>24 March, 2010: Ferocious, Frightening or a Fairytale? A Continental Winter which brought one of the coldest, longest winters in living memory to Britain

Written by on March 24, 2010 in Rest of Europe with 0 Comments

> Christmas Day 2009 (outside of Kirkintilloch)

An Account of a Memorial and Historic UK Winter of 2009-10.

By Mark Vogan

Provisional Summary from the Met Officehttp://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/2010/winter.html

This winter for me was one to remember, one to always look back at and say, yes I remember back to the great winter of 09-10”. My first ever true winter at home.
I, like many I know and many I don’t know will have just experienced their worst winter in their lifetime. Childhood memories of winter for me was of few bitter nights (comparable to those of this winter) and big snowfalls, when they did occur, I’d have been lucky to see it last more than a week, the rest of those winters (80s and 90s) generally were dominated by Atlantic lows which brought heavy rain, strong winds and high seas.

This winter not only separates those from throughout my lifetime of 27 years but for those who have be around since 1962-63, likely the worst winter since the little ice age and there has been no winter since then colder that what we have just went through here in Scotland. For England and Britain as a whole, this was the worst winter since 1978-79.

This winter will go into my memory as one of constant hard freezes under regular clear, starry and calm skies, scrapping thick frost off my car in the mornings, frozen doors, locks and truck tail lifts and breakdowns and a daily, seemingly non-stop battle with snow and ice covered roads and pavements. Several ventures out onto the frozen Lake of Menteith near Aberfoyle, Stirlingshire was what really made me think I was stepping back in time to the “good old days“, for me, it was like stepping into me “Frozen in Time book” and made me realise what it use to be like. My grand father told me of the great winter freezes of 47’ and 63’, “real winters“ but this one does compete with the greats of at least “modern times“. This was a winter where it ALWAYS seemed to want to snow and snow cover and sub-freezing weather appeared to be never ending, the winterscape was a permanent feature between mid-December through mid-March.

My Forecast

I forecasted a tough, long and cold winter, but to be perfectly honest with you, I like most, got more than what was bargained for.

It was a winter which kicked off after a long wet, windy and warm spell which really started to hit hard around November 1st, but wet weather has continued to slam the British Isles since July with August and September seeing record rains in many places.
Whilst we here in Britain and across the US endured a wet autumn/fall, unaware to most, Arctic air was building to our north, so much so, it would arrive and stay for the most part of 90 days following December 16, 2009 when the first waves of cold air drove across the North Sea and into the east coast bringing stinging winds and snow, some heavy to areas of Yorkshire, Co Durham all the way down to the Kent coast.

December 2009
Warmest 13C at St James Park, London, Coldest -18C at Braemar, Aberdeenshire)
BBC Review for December 2009: http://news.bbc.co.uk/weather/hi/uk_reviews/newsid_8466000/8466485.stm

Between Dec 15-25th persistent waves of snow and some heavy across all corners of the British Isles as a pool of Arctic began to grip bringing well below freezing conditions day and night. Persistently low temperatures and fresh snow continuously falling on the frozen ground.
Note: 19th After a day of morning showers and sleet, it remained cloudy much of the day, then heavy rains pushed in and as it was pouring in Glasgow, reports came in that Stirling (just 40 minutes away) had a “Whiteout”, no sooner from hearing that, heavy rain dramatically turned to heavy, windblown snow which accumulated to a quarter inch within 10 mins!! The most dramatic rain to snow transition I can ever remember.. Later that afternoon, skies cleared out and winds made the now sub-freezing air feel like -5 to -8C.

Note: On the 20th Topcliffe, Yorkshire drops to -14C (7 degrees).

Interior sections of the UK from Kent to Cornwall all the way north to Scotland, temperatures were falling even when skies were cloudy, but when it was clear, the Arctic high pressure system made full use of the fresh and widespread snow cover to radiate heat by day back to space and send temperatures down to between -2 to -10C even in towns and cities with Edinburgh enduring -10C just a couple of days before Christmas whilst Glasgow saw two straight nights (22-23rd) plummet to -10C (14 degrees). Dalwhinnie in the Scottish Highlands saw a low on the on the 23rd of -16C (3 degrees). The Christmas Eve low here at my house in Lennoxtown, East Dumbartonshire was -11C (13 degrees) with the temperatures still at -9C (15 degrees) at 11.45am, some areas likely saw down to -18C or lower in remote, tucked away Glens and valleys. The High that day gradually warmed to -4C (24 degrees) late in the day.

In the week running up to Christmas “pesky” snows hit and and off accumulating to only around 2-3 inches throughout lowlying areas and anywhere with some height saw anywhere from 2-4 to as much as 12-16 inch snow depths, I believe some areas such as high-elevated areas of Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Lanarkshire, Fife, Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and throughout the highlands, Yorkshire, Cumbria, the Pennines, Kent and other places across the country likely saw snow depths to 2ft +.

