Friday, 12 December 2008

An almost average November

Despite the fact we have had some early frosts and some parts have had November snow, the last month's weather turns out to have been pretty average - except for slightly higher temperatures.

This is all according to the Met Office's website, which records monthly weather statistics against the average for years between 1961 and 1990. The statistics are impressive: overall, in November the UK had 92% of the average rainfall; 98% of average sun; and only the temperatures showed much variation, provisionally being the coldest November for maximum temperatures since 1998, but with minimum temperatures being about 1.0 °C higher than average - the month as a whole was 0.6 °C above the 1961-1990 mean. (Sorry if that takes several goes at reading it.)

Of course, as ever, such averages hide a lot of regional differences: Scotland had near-average figures, whereas England was a little warmer. And rainfall patterns were more variable: Wales had only 86% of its normal rain. But that's pretty good given the vagaries of our climate - even before allowing for any spice that may be added by Climate Change.

In all, it's a great website for those who (like me) like facts and information. As well as monthly, seasonal and annual averages, they show the data from 1914, so you can see how the climate has changed over that time. It's particularly reassuring to confirm that we really have had a very wet year: against the 1971-2000 average, Spring rainfall was up by 10%, and summer rainfall up a whopping 44%. Autumn (Sept-Nov) has continued the trend, up 9%, although it's been spot on the average for temperatures, and the coldest since 1993.

One trend that is definitely noticeable, though - even without sophisticated data analysis - is the slow and gradual rise in mean temperatures: OK they bounce up and down a bit, but almost always at or above the average over the longer period. From 1914 until the 1990s, the annual average temperatures tended to be between 7 °C and 9 °C, whereas it's now been above 9 °C every year since 1997, with 2006 the warmest year on record, at 9.74 °C.

If that seems a little cool, don't forget it includes temperatures at night, when most of us are tucked up in bed. The average this November was 6.2 °C - not bad when you consider that the coldest November recorded was 1919, when the average was a wintry 2.3 °C - more like February, and one of the factors which may have worsened the effects of that great influenza epidemic which swept Europe after the First World War.

Clearly, if you've a mind for statistics, this is one website that can provide hours of fun. If not, then just enjoy our currently dry and sunny December!

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