February in Marlborough was much colder & the winter months were drier, colder but sunnier

Written by Eric Gilbert on .

[Photo by Eric Gilbert] [Photo by Eric Gilbert] Winter returned with a vengeance in February. There was a brief mild spell during the third week, but on only eight days did the maximum exceed the 34-year average.

It was the coldest February since 1991 and the fourth coldest since 1984, when this station began recording - only 1985, 1986 and 1991 being colder.

For exactly half the month there were air frosts of some degree - some very hard - with the coldest night occurring on February 28 when the thermometer dropped to -9.8C. So it is not surprising to find that the average temperature for the month was 2.2C below the long-term average. 

The warmest day was on February 19 when the thermometer rose to the dizzy heights of 10.9C that is  3.6C above the average. In contrast the thermometer did not get above freezing on February 28 with a maximum of just -1.2C.

The last week of February was bitterly cold. The stratospheric warming of the higher atmosphere temporarily reversed the flow of the Jet Stream so that instead of winds coming from the west, for eight days they came from the northeast bringing cold air direct from Siberia. 

Adding to the cold were the strong winds gusting between 20 and 30mph producing wind chill that at the end of the month meant it felt more like -11C.

It was the second consecutive month with below average rainfall. A total of 54.9mm of precipitation was recorded being 10.3mm below the 34-year average. Over half the rainfall occurred on two days with 13.2mm and 17.5mm on February 8 and 14 respectively.

The high pressure over Scandinavia that brought the northeasterly winds meant that we enjoyed many hours of sunshine on a number of days. I recorded 110 hours of strong sunshine (100w/sq.m.) during the month with 8.5 hours and 9.2 hours on February 24 and 25 respectively. 

That is almost twice the average over the past four years since this instrument was installed.

The soil temperature at a depth of 5cm - so important for gardeners - averages around 3C for February, but the exceedingly cold days and strong winds meant that frost penetrated deep into the soil. The average for 2018 was 1.4C with a reading of -1.7C on February 27.

There were five days when snow flurries or showers were recorded, but no great depth of snow occurred.

WINTER 2017/18:

The past winter was the coldest for five years with 0.3C below the 34-year average. January was 1.2C above average but February's 2.2C below meant that overall it was a below average temperature season.

Rainfall for the past winter was again below average, the second successive drier than average season with 244mm in total being just 4mm below the 34-year average. The past two winters have now shown a deficit of 97mm of rainfall, which is much needed to refill the aquifers.

After the previous dismal winter, when just 121 hours of sunshine were recorded, the past winter total was 213 hours.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1952) wrote: “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” In this country we can enjoy four variable seasons, but at the start of meteorological spring we wish it would come sooner than later! 

The Robin in the picture is enjoying dried mealworms to keep out the cold.  There is more data on Eric Gilbert's website.