How mild has it been so far this winter?

At the halfway point of January and winter as a whole, many people have been asking about what we’ve seen so far and how things are likely to end up in the records.

Looking at January, half-month figures show it has been a mild start to 2012 – with UK mean temperatures 2.1 °C above average.

This gives a mean (including night-time and day-time temperatures) of 5.5 °C, which – if it stayed the same – would place it as one of the warmer January’s in climate records which go back to 1910.

However, we have to be very cautious about using half-monthly statistics as they don’t really tell us much – things can change dramatically in the second half of a month so it is far too early to make any judgements.

December was a slightly milder than average month, but at just 0.6 °C above the UK long-term average for mean temperatures it wasn’t that remarkable. If you combine those with the half month figures for January, the winter so far has been milder than average.

Like the half-monthly figures, however, it’s far too early to say how this winter as a whole will fare in the records as (meteorologically speaking) we are only half way through – with the rest of January and all of February to go.

Traditionally these are the colder months of the winter, and with more changeable conditions in the forecast it’s difficult to say how mild, cold or average this season may end up.

Looking in more detail at January’s half-month statistics, other points of interest are that sunshine is slightly ahead of where we would expect – with the UK clocking up 68% of the usual sunshine for the whole month in the first 15 days.

The sunniest region has been England, with 75% of its average January sunshine hours so far. The least sunny region, Northern Ireland, has had 52% of its average for the month – about ‘on schedule’ at this point.

Rainfall has seen a more mixed picture, with England having just 37% of the average so far and Scotland being slightly ahead of schedule at 59%.

We will have to see how the second half of the month, and the season, affects the final figures before we can assess how the month and season place in the rankings.

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