5 mm, 33% of the long-term average. Only 1964, 1987 and 1997 have been drier in the last hundred years. Average temperatures overall, meaning after a mild run it was the coldest for five years: there were cold spells early and late in the month, but a mild spell midmonth cancelled these out. The first half was extremely dull, the second half very sunny, but with persistent freezing fog in places. Most of the rain that there was fell in the second week. There were some mild nights in Scotland in the second week, and cold ones in the final week, with -11.7C at Aviemore on the morning of the 30th.
2007 Overall extremely warm, quite wet, and fairly sunny. It was the warmest January since 1921, and the third warmest on record. Very mild, windy, wet, unsettled first half. Much of Scotland had its first snowfall on 18 January - remarkably late. The most severe gale since 1990 affected England on the 19th, with several deaths caused by the wind, and gusts up to 99 mph at The Needles. Colder spell briefly from the 21st, with some snow in the north, south and east.
2008 Wet and mild. Overall about the fifth warmest of the last hundred years (after 1916, 1921, 1975, and 2997). England and Wales rainfall averaged 138 mm, 146% of the average. A wet New Year. Inveruglas in Scotland had 675 mm of rain. Quite sunny in the south and east, dull in the north and west. There as a cold snap at the start at the very start - easterlies set in briefly on the 3rd, with some heavy snow showers in east Scotland, but then mostly very mild. Then mostly wet, with flooding in the north and midlands in the third week. Parts of Yorkshire were particularly badly affected on the 21st. It reached 15.2C at Preston Wynne (Herefordshire) on the 20th. It turned very windy with gales at the end of the month, and colder in the north. The lowest temperature of the month was -11.3C on the 12th at Braemar.
2009 A relatively cold month. With a CET of 3.0C it was the coldest since 1997. The first ten days were particularly cold. There was a cold start to the year, with cold continental air over the UK. Parts of the Dorset coast freeze for the first time since 1991. The minimum at Benson (Oxon) on the night of the 6-7th was -11.8C, and at Chesham (Bucks.) that night it was -11.9C. Many areas stay beneath freezing in the daytime too; the maximum is -2 at Okehampton on the 6th. It was particularly cold in the south, with the far north of Scotland being above average. E&W rainfall was a little beneath the average of 94 mm, although it was quite dry in the east. Shap saw 150 mm of rain on the 10-11th. It was sunnier than average, with an E&W average of 66 hours, or 120%. It was particularly sunny in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
2010 Overall very cold - the coldest month since 1987. Very cold first half, less so second half, but still mostly cool, especially in the north. The prolonged very cold spell continued in the first half of the month. Strathallan records -14.3C on the 1st, Benson (Oxfordshire) -17.7C on the 7th. There was widespread snow in the south on the 6th. The temperature fell to -22.3C at Altnaharra on the night of the 7-8th, the lowest reading in the UK since December 1995. The maximum at Altnaharra was -13.5C on the 10th. During the first week of the month lay up to 60 cm deep in parts of eastern Scotland and northeastern England. The highest temperature of the month was 12.4C at Exeter on the 16th. It was quite a dry month; 68 mm average for England and Wales is 72% of the long-term average. It was also dry in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It was sunnier than average (127%), sunniest in Cornwall and dullest at Aviemore.
2011 Cold and unsettled with snow until the 16th, then mostly anticylonic. It was mild in the south from the 12th-16th, but generally cold, meaning that overall the month was somewhat cooller than average. Temperatures ranged from 14.5C at Pershore (Worcs.) on the 13th to -13.0C at Altnaharra on the 7-8th. The lowest maximum was -3.9C at Strathallan (Perthshire) on the 7th. It was slightly drier than average, with 88% (83 mm) of the England and Wales average. It was quite a dry month in Northern Ireland, ranging from 351 mm at Inveruglas (Dunbartonshire) to just 15 mm at Dishforth (North Yorkshire). Sunshine was about average, although sunshine was well above average in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Cornwall was the sunniest place to be.
