Keeping an eye on the weather

WITH 2006's weather statistics now available, Evening Star weatherman KEN BLOWERS looks back on the mildest autumn on record - and the total absence of any severe wintry weather.

WITH 2006's weather statistics now available, Evening Star weatherman KEN BLOWERS looks back on the mildest autumn on record - and the total absence of any severe wintry weather.

ACTIVE depressions from the Atlantic are keeping the weather exceptionally mild, windy and wet.

This weather pattern that has affected the British Isles during most of the autumn and early winter, but there is a hint of colder weather arriving during this weekend.

Warm and moist air, flowing across a long sea-track from south of the Azores, has kept temperatures well above average and throughout the region there has been a notable absence of cold and frosty conditions.

October was one of the warmest on record and November and December saw a continuation of the mild weather.

Climatological figures now available reveal that in 2006 bright sunshine totalled more than 1500 hours in Suffolk and Essex. At Cavendish in west Suffolk the total was 1718.9 hours and Wattisham Airfield recorded 1517.8 hours. The annual average for the region is about 1600 hours, with the exception of Felixstowe where the year's average is 1700 hours. The resort is the sunniest spot on the east coast from the Humber to the Thames estuary.

Most Read

The 2006 rainfall was above average in some localities but in others it was close to the year's normal of 24 inches. Wattisham measured 27.46 inches, Belstead Hall 27.08 in., Ipswich 24.56 in, Felixstowe 23.21 in and Cavendish 22.74 in.

At Wattisham it was the sixth wettest year since records began in 1959.

Throughout the region December followed the pattern of the previous two months. Depressions were the dominant feature of the weather charts and gale force winds generated on December 3 produced occasional gusts of just over 50 mph.

There was a brief anti-cyclonic spell bringing fine weather from December 17 to the 23 when frost developed on most nights. Skies were often cloudless and the coldest day of the month was December 22 with a maximum of only 31F(minus 1C). During the Christmas period temperatures recovered to 45F(7C) but most places had dull and rather dismal skies with light winds. The last white Christmas was in 1970.

More gale force gusts were reported on December 30 as another series of fast-moving Atlantic depressions affected the British Isles. There were about 50 hours of bright sunshine in December - close to the long-term average for the early winter month.

Rainfall figures included 2.44 inches at Felixstowe and 1.84 inches at Ipswich.

There was the rare occurrence of daytime darkness on the morning of December 11, caused by a solid cloud layer with a vertical depth of 16,000 feet coupled with the seasonal late sunrise.

Only three outstanding severe winters have affected the region during the past 60 years. They were in 1940, 1947 and 1963. The worst winter for frequent blizzards was 1947 but the bitter weather did not begin until January 24. In February some snow fell on 25 days of the month. In 1963 the frost was so prolonged that hungry crows attacked sheep in the fields and wintry weather went on in Suffolk for 77 days.

Hottest days July 19, 20 and 26 with 88F(31C)

Coldest day December 22 with 31F(minus 1C)

Coldest night January 24 with 22F(minus 6C)

Wettest month August with 5.28 inches

Driest month January with 0.52 of an inch

Wettest day August 13 with 1.28 inches

Total rain for the year 24.56 inches

Average rain for the year (1903 to 2006) 23.79 inches

Highest barometric pressure 1043 millibars on December 22.

Lowest barometric pressure 984 millibars on Feb 17 and Dec 8.

Cloudless days (dawn to dusk) 18

Sunniest month July with 290 hours of bright sunshine