December blows hot and cold

IT MAY have started and ended with deep freezes, but mid-December was almost spring-like as warm weather from France headed to Suffolk.

IT MAY have started and ended with deep freezes, but mid-December was almost spring-like as warm weather from France headed to Suffolk.

There was an unusual mixture of early winter weather last month with two notable cold spells and an abundance of bright sunshine.

The first half of December was the coldest start to winter for more than 30 years and temperatures were below average on every day until December 18.

A marked change in the weather pattern then occurred as south westerly winds from the Atlantic took control.


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An anticyclone centred over France brought temperatures up to 55F (13C) on December 21 and conditions were springlike with unbroken sunshine and light winds.

Strongest winds of the month swept the region on December 13 when a depression and its associated fronts moved east across the UK.

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In Suffolk the south easterly winds gusted to 43 mph on a cold and wet day.

Christmas Day saw the start of a cold spell that was to last for 17 days.

An anticyclone over Scandinavia, and later over central Europe, steered a cold easterly airflow into East Anglia bringing the coldest day of the year on December 29. Temperatures failed to rise above 36F(2C).

Those who dreamed of a white Christmas were disappointed for the 38th year in succession. Notable yuletide snow has not been seen since 1970.

Although the weather switched from cold to mild, many days were sunny and totals amounted to well above average for the first month of winter.

At Wattisham Airfield there was sunshine for 82.3 hours and Colchester registered 90.8 hours. Normal sunshine for December is only 50 hours.

Another unusual feature of last month was the lack of rain. It was generally the driest December for seven years and the totals were: Higham (Suffolk) 1.12 inches and 1.01 inches at Ipswich. Other rainfall totals were: 0.98 in at Wattisham and 0.81 in at Belstead Hall.

Figures now available indicate that during 2008 the total rainfall at Ipswich was 27.40 inches and Belstead recorded 25.50 inches.

The Wattisham recordings were a total rainfall of 27.36 inches and a sunshine total of 1,566.1 hours.

DECEMBER LONG-TERM AVERAGES and EXTREMES

Maximum day temperature 44F

Night minimum temperature 35F

Average number of air frosts 10

Average number of ground frosts 17

Rainfall for December (1903 to 2008) 2.29 inches

Average number of days with rain 15

Rainfall duration 49 hours

Average sunshine 50 hours

Midday sun altitude above horizon (Dec 15) 15 degrees

Barometric pressure (reduced to mean sea level) 1014 millibars

North Sea temperature (10 miles out) 44F

Highest recorded day temperature 59F on Dec 28 1974

Lowest recorded day temperature 25F on Dec 28 1995

Coldest night in December 10F on Dec 13 1974

Maximum recorded wind speed 78 mph on Dec 11 1981

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