2012 A mixed month. Mostly westerly, with a windy beginning. There was a severe gale across the north on the 3rd. It was anticyclonic in the middle and the end of the month, with a very cold end. It was milder than average (CET 5.4C, +1.6C, the mildest since 2008), and particularly mild in the SE; temperatures were about average in Scotland. The highest temperature of the month was 13.9C at Exeter on the 18th, and the lowest -10.9C at Aboyne on the 16th. It was quite a dry month, with an average of 66 mm (73% England and Wales average), although it was slightly wetter than average in Scotland. Loftus, North Yorkshire, saw only 19 mmm if rain. It was a sunny month, with an average of 73 hours (118%): Coleshill saw 93 hours and Lerwick just 23 hours of sunshine.
2013 Overall just beneath average temperature, but with a very mild beginning and end sandwiching a very cold and snowy middle (10th to 25th). Many parts of upland Britain were beneath freezing from the 13th to 24th. The lowest temperature of the month was -13.2C at Buxton (near Norwich on the 16th). The highest temperature was at the start of the month, with 14.5 at Hawarden (Flintshire). Rainfall was also close to average, with 85.8 mm (95%), with most of it falling in the last week. It was a dull month, 15% less sunshine than average, but saved by a sunny final week making it the dullest since 2002. The only windy spells came with the mild and wet weather right at the end of the month.
2014 A very cyclonic month. Wet and windy with notable gales and some catastrophic flooding in the south.
2015 Overall temperatures were about average, although Scotland was slightly cooler, but a very mild spell between the 6th anf 14th was offset by a cold spell after that, with snow and frost. Temperatures ranged from 16.5C at Exeter on the 9th to -12.5C at at Tulloch Bridge and Loch Glascarnoch on the 19th. On the 19th the maximum at Loch Glascarnoch was only -5.6C. Rainfall over the UK was pretty much average, England and Wales seeing 96 mm (101%). It was though a very sunny month, with an average of 77.4 hours (163%); only 2001 and 2003 were sunnier. It was particularly dry and sunny in east England.
2016 Mild and wet. The first week was extremely unsettled leading to extraordinarily high rainfall totals in east Scotland, with widespread severe flooding. The second week was much colder, with an incursion of Arctic air. It was then mostly unsettled and mild. The highest temperature of the month was 16.5C at Achnagart (Highland) on the 24th, and the lowest temperature was -12.4C at Kinbrace on the morning of the 19th. The rainfall total was 152% of average, making it the fourth wettest January on record; it was the second wettest calendar month of all in east Scotland - just beaten by December 2014. 103.8 mm of rain fell at Spittal of Glenmick (Aberdeenshire) on the 3rd. It was a dull month in all but the far south (80% of average).
2017 Dry, anticyclonic, sunny, and with average temperatures. It was though cool in the SE. Rainfall was 62% of average, and sunshine 120% (making it the 10th sunniest since 1929). The highest temperature of the month was 14.2C recorded at Achfary (Sutherland) and Plockton (Ross and Cromarty) on the 25th, and the lowest -10.1 at Braemar on the 30th.
2018 Cool and sunny in the north, quite mild in the south. The 2nd - 3rd saw a gale across the south bringing wet weather; it was then relatively unsettled, but changeable from mid month. It was cold and occasionally snowy in the north, with Eskdalemuir recording a depth of 38 cm by the 17th. Parts of N and E Scotland were relatively dry, with Aberdeenshire seeing less than half the long-term average, while Northern Ireland and SW Scotland were wetter than average. The highest temperature of the month was 15.1 C at Monks Wood (Cambridgeshire) on the 28th, and the lowest -13.7 C at Kinbrace and Altnaharra on the 21 st. On the 14th - 15th 82.2 mm of rain dell at Alltdearg House, Skye.
2019 Overall close to average temperatures. The second half of the month was colder. It was a dry month, and very dry in east and southeast Scotland and northeast England, with 52% average rain overall. Sunshine was average, although again it was sunny in southeast Scotland and northeast England, and dull in the SW. The highest temperature of the month was 14.2 C at Slapton (Devon) on the 25th, and the lowest -14.3 at Braemar on the 31st.
