February: warm, yes, but damp and depressing with little to cheer

Written by Eric Gilbert on .

As March 1 is the first day of meteorological spring it is appropriate to include this quotation from Henry Van Dyke:  “The first day of spring is one thing and the first spring day is another.  The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month”

February was a depressing month with too many damp, overcast days and too little sunshine when we all need our fix of Vitamin D.

There were only nine totally dry days last month, which would lead one to expect a month with high rainfall.  However, most of the days with precipitation brought modest totals, the wettest day being at the end of the month, March 26, with 6.7mm.

February was the third successive month with below average rainfall totalling 55mm, which is 84 per cent of the 33-year average or 10mm below. In fact the past winter (meteorologically the complete months of December to the end of February) has been much drier than normal with only 157mm in total for the three months, which is 63 per cent of the 33-year average or 93mm below.

The mean temperature for February has been the quite the opposite with the mean 1.5C above the long-term average after the very cold January.  Likewise, the mean temperature for the past three months was also above average, but by the smaller amount of 0.3C. This is almost 2C colder than the record for the previous winter of 2015/16.

Looking in detail at the strong sunshine data, I note that February gave us just 28.7 hours, which is so much lower than the average over the past few years of 60 hours.  As regards the past winter sunshine, this was also down with a total of 121 hours compared to the average of 158 hours.

As it has been a warmer than normal month it is not surprising to find that the soil temperature at a depth of 5cm is 4.5C whereas the average is just over 3C.

Although the last winter month hasn’t been severe it is good that we have not experienced such a February day as Reverend Francis Kilvert experienced when he wrote in his diary on February 13 in 1870.  “When I got to the chapel my beard moustaches and whiskers were so stiff with ice that I could hardly open my mouth and my beard was frozen to my mackintosh.  The baby was baptized in ice which was broken and swimming about in the font”.