The Central England Temperature (CET) record is a meteorological dataset originally published by Professor Gordon Manley in 1953 and subsequently extended and updated in 1974, following many decades of painstaking work. It is now maintained by the Met Office and extends back to 1659 in its monthly and to 1772 in its daily form.
The 13/14th of February is statistically the coldest night in Central England, with a 40% chance of an air frost occurring (fig 2), and last night it lived up to its statistical reputation (fig 1), with a widespread sharp frost across a large part of the country. That should push the frequency up for that day by maybe 1/140 of a percent in the last 140 year, or does it?
I also noticed a jump of +6.3° in the air temperature at Exeter between 03 and 04 UTC this morning as the cloud rolled in (fig 3), temperatures are on a bit of a roller coaster ride at the moment.
St Valentines day, the 13/14th of February is the coldest night of the year in Central England, this is based on the lowest mean daily minimum temperature record that started in 1878, the mean for that day is just 0.67°C, with a 40% chance of an air frost, and a 4.3% of an ice day. The lowest mean daily maximum on the other hand occurs around four weeks earlier on the 17th of January with a temperature of 6.1°C (fig 1).
Yesterday’s provisional maximum of 12.1°C for the 28th of January, was the highest for that particular date in Central England since the daily extreme series began in 1878 (fig 1). The maximum was almost 5°C above the 1981-2010 average for that day.
If you remember Holbeach in Lincolnshire was the warmest place in the UK yesterday with 14.9°C in what was quite a sunny day in that part of the world (fig 2).
The way January 2018 is going it looks a safe bet it won’t feature in either the warmest or coldest top thirty lists by the end of the month (fig 1). January’s have steadily been warming in the last 140 years in Central England at the rate of 0.85°C per 100 years, and the last cold one was back in 2010, in fact cold January’s are very much a rarity these days (fig 2).
2017 ended up being the eighth warmest year in the Central England series since 1659 (fig 1). The mean temperature for the year 2017 was 10.58°C which was +0.61°C above the 1981-2010 long-term average (fig 2), and 8 of the 12 months ended up being warmer than average. That makes 2017 the warmest year since 2014, which itself was the warmest year on record, that makes ten out of the seventeen years this century are ranked in the twenty warmest years.
I make the linear trend since 1878 a 0.09°C warming per decade, and from 1967 a warming of 0.209°C per decade (fig 3). If I’ve done my programming right that means an increase of over 1°C since 1967, which may have something to do with why we’ve not see any lying snow in this part of Devon for the last seven winters!
I’ve checked my maths with the Met Office data I download and it looks fine, but as always please let me know if you see something that you suspect is wrong, I’m only human and I don’t have a QC team!
The tables below (figs 1 & 2) rank the mildest and coldest Christmas and New Year’s holidays since 1772. For the purposes of these statistics which I’ve generated from the daily CET values from 1772, I’ve extended the holiday to cover the period from the 21st of December to the 4th of January.
The extreme coldest Christmas and New Year occurred in 1870-71 (fig 1), in fact it’s coldest by quite a margin, although I can glean nothing about what must have been a classic Dickensian Christmas from searches on the internet. Only two such extreme cold holiday periods have occurred during this century, namely the consecutive years of 2009-10 and 2010-11, that appear in the top forty.
There are no shortages of extreme mild winters in the top forty from the 21st century though, in fact it already contains five, with 2015-16 being the warmest Christmas New Year in the last 245 years, again by a very large margin.
I have a few ‘meteorological’ heroes in my life, and it may come as a surprise to many that Peter Ewins or Julian Hunt don’t feature in the list. At the top of it must come Gordon Manley (1902-1980), whose name I first came across when reading his 1952 book ‘Climate and the British scene’ as a teenager. He is best known for his work on reconstructing the past climate of Central England with his CET series, which was adopted and sanitized by the Met Office, which I noticed that he joined in 1925, but had the good sense to resign the very next year!
Along side Manley at the top of my list of meteorological heroes is Hubert Lamb (1913-1987). It was Lamb who catalogued the circulation patterns across the British Isles from 1861 and came up with the idea of ‘Lamb’ weather types, which as far as I know extended the earlier work on weather types done by Van Bebber and Gold. That work has been carried forward by the CRU at the UEA, although they switched to an objective rather than Lamb’s original subjective way of classifying each days weather type. In 1964 he was asked to write a new edition of a book called the ‘English Climate’, another very readable book that I first came across when I joined the Met Office. Lamb did work on and off for many years with the Met Office, in fact from before the war until 1971. The second world war was a problem for him because as a Quaker he couldn’t directly get involved in it. The answer was that he work in the Republic of Ireland for the duration of the war with Met Éireann. He finally saw the light late in his career, and had the good sense to leave the Met Office for academia and launch the CRU at the UEA.
Looking at both of my heroes, I can see the connection between the two is that they were both instrumental in creating important climate data series with the CET and LWT. For some reason that appealed to me, and as soon as I had invested in a BBC micro in 1982, it was the first thing that I felt impelled to write a program for – the rest as they say is history!
The connection between these two esteemed gents and myself, apart from our innate love of the climate and weather of the British Isles and resigning from the Met Office, is a fondness for its hills and mountains.
So when I came across an interview with Hubert Lamb recently on the WMO website I just had to include some of the more interesting questions that he was asked. It was in a publication called the Bulletin Interviews and here are a few of the questions that he was asked that I found interesting. As far as I can see the interview took place before 1981.
Hands up how many of us have a love of weather that started when we experienced a snowy winter as a child?
I never realised that Richardson was also a Quaker, he too would also feature in my list of meteorological heroes.
This story of Lamb’s reminds me of the thick smoke haze that we would get in the Vale of York when I started my observing career at RAF Leeming in 1970. I can still remember reporting 800 metres in smoke behind a light northeasterly sea breeze that was blowing down from Middlesbrough. Thankfully things are a little cleaner these days.
It’s a shame that the Met Office don’t share Lamb’s passion for past climate data, they’ve recently left the digitising of the DWR records to the Weather Rescue volunteers. What would Lamb have thought? No wonder he left.
I like the bit where he says about climate warning – “…there is also the dangerous tendency to think that Man is responsible for all occurrences. That should be viewed with considerable scepticism“.
Unfortunately the ‘Bulletin interviews’ doesn’t feature an interview with Gordon Manley which is a shame.