2020 Very mild. Anticyclonic for the first week and again from the middle of the month until the 26th. The month saw an intense anticyclone develop; London's highest ever pressure of 1049.6 mbars was recorded at Heathrow on the 19th, and 1050.5 at the Mumbles, Swansea, on the 20th. There were fewer frosts than usual and only a little snow in a few places at the end of the month. Rainfall was 100% of average but it was wetter in the west and drier in the east. Sunshine was 94% of average, but particularly dull in the NW. The highest temperature of the month was 15.5C at Achfary (Sutherland) on the 7th and the lowest -7.9C at Braemar on the 10th. On the 10-11th 138.0 mm of rain fell on Skye.
2021 A cool month, but there was a big north-south divide, with the south being mild and Scotland very cold. Unusually there was more sunshine in January in Scotland than in England, making it the fourth sunniest January there since records began (in 1919), while the SE of England only saw 35 hours of sun on average all month. NW Scotland was dry and the Highlands very dry, but it was a very wet month in the south. The month started very cold with snow and some harsh forsts: it was -12.3C at Loch Glascarnoch on the 6th, and -13.0 at Dawyck (Peeblesshire) on the 9th. It then turned milder in the south, but stayed largely colder in the north, with the country becoming something of a battleground between cold and mild air masses. Named Storm Christopher brought windy and very wet weather to the UK on the 19th - 21st, with 100 mm of rain widespread, leading to flooding, and bringing cold air and snow to the Midlands. On the recording day ending on the 20th 132.8 mm fell at Honister Pass in Cumbria. It then became milder in the south but remained cold in Scotland. It reached +14.2C at Pershore (Worcester) on the 28th, but with a minimum of -13.0C at Braemar on the 31st.
2022 The very mild end to December 2021 continued into the start of January. A record high temperature for New Year's Day, with 16.3 ºC recorded at St James's Park in London, beating the previous record from 1916. After this mild start it became colder, with milder interludes, and a windy mild end. The lowest temperature of the month was -8.0 at Topcliffe (North Yorks.) on the 6th. The first ten days were unsettled, but then most of the rest of the month was very anticyclonic. Overall it was milder than average, particularly the further north you went. Frosts were rare in Scotland and common in England, a reverse of the usual pattern. It was a very dry month except in western Scotland, with the UK overall having 50% of the long-term average. It was most noticeably a very sunny month, except in NW Scotland, with 132% of the average, making it the third sunniest in the UK since records began (in 1919).
January in history
650 BC An exceptionally cold winter occurred around 850 BC, and then around 650 BC, assoicated with a temporary cooler, wetter climate that might have given rise to the Norse legend of "fimbulwinter".
821 AD An exceptionally severe and prolonged winter in Europe.
1115 The "coldest winter in memory". Severe winters happened even in the Mediaeval Warm Period (just as there were some mild winters and hot summers in the Little Ice Age).
1205 A great frost started on 13 January which persisted until almost the end of March.
1282 Another great frost, with destructive thaw.
1282 A violent storm destroyed much of the great Suffolk port of Dunwich (comparable to London at the time). Throughout the next 500 years most of the town was lost to the North Sea.
1347 More devastation by storm of East Anglia, as Dunwich slips further away into the sea.
1362 "The Great Drowning" (The "Grote Mandrenke"): a severe gale, around 16 January, caused widespread damage in the southeast of England, with church towers destroyed in Bury St. Edmonds and Norwich, and severe flooding and loss of life along the North Sea coasts. Probably 30,000 lost their lives. This is perhaps the most devastating storm and gale event in England's recorded history. There was also great loss of life in north Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. It is also known as Saint Marcellus's flood.
1432 A very cold winter in Britain and Europe with what we would now recognise to be a persistent blocking high over Scandinavia.
1565 The winter of 1564-65 was said to be the most severe in over a hundred years (presumably since 1432). It was cold, snowy, and long, with the bad weather starting tin December and continuing into March, with the Thames frozen from 25 December until 13 January. Queen Elizabeth was seen daily on the ice. It was a severe winter in Europe too, particularly the Netherlands: Peter Bruegel The Elder painted the famous "Hunters in the snow" in 1565. The Little Ice Age was starting to get going.