After a chilly but picturesque winter landscape on Christmas Day with temperatures topping just below freezing, snows hit on the 26-27 with the worst areas seeing a further 12-18 inches across Perthshire.

28th saw lows of -16C (3 degrees) at Tyndrum, Perthshire whilst Tulloch Bridge saw -14C (7 degrees). The A75 between Stranraer and Newton Stewart was closed for a time because of “extremely icy conditions” whilst the A9 was blocked due to an accident at Gleneagles. That night after sunny daytime skies, there was a rapid drop in temperature across the country and particularly across the sheltered glen in which Braemar, Aberdeeenshire sits, the snow on the ground, clear, starry skies and calm wind as well as an already cold air mass from minimal warming during the day, allowed maximum radiational cooling with the power of the snow forcing the heat accumulated by day to radiate back to space after dark and with cold air settled and draining down surrounding hills, collecting within the village, this produced overnight temperature within Braemar to the lowest levels of winter with a reading of -18C (0 degrees).
On the night of the 29th, heavy snowfall affected sections of western and northern England, the worst hit was rural Wales which saw as much as 12 inches of snow fall. The West Midlands and Yorkshire was also badly effected with blizzard-like conditions in higher, remote locations.

January 2010.
BBC Reciew for January 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/weather/hi/uk_reviews/newsid_8493000/8493783.stm

January’s first 10 days were simply bitter with penetrative frosts and deep freezing of soil and ground to great depths as Great Britain became a frozen, snowcovered wilderness from John O’ Groats to Lands End.

Daytime highs were only reaching -7 to -10 across wide areas, including a high of only -7C in Glasgow. A high of -12C was reported at Braemar, Aberdeenshire. Aviemore on the 5th saw a local record of 19 inches of snow on the ground whilst 3-4ft lay in the nearby mountains. Up at Altnaharra, Sutherland, snow depths topped 4ft and with the core of coldest air at it’s closest to Scotland, the coldest nights of winter lay upon not only Scotland but throughout England where -8 to -15C was being measured between Jan 4-10th throughout the interior of ALL of Britain. Two locations in Scotland reported “official” lows down to an incredible -18C. Benson, Oxfordshire and Woodford within Greater Manchester. Snow cover, clear, calm skies and the decent of snow air pushing down the west side of the Pennines may have aided to lower the temps within the metro Manchester area. Manchester itself measured a remarkable -15C.
The Highlands topped it off of course with a low up at Altnaharra of -22C or -8 degrees. Coldest since 1995.


My Winter Highlights

Loch LomondFirst time in nearly 50 years since a large portion of the loch is frozen over.
River Clyde Through Glasgow
First time is many years ice floes have been spotted along the Clyde throughout Glasgow. Some sections of the Forth-Clyde canal has been frozen for the major of the period between December 15 through March 10.

Who Was Cold King?Community who received coldest and most National Highs and Lows( To be confirmed)

Deepest Snowdepths

Many places saw single-storm snowfalls of 1-2 feet with the biggest being Glencoe with 31 inches recorded within a 24-hour period and is possibly a new snowfall record for the UK.
Altnaharra 4ft, Aviemore 3ft.

90 straight days with snow on the ground.

From Mid-December through Mid-March locations over the Pennines of England as well as several communities within the Scottish Highlands including Aviemore, Carrbridge, Grantown On Spey, Dulnain Bridge Nethy Bridge have all seen a solid 3 months with snow covered ground with varying depth throughout the winter. Aviemore‘s lowest depths was 4 inches before a fresh 18“ dump occurred late in February which allowed the snow to continue lying for nearly another solid month but warm temperatures and rain washed away most of the snow by March 12 but patches remain in some side streets even as I type this on March 24…
The Fenwick moor of Ayrshire has seen snow “most” of the winter as well as the Wanlockhead-Leadhills-Abington area between the M74 and A76.
The high ground just inland from Largs which rises close to 1,000 feet above sea level just 3-4 miles from the coast has also seen “most” of the winter with snow on the ground and also saw a massive 3ft of snowfall one night which lead to the dairy I deliver to snowed in and in need of a JCB digger to remove the snow…
The Campsie Fells just north of Glasgow and my house has seen at the least patches of snow on them since December 28th, maximum depths of ranged from 6-14 inches with highest spots within the hills likely seeing over 2ft of snow at the end of February. Drifts were between 2-10 feet… Patches of snow remain on the hills as of March 24th.
Lake of Menteith, Stirlingshire (Duration of thick ice) Lochwinnoch, Ayrshire
Both these lochs saw a freeze and ice depth of between 4-8 inches thick by around New Year and people began to trek across the frozen expances around New Year and just after. The ice held the weight of people from one end to the other for about 3 solid weeks.

Duration of snow cover here
Snow here at my house lay for about 3 weeks (to be confirmed)

Number of consecutive days and nights below freezing. (to be confirmed)

Potential for a night into single digits F. (to be confirmed)

Thanks for reading.

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