COLUMN: Weather Wise with Gordon Currie

Will winter be all sludge and muck?
Will winter be all sludge and muck?

Gordon asks whether we are becoming paranoid about the threat of early snowfalls.

Remembrance opens many doors

To scenes of summer past

And pageants of a season

Which seemed too good to last

But now we share the legacies

Of harvest salutation

And look across the landscape

To realise our salvation

Lies in fruitfulness and promise

Of the land’s immortal text :

Sustain all life in Nature

From this year to the next.

By the time these notes appear, November’s remarkably lush green fields which have signified the land’s immortal text could well be peppered with winter’s first sprinklings of snow as Arctic air arrives across the British Isles.

At this juncture, we ponder the feelings of public awareness concerning the arrival of seriously cold weather and pose the question: are we becoming paranoid about the recent changes in November’s weather, especially with regard to the threat of early snowfalls?

The memories of sudden severity and disruptive snowfalls in November 2010 are lurking at the back of everyone’s mind this week, sufficient to obliterate the thoughts of soft and soggy late autumn days, with mild airs filled with the sweet aromas of dying leaves, - pictures of November many years ago.

However, the human mind plays many tricks as we resort to the old legend: “If November ice will bear a duck, the winter will be all sludge and muck!”

Looking back through my records for 65 years, we have had several Novembers featuring dramatic changes from mild, benign weather to severe snowy conditions, usually in the second half of the month, although it does not necessarily follow that the coming winter will be severe.

Listing some of the coldest and snowiest, November 1952 comes first, one of our coldest on record, with continuous frost and snowfalls after the first week.

The succeeding winter, December – February, was moderately cold (especially December) but very dry and snowless in the latter stages, followed by a forward, sunny springtime, 1953.

November 1962, with notably cold and snowy spells, certainly proved to be the forerunner of the bitter 1962-63 winter, disproving the validity of the old legend.

The cold November of 1965 produced snowfalls nearly 2ft in depth in the Yorkshire Dales and a record 18 inches level on the lower ground but the succeeding winter was just moderately cold with some 
short periods of frost and snow.

Then followed the Novembers of 1971 and 1974 with duck bearing ice and some early snowfalls but the following winters were close to seasonal average regarding temperatures, with January 1975 producing a premature taste of spring.

The debate regarding the validity of the legend is totally inconclusive, meteorologically speaking.

It may be possible to suggest that there is a tendency for severe wintry weather developing in November to be repeated in December, but usually it is replaced by milder Atlantic conditions by new year or soon afterwards.

Looking into our historical records, the coldest weather ever recorded for November occurred not in 2010, but in 1919, when a very intense Arctic blast engulfed the country, producing night temperatures as low as minus 10 F. (- 23 C.) in the Scottish Highlands, and down to 10 F. (-12 C.) south of the Border.

These readings were even more remarkable because they occurred earlier, on the 14th.

If it is any consolation, the winter was 1919-20 was very mild and very wet, almost completely snowless!

PROSPECTS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

Cold and wintry conditions are likely to prevail throughout the week, as an area of high pressure builds up in the very cold Arctic air across the British Isles and to the north of Scotland. There is a risk that this system may spread towards Scandinavia, producing easterly or north-easterly winds, with the possibility of milder Atlantic frontal systems trying to push in from the south-west later in the week, with the potential for widespread snowfalls ahead of milder weather.

Cold or very cold with sunny spells and clear night skies, leading to hard frosts, down to 19 F. (- 7 C.) and fog patches. Occasional wintry showers, snow on the high ground, sleet at lower levels. Daytime temperatures 36 F (2 C.) with north-easterly winds.