February 2016 and winter summary

Coming after a couple of mild months dominated by a warm south-westerly airstream, February finally brought a bit more variety to the winter weather with gales, some spells of high pressure, and cold air from the north and east.

The month began with unsettled weather dominated by Atlantic lows, with gusts over 40kts on the 2nd and a long period of rain on the 6th which bought us a total of 27.8mm (but over 100mm down on Dartmoor). Things reached a climax on the morning the 8th, when a low pressure system crossing the south of the UK produced a gust of 50kts and an average wind speed of 33kts – both new records for this station.

The middle of the month saw quieter and brighter weather and a cold easterly wind, as a ridge of high pressure moved up from the south-west. The first air frost was recorded on the 11th, and the lowest temperature of the month was -3.4C early on the 16th.

The ridge dissipated over the following days and on the 21st a low pressure system north of Scotland drew in very warm air over the south of the UK, while the north shivered in a polar airstream behind the cold front. The temperature here reached 15.3C during the afternoon of the 21st, equalling a record set in February 2012. It wasn’t to last, though, and the as the cold front made its way southwards we were soon in the polar air too, with clear skies and overnight frosts.

The last week of February was dominated by high pressure over the south of the UK and a dry north-easterly breeze, which made it feel colder than it was.

The rainfall total for February was a modest 57mm. It wasn’t particularly cold overall – the average of 6.0C was actually a little above normal – but there were nine air frosts during the month compared with only three in January and none at all in December. It was a windy month, thanks mostly to the gales during the first week or so, and a wind run of 3520nm makes it our second-windiest February – beaten only by the storms of February 2014.

The extraordinarily mild December and a mild January combined to make this the warmest winter we have recorded here, with an average temperature of 8.1C – the next warmest was 2013/14 which averaged 6.8C, so the gap is large. This has also been our windiest winter, with a total wind run of 9,698 nautical miles – the previous record was 9,579NM in 2011/12, and 2013/4 which is remembered for the St Valentine’s Day storm managed only 9,010NM. The winter’s rainfall total was an unexceptional 186.4mm.