Extreme Easters in Central England

Figure 1

Because Easter Sunday’s can fall on any date between the 22nd of March and the 25th of April so they are a bit of a moving target when it comes to measuring how cold or warm each one has been. I’ve measured Easter periods as the five days between Maundy Thursday right through to Easter Bank Holiday Monday since 1772 in the central England temperature series. It might surprise you to find that the mildest Easter on record occurred as recently as 2011, when Easter Sunday fell on April 24th, and the mean temperature for the 5 days was 14.5°C making it 5.6°C warmer than average (fig 2).

Figure 2

Conversely the coldest Easter on record occurred in the year 1883 when Easter Sunday fell on the 25th of March, and the mean temperature for the five days was only 0.7°C and 5.4°C below the long-term average (fig 3). The most recent cold Easter occurred in 2013 and currently lies 5th coldest in the 245 year series.

Figure 3

This article gave me the distinct feeling of déjà vue, so I did a quick look back through the 1,482 articles that I’ve published in the last two years, only to find that I had written a very similar article last year – perhaps I’m losing the plot! To be fair there is one slight difference between the two articles, in that last year I compared mean anomalies over 5 days rather than mean temperatures, so all is not lost.

Extreme Easters since 1772 in Central England

Figure 1 – Data courtesy of NCEP/NOAA 20th Century Reanalysis

The Met Office beat me to a story about extreme Easters of the past, but undaunted, and without the masses of climate data they have at their disposal, I pressed on with a bit of research of my own.

Because Easter is not at a fixed time each year it’s difficult to compare one with another. Easter Sunday can fall as early as the 22nd of March or as late as the 25th of April. I’ve used the daily CET series from 1772 (now there’s a surprise), and calculated a five-day mean, from Maundy Thursday to Bank Holiday Monday to do my comparison with. Because of the time range that easter can fall, I have base it on mean temperature anomalies rather than the mean temperature. So from what I’ve found the coldest Easter period since 1772 occurred in 1892 (fig 3). The Easter Sunday that year fell on the 17th of April so it was by no means early.

Figure 2 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

The mean temperature for the five days between Maundy Thursday and the Bank Holiday Monday in 1892 was 2.1°C, which was -6.4°C below the long-term average for that period (fig 3). The weather chart for the Sunday (fig 1) shows just what a bleak and cold Easter that must have been in eastern parts.

Figure 3 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

I couldn’t resist including the Monthly Weather Report for April 1892 after using it to check out my story because I was taken with some of the phrases that were used by whoever wrote the report. I have highlighted some of them from the PDF that I accessed courtesy of the Met Office (fig 4). The remark about Vapour Tension exceeding 0.25 on the south coast of Ireland and England was a real charmer, I bet sixpence was a lot of money in 1892, and what happened to the Weekly Weather Report?

Figure 4 – Courtesy of the Met Office and ©Crown Copyright

Conversely, the warmest Easter using the same method, fell in 1926 in Central England at any rate.  Easter Sunday that year fell on April 4th, and the five-day mean was +6.5°C above today’s long-term average, and if you look at the synoptic situation (fig 5) you can understand why. I did look for any weather related news for Easter 1926, and mistakenly thought that this was the year of the Easter Rebellion in Ireland, but I was 10 years too late, that occurred in 1916.

Figure 5 – Good Friday 1926, data courtesy of NCEP/NOAA 20th Century Reanalysis