February 2020: Wet (extremely), Windy (very), Warm (unseasonably) - but we got off lightly
February got off to a very mild, if wet start, with temperatures well above the average on the west to south air flow but within days the wind veered into the north bringing drier but cooler weather, although short lived fog formed on the February 6 and 7.
However, the relative calm was broken as Storm Ciara approached the UK bringing gale force winds and rain. Wind maxima of 47mph and 51mph on the February 8 and 9 respectively were the strongest for a month but no records were broken. Once again we did not suffer the extremes of rain or wind either, as did other parts of the country, with example 16mm of precipitation as compared to 177mm in Cumbria. It was unusual that the Meteorological Office yellow and amber warnings covered the bulk of the UK.
Britain is being deluged by “atmospheric rivers” delivered on the jet stream, the Met Office has said. Experts believe the west-east band of high-altitude winds is currently pointed directly at the UK for the first time in years, enabling a “conveyor belt” of non-stop rain. This has been exacerbated by relatively mild temperatures that have forced extra moisture into the air. It is causing streams of airborne water vapour around 300 miles wide approaching across the Atlantic before condensing into heavy rain as they hit hilly parts of Britain.
Hot on the heals of Storm Ciara was Storm Dennis that hit the area on February 15 with the wettest day of the month producing 21.5mm of rain in a day. This was combined with winds gusting to 46mph.
After the brief respite of three continuously dry days from February 4 to the 6 there followed 23 consecutive days with rain, three with totals in double figures.
The precipitation for the month was 148.2mm, which included ice pellets on February 11, sleet on February 25 and small hail on February 20 and 29. This was not a record but the third wettest February since my records began in 1984 with 151.0mm and 151.6mm in 1990 and 2014 respectively. There was an extremely dry February in 1986 when only 9.9mm was recorded.
Due to the moisture laden days from thick persistent cloud there were 8 days without any recorded sunshine.
The warm, moist Atlantic air meant many days were recorded with both maxima and minima temperatures above average. There were only 5 days during the month with below average maxima with the warmest day on February 23 when the thermometer rose to a peak of 13.2C.
The mean temperature was a significant 2C above the 36-year average being the warmest February since 2002.
As regards the past winter months of December to February, the mean temperature was 1.6C above the average making it the fifth warmest I have recorded, extremes being the very warm winter in 2015 and the very cold February of 2009. The rainfall total was 371mm, again not a record as 2013 produced 528mm and in 1991 there was just 94mm.