A month of two halves

Friday 02nd Mar 2012 by theWeather Club

As February and therefore winter drew to a close, early statistics show that both the month and the season have been stories of two halves. Meteorologists often talk about the dangers of pre-judging a month or a season at its half-way stage, and February has presented a textbook example as to why that's the case.

The mean temperature for the first half of February was very low as cold weather gripped the UK – particularly in England where temperatures were 4 °C colder than the long term average - taken between 1971 and 2000. If you had projected those figures to the end of the month you would have expected one of the coldest Februarys on record. But this has not been the case. The second half of the month has been exceptionally warm balancing things out so February has ended up with a rather average month for overall UK mean temperature which came in within a degree of the long term average.

Winter, which meteorologically speaking runs from December to February, has been a similar story, but in reverse. A mild December and first half of January meant we had a very mild first half of the season, which led to some suggesting we were in for one of the mildest winters on record. However, the last few days of January and the first half of February were colder than average, bringing the overall temperature for the season down. The early statistics show the UK's mean temperature for winter is 0.7 C above average, making this a mild winter, but comparable with several other mild winters in the last decade.

The figures also highlight the potential truth of the saying, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Which may - or may not - have been first uttered by Benjamin Disraeli. A casual glance at these average figures by a future student of weather might suggest a particularly predictable and therefore uninteresting period of weather. However those who have spent some part of the winter battling through freezing winds and others sweltering under unnecessary layers, would most definitely beg to differ.