Mild Winters – A Sting in the Tail?

Undoubtedly this appears a very warm winter with a CET of +1.7C for Dec +2.1C for Jan (as of 27th) with an average of +1.9C so far. Whilst the Jan figure may drop a small amount with easterly winds in the coming days, the Atlantic looks set to return into Feb with a mild and wet prognosis likely, although cold incursions cannot be excluded further afield,  however a deep cold spell – at least in the ‘winter’ months looks unlikely. However, looking back at similar periods during times of low solar activity, a sting in the tail looks quite possible from a late cold spring or what seem a stronger signal, a ferocious and prolonged winter the following season…with some substantial storms and dodgy summers thrown into the mix.

Note: all information sourced from

Early-mid winter 1661/62 A mild winter (second one in a row), and to judge by some accounts (see below), a wet one too (unlike the previous winter across the southeast of Britain – it was apparently wet over north & west Britain). Using the CET record (to nearest degC only at this early stage), the DJF mean CET was 5.7degC, or roughly 2C above the all-series average.According to Evelyn .. “there having falln so greate raine without any frost or seasonable cold …”; suggests mild, cyclonic, wet & windy regime much of the winter until at least the middle of January (1662). Reported at the time as … “like May or June”.

Winters 1662/63 to 1666/67 Three of the five winters in this period were cold, with severe frosts. It is claimed that skating was introduced into England during the winter of 1662/63 and that the King (Charles II) watched this new sport on the frozen Thames. 

December 1695 to February 1696 With the exceptions noted below, it was a mild winter; using the CET record, the value averaged over the three months December, January & February was 4.7degC (based on monthly data to nearest half-degree C), which is roughly +1C anomaly on the whole-series mean & close to what we would expect in the ‘warmed’ modern-day era. It was also probably a wet season, at least up to early February (Evelyn). An interval of snow / frost in the London area after mild, dark misty weather and before a long wet spell which lasted until February 1696. Intense frost (London/South?) on 26th January, temperature 9 degrees (?F) below zero in London. (in degC this would be: -23degC.)

November 1696 13th: Mostly fair weather, but with severe frosts near London, set in 13th to 20th after frequent stormy winds and rain since 18th September

1696/97(Winter) 1696/97 A severe winter. The overall CET value for December, January & February was=1.3degC (monthly data to nearest 0.5C), which represents a rough anomaly of -2.5C on the all-series mean, and more than -3C on modern-day values. As the note below makes clear, the cold persisted throughout February, and Evelyn notes that there was also snow; soldiers in the armies and garrison towns were frozen to death at their posts. 11th December: East wind brought in spell of snowy weather lasting until February 1697.West wind 27th to 29th December brought more snow but did not break the long frost near London. 8th January: NE gale renewed the frost ( after brief intermission with rain and drizzle in the London area 6th to 8th ).
February 1697 was a severe month in a severe winter in a decade of severe winters. CET=+ 0.5degC (at this point, the series is the nearest half-a-degree C only). [c.f. with the 1961-90 mean of 3.8degC.] Not a ‘record-breaker’, but certainly colder than we have become used to.

1698/1699 (Winter) Possibly a very wet season, at least in the London/SE area. Also mild, with no extended spells of cold/snowy weather, again at least in the London/Home Counties area.
February 19th (OSP): Possibly a major storm causing damage & death due to fall of trees etc. This would fit in with the idea of a markedly disturbed, cyclonic, mild winter

1724/5 April 1725 25th: beginning of exceptional prolonged wet spell with winds between NW & SW (after a mild winter 1724/25). Rain fell in London on at least 60 out of 75 days between this date and the 8th July.
what followed:
1725 Summer Cold summer. Notably cold by CET series. The CET value was 13.1degC, over 2C below the LTA in that series (began 1659), and (as at 2004), the coldest in that series. No grapes (ripened?) at Richmond-upon-Thames (then in a semi-rural Surrey) 1725/26 Severe winter (London/South)

1738/39 A notably mild winter (Dec/Jan/Feb). Using the CET series, the average was 5.6degC, an approximate all-series anomaly of +2C. CET January 1739 Central Scotland
What followed:
October 1739 8th: Beginning of historic winter: East wind set in with frequent frosts.
1778/9 – warm but dry winter followed by 1779/80(Winter) Severe winter (London/South). Coldest winter in the series 1764/65 to 1962/63 at Edinburgh, Scotland.Using the CET series for lowland England, the anomaly for the three ‘standard’ winter months of December, January & February was -2.3C on the all-series mean. January 1780 was particularly cold with a CET value of -0.9degC (-4C anomaly).

1790 (April) After a notably mild winter…’winter’ weather set in with a vengeance in Scotland. Intense cold with frequent hail / snow, with snowfall in the hills more like January than April. Great deal of snow on the 12th with intense cold. Similar on the 15th, with further snowfall in Scotland.

1821/1822(Winter) Notably mild. The CET value was 5.8degC, some 2C above the all-series mean & in the top dozen-or-so mild winters in this long established series.Significant flooding along the Thames over the months of December & January: hardly surprising, given the excess of rainfall in the second-half of 1821, with November & December (EWP) taken together seeing a figure of some 150-160% of the long term average rainfall. Floods were reported from Henley, Maidenhead & Kingston-upon-Thames. (LW)This winter was often stormy according to Lamb [see entry against February, below], and as noted above, was notably mild.
followed by
1822/23(Winter) The notably mild winter of 1821/22 (see above) was followed by a notably cold winter! The 3-month average for this season was 1.4degC, representing an anomaly of over -2C on the all-series mean.(CET). During this severe winter, there was much ice in the Thames at Greenwich by the 30th December.

1845/1846(Winter) Notably mild winter in Scotland. (c.f. to ‘severe’ winter conditions much further south e.g. Paris). The generally mild weather lasted from December to early March, when ‘winter’ set in. The mild conditions were also reflected in the CET record, where the value was 5.8degC (roughly +2C), placing the winter
followed by
1846/1847(Winter) The winter of 1846/47 was noted for severe frosts and heavy rains across southern England. Using the CET record, December had a value of 0.5degC, at least 3.5C below the all-series mean; January and February anomalies were between -1 and -1.5C. The winter as a whole ranked within the ‘top 10%’ of coldest winters in this long established series. [CET] { Rainfall, using the EWP series, doesn’t appear to be extreme (December relatively dry), but this series may not reflect local conditions. } On the Southampton & Dorchester Railway, then under construction, working across the soils of the New Forest proved to be very difficult. In a single week, a total of 13 horses became stuck in the mud and had to be destroyed.

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