As February and winter draw to a close, early statistics show that both have been stories of two halves.
We often talk about why you can’t pre-judge a month or a season at its half-way stage, and the latest figures perfectly illustrate why that’s the case.
The mean temperature for the first half of February was very low as cold weather gripped the UK – particularly in England where temperatures were 4 °C colder than the long term (1971-2000) average.
If you’d projected those figures out to the end of the month you would have expected one of the coldest Februarys on record.
However, the second half of the month (figures go up 26 February) has seen some exceptionally mild weather to balance things out and we have ended up with a rather average month for overall UK mean temperature which so far, was just 0.1 °C above average.
This story of two halves can be seen in the maps below, with the blue colours denoting lower than average temperatures in the half-month figures on the left, and the more balanced situation by the end of the month on the right.
Winter, which meteorologically speaking runs from December to February, has been a fairly similar story – but in reverse.
A mild December and first half of January meant we had a very mild first half of the season, which led to some media headlines mooting one of the mildest winters on record.
However, the last few days of January and the first half of February were colder than average, bringing the overall temperature for the season down.
With a couple of days still to go, the early statistics show the UK’s mean temperature for winter is 0.7 C above average, making this a mild winter – comparable with several other mild winters in the last decade.
One common theme between this February and winter as a whole is dry weather – particularly for the south and east of the UK.
February was particularly dry, with the UK having seen just 62% of the normal amount of rainfall we’d expect for the whole month by the 26th. With a few days left, this is unlikely to change by much.
England was the driest country, having so far seen just 43% of the rainfall we’d expect for the month and Wales not far behind at 49%.
Winter has also been dry overall in England, with just 82% of the rainfall expected for the season and Wales has seen 89%. This is slightly balanced out in the statistics by Scotland being wetter than normal over the season, seeing 116% of its normal rainfall.
The relative lack of rainfall for February and the season as a whole can be seen in the two maps below, with the brown colours denoting drier than average weather for the month on the left and for the season on the right.