Warmest winter?

IN his annual review, Evening Star weatherman KEN BLOWERS looks back on a meteorologically momentous year. It brought a July heatwave which broke all records and an unrivalled autumn of consistent warmth.

IN his annual review, Evening Star weatherman KEN BLOWERS looks back on a meteorologically momentous year. It brought a July heatwave which broke all records and an unrivalled autumn of consistent warmth.

IN Suffolk we saw an outstanding year of summer heatwaves and record-breaking autumnal warmth.

In July East Anglia was at one time hotter than Cairo, and in September there was a notable Indian summer.

The year began with the driest January for nine years. Anticyclones were the controlling feature of the weather for much of the month and temperatures were in excess of average on 16 days. Measurable rain fell on only nine days and at Belstead Hall and Felixstowe the total rainfall amounted to less than half an inch. Occasional slight snow fell on only one day,

A similar pattern of dry weather, accompanied by cold north-easterly winds, continued for much of February. There was a marked deficit of sunshine and the automatic radiation sensor at Wattisham Airfield recorded only 55 hours. At the end of the month a burst of cold arctic air reached most of the region with winds gusting to nearly 40 mph.

In March temperatures remained below average until the last week.

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It was due to a persistent anticyclone centred over northern Scandinavia steering north easterly airflows into eastern England and many places reported the coldest early March for 25 years.

Long-awaited warmth arrived in April after a chilly start. Temperatures rose throughout the region and the average maximum daytime temperature of 53F(12C) was reached on 24 days.

After the wettest May for nearly half a century June produced a succession of warm and dry days. But there were no notable high temperatures and 80F(27C) was reached on only one day.

The major feature of last year's weather was the heatwave of July.

Over a wide swathe of England it was the hottest July for well over 300 years and at Wisley in Surrey July 19 saw temperatures touching 97.7F(36.5C) - the highest ever recorded in the British Isles. In west Suffolk the temperature on some days reached 90F(32C) and the intense heat was accompanied by an uncomfortably high humidity.

It ranked as the hottest month ever recorded.

Holidaymakers who headed to Suffolk in August got a disappointment. In parts of the region it was the wettest August for 50 years and at Orford and at Higham in Suffolk there was a total rainfall of six and a half inches,

It rained on 21 days of the month and totals were twice the long-term average. Low pressure systems were the dominant feature of the month and these produced some torrential downpours and scattered thunderstorms.

There was a marked lack of sunshine and temperatures were below the average.

A complete change in the weather pattern took place in September when all areas enjoyed a 15-day Indian summer. Temperatures topped 80F(27C) early in the month and the cause of the heat was the persistence of airstreams coming north from the sub-tropical Atlantic and Spain. Over England as a whole it was the warmest September for 150 years and on 29 days the temperature rose above the long-term average.

There was no let up in the unprecedented and prolonged autumnal warmth.

In October an anticyclone centred over southern Scandinavia gave many golden days of autumn with bright sunshine and light winds. An intense rainfall on October 23-24 gave more than an inch of rain in 12 hours and resulted in widespread flooding. The end of the month still saw temperatures as high as 67F(19C) - a level normally expected in mid-June.

November was an exceptional month and at Wattisham Airfield it was the third warmest November since records began 47 years ago.

Even in this late autumn month there were seven days with almost unbroken sunshine from almost cloudless skies.

The closing month of the year produced many mild days, below average rainfall and a complete absence of snow. December 25 saw the 36th consecutive Christmas Day without snow falling. The last such event was in 1970 when much of the region reported a two-inch snow cover.

Christmas 1981 was bitterly cold with a layer of ice and grubby snow that had fallen in the previous two weeks. It failed to be classified as a white Christmas.

Total rainfall for the year was not much in excess of average. At Belstead Hall rainfall totalled 27.08 inches and in Ipswich 24.56 inches. The 70-year average for the area is 23.80 inches.

Local records dating back to 1840 reveal that the wettest year was 1860 with 36.20 inches and the driest year was 1921 with a mere 13.64 inches.