January - cold, pretty grey and gloomy but now behind us

Written by Eric Gilbert on .

Sir Walter Scott the author wrote in January 1831 “A base gloomy day and dispiriting in proportion …. everything gloomy as the back of the chimney when there is no fire in it”.  This quotation seems eminently applicable to the several days when very low cloud, fog and mist were evident this past month.

I suspect that the overriding memories of the past month were not only the number of mornings that arrived with low cloud and fog or mist but also the number of frosty mornings.

If we look initially at the temperature I find that it was the coldest January since the exceptional January of 2010.  The average daytime temperature was average but the large number and depth of frosts meant that the minimum was 1.2C below the long-term average.

There were 17 days when we awoke to an air frost, which is 7 more than the average for this month.  The persistent cold and dry air from an easterly direction from January 18 to January 27 gave 10 consecutive days with an air frost, the most severe being on the morning of January 21 when the thermometer dropped to -5.9C.

The ground at a depth of 5cm gave a reading below freezing on 6 mornings due the frequency and depth of the frosts with a minimum of -3.3C on January 21.  This specialist thermometer showed a recovery to 6.3C at the end of the month as the warmer air arrived.

There was high barometric pressure for much of the month with the blocking anticyclone sitting to the east of the UK, deflecting weather fronts from the Atlantic.  In fact the average barometric pressure for the month, at the 08.00 recording time, was a record at 1023mb.  This all changed from January 28, which allowed the warmer and moist air to arrive from the west.

With the winter so far providing below average rainfall it was notable that January followed this trend with a total of 79.7mm, which is 86 per cent of the long-term average or 13mm below.

The wettest day occurred on January 29 with 16.0 mm of rainfall with January 31 providing another 13.8mm.

There were 7 days when no UV light was recorded, although the strength began to build towards the end of the month as the sun began its return to this part of the world.

There were 54 hours of strong sunshine, the sunniest day occurring on January 20 with 6.6 hours.  This occurred in the middle of the period from January18 to January 22 when we enjoyed sunny days with blue skies.  This instrument was only installed in 2014 so no long-term average with which to compare this result.

Fog was a problem on 4 days with visibility down to 150m on January 7 and January 25.  Small hail (less than 5mm) was seen in the brief shower that occurred late afternoon of January 28.

Finally, we did have a little snow.  Wet snow fell within the rain during the cold afternoon of January 12 with dry snow (almost 1cm in depth) falling just before dawn on the following day.  This latter fall quickly melted, if under the direct influence of the sun, during the late morning.

In the middle of winter the Japanese Proverb that says, “One kind word can warm three winter months” is worth remembering and applying.