1607 "The Great Wave of 1607". Flooding of the Severn estuary killed around 2000 people on 20 January. There is debate as to whether the cause was a storm surge resulting from stormy weather and very high tides or whether the wave was a tsunami caused by a rock slide in the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland or movement in the Azores-Gibraltar plate boundary. Most now go with a storm surge because we can work out the tide was very high at that time, and also a storm was reported a bit later on the east coast of Britain.
1608 The winter of 1607-1608 was known as the "Great Winter": trees died of frost, and ships were stranded for miles out in a frozen North Sea. Rivers froze solid. The frost lasted continuously from 20 November until 8 February, and the first Frost Fair was held on the Thames. At this time we are well into the Little Ice Age, which most date as starting in the mid 1500s (see the winter of 1564-65 above), but might have exerted some influence for a few hundred years before (e.g. see 1115 and 1282; the Mediaeval Warm period was certainly drawing to a close by the time of the Great Famine in Europe from 1315 - see Fagan's (2000) book on the Little Ice Age in the books page). It lasted for nearly three hundred years: the last frost fair was in 1814, and the last very cold month for some time was 1838, but the 1880s also saw very severe winters.
1615 A continuation of December's "Great Snow".
1662 There was a notable gale on the 7th.
1684 A humdinger of a cold month: estimated at -3.0C, the second coldest on record (just pipped by January 1795). The first half averaged -6.6 ºC - the coldest 15 days on record. Temperatures must have reached at least -20 in parts of the country. There were stories of trees "exploding" in the intense cold. The average temperature for the winter was -1.2C. The ground was recorded as being frozen to the depth of at least a yard in southwestern England. The Thames was frozen for 10 weeks, and Charles II visited the Thames Fair. Sea ice formed off southeastern England; ice lay to 20 miles off the shore of the Netherlands. This month was at the heart of the Maunder minimum of the sunspot cycles: no sunspots at all were observed between 1676 and 1684. The December before was very cold and the February that followed was another month with a mean beneath zero. This winter was the coldest ever recorded: it was called the "long frost", and is often referred to as "The Lorna Doone winter", as the novel was set in this winter, with the heroine famously rescued from a great blizzard.
1695 Another prolonged and severe winter in the"Little Ice Age" (corresponding to the Late Maunder Minimum).
1697 Yet another severe winter. There were six exceptionally severe winters (defined as the season being 3C less than average, all with cold months) in the last decade of the seventeenth century. Only 1692-3, 1695-6, and 1698-9 were not severe. Both January and February 1697 were very snowy.
1698 The coldest month (0.0) of another severe winter (defined as a season with an average temperature less than 3.0C) in the Little Ice Age.
1735 The most severe gale for 30 years occurred on 8 January.
1740 Another extremely cold month, at -2.8 ºC mean CET. It was also very dry. It was part of the second coldest winter on record - the so-called "Brutal Frost". February was also well beneath freezing. Mortality in London was over 50% higher than for the same first five month period in the preceding year, most of the excess mortality being people over 60. When you consider that the average indoor temperature of the well to do with some heating was 3 ºC, and that it must have been much colder in the homes of the unheated poor, you can see why. Only January 1684, 1795, and 1814 were colder.
1744 The end of the Great Drought. It was dry from 1740-43, but 1743 was a particularly dry year (425mm).
1763 A very cold month (CET -0.8C).
1766 The third driest month on record (with an average of 4.5mm rain), and the driest January of all on record.
1767 A very cold spell set in midmonth.
1779 A very dry month, with an England and Wales average under 20 mm.
1784 Part of a cold, long winter.
1794 A snowstorm swept the southwest of Scotland, beginning on the 23rd. Because of the large number of sheep lost this snowstorm was known as "The Gonial Blast".
1795 Not just the coldest January since records began, but also the coldest month on record: -3.1 C ... Part of another severe winter. The snow began in earnest in Scotland on the 18th. Maxima in eastern Scotland were about -11 ºC. Part of the Little Ice Age. Rivers froze, and grain was in short supply following the previous dry summer, and the effects of war with revolutionary France.
1796 ... and then very warm, at 7.3 ºC, until joint second mildest with 1921 (after 1916). All was not always gloom in the Little Ice Age. The difference of 10.4 C between the same month in different years is the largest in the CET (Central England Temperature series).
1814 Extremely cold, at -2.9C CET (the third coldest month of any sort on record). The start of the last Thames Frost Fair. There were some very heavy snowfalls this winter. The main reason for the absence of frost fairs after this though is that the London Bridge, with 20 narrow arches, was replaced with a new one with 5 wider arches, allowing freer movement of water and less opportunity for ice to accumulate. Nevertheless, we were coming out of the Little Ice age and very cold months were going to become very rare. The coldest weather was 27 December 183 to 27 January; heavy snow began on 4 January and remeained on the ground until 12 February. Very deep snow was reported in Dublin. Winter overall was very cold, but also very dry.
1820 A very cold winter - January was -0.3 CET.
1838 Very cold, at -1.5C. The 20th was one of the coldest days of the century. In London the maximum on the 20th was -7.7C following a minimum of beneath -16C. This month and the cold day, was "predicted" by Patrick Murphy in his almanac; hence the winter came to be known as "Murphy's winter".
1839 The "Night of the Big Wind": the most destructive storm ever to hit Ireland occurred on the night of January 6-7th. About 400 people were killed. The weather was cold in eary January, but on the 6th there was a huge rise in temperature, so that conditions were described as "sickly warm". Average wind speeds in the Westport region were 65 mph, although it is hypothesised that gusts may have reached 150 mph.
1841 A very warm day in London: about 60F, only equalled in 1999. Also a very cold day: -8.3C at Greenwich on the 8th, London's lowest maximum (along with 1867 and 1987).
1855 Extremely dry - England and Wales averaged less than an inch of precipitation.
1862 "Black rain", like "ink", fell at Slains (Aberdeens.) on the 14th.
1865 A severe winter, in some places the worst since 1814. The Midlands and west country were particularly badly affected by snow, with up to two feet of level snow and some much deeper drifts. Tenbury (Worcs.) recorded -18C on the 29th, over 18" of snow.
1867 A minimum of -24.4C at Epsom on the 4th is extremely dubious: it is more likely to be a grass minimum than an air minimum recorded under standard conditions. It was nevertheless very cold: the maximum on the 4th at Camden Square was only -8.3C.
1879 1878-1879 was an exceptional winter. It was the last time before 1963 that there were two consecutive months beneath freezing (December and January).
1880 Extremely dry - less than 25 mm averaged over England and Wales, not to be repeated until 1997.
1881 Very cold overall - at -1.5C it was the eighth equal coldest in the CET. There was a severe cold spell. -26.7C was recorded at Kelso on the night of the 16-17th - which was a record until 1982. The lowest temperature ever recorded on the island of Ireland was -19.1C (presumably actually -2 or -2.5 F?) at Markree Castle (County Sligo) was measured on 16th. A great blizzard raged across the south from the 18th to the 19th, with heavy snow and a vcious easterly gale. This was probably the most extreme blizzard of the century, affecting the whole country south of Liverpool with heavy snow and easterly gales. London was brought to a standstill. There was a foot of level snow across much of the south, and two feet in central southern England, with some enormous drifts. There was more snow on the 21-22nd, with the Isle of Wight particularly badly hit: some drifts by the end of the 22nd were 30' deep, with 40" of level snow. Before December 1981, the record low for England was -23.3C at Haydon Bridge (Northumberland) on 21 January 1881.
1882 London's highest ever pressure (until 2020) was recorded at Kew Gardens on the 18th: 1049.1 mbars.
1884 The lowest ever pressure reading in Britain on the 26th: 925.6 mbar at Ochertyre, near Crieff.
1887 Montrose reached 17.6C on the 29th.
1891 Cold (1.3), part of the severe winter.
1894 Jersey records -10.3C - its lowest minimum on record, on the 5th. Guernsey also recorded its lowest minimum, -8.4C at St Peter Port on the 5th
1895 Some prolonged frost and severe cold in the north; part of a cold winter, with February 1895 notable.
1895 Part of a severe winter. +0.2 overall, with snowstorms. A blocking high settled over NW Europe on New Year's Day. There was three foot of snow over the north by the 10th; next hit was the west and southwest.
British weather in January