The winter of 2010/11 was a weather event which brought heavy snowfalls, record low temperatures, travel chaos and school disruption to Great Britain and Ireland. In the UK it was the coldest December since Met Office records began in 1910, with a mean temperature of -1°C. It broke the previous record of 0.1°C in December 1981.
The winter of 2010 in the United Kingdom saw the UK's earliest widespread winter snowfall since 1993 with snow falling as early as 24th November across Northumberland and North Yorkshire. Later, on Thursday 16th December a cold front reintroduced a cold, arctic airstream. This cold spell brought further snow and ice chaos back to the United Kingdom which led to severe disruption to the road and rail network with several airports being closed including London Heathrow airport for a time. Several local temperature records were broken including a new record low for Northern Ireland of -18.7°C recorded at Castlederg on 23rd December 2010.
22nd to 24th November
As the cold weather arrived in the United Kingdom and Ireland, forecasters warned of cold and snowy conditions arriving later in the week and persisting into much of the next. Each day, the temperature dropped and wintry showers began to arrive in some parts of the Highlands. A snow storm had moved on from southern Sweden on the 22nd to dust both Northumberland and the Scottish Borders Region during the 23rd before being absorbed on the 24th in to the main weather system that started advancing from Scandinavia on the 23rd. Light snow fell in Aberdeenshire, Northumberland, parts of Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Birmingham on those days as the first storms began to clear up on the 23rd.
Snow began to fall in the early evening on 24th November, and within an hour around 2 inches of snow was recorded in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Snow fell across Northern and Eastern parts of Scotland and England which caused disruption during the evening, particularly in Aberdeen. The Met Office issued many weather warnings and confirmed that the snowfall was the earliest widespread snowfall since 1993. A minimum temperature of -5.5°C was recorded in Benson, England.
During the day, snow showers affected the North and North-East of Scotland and England. A minimum temperature of -7.0°C was recorded in Woodford. Snow caused problems to the Grampian district and Borders forcing over 120 schools in Aberdeenshire to close. The Met Office issued further warning of snow to much of the Eastern Districts of Scotland. Roads closed due to the snow were the B974, the A939 at the Lecht, the A93 at Cairnwell, and the B976 Crathie to Gairnside.
On the 26th, night time temperatures plummeted well below zero, with the Welsh towns of Sennybridge and Trawscoed being among the coldest places at –10.2°C. The village of Dalwhinnie in the Scottish Highlands saw the temperatures fall to –8.2°C and Chesham in Buckinghamshire fell to -7°C, and Preston in Lancashire recorded -5.8°C. The cold snap heralded the earliest winter snow fall for 17 years. A minimum temperature of -9.1°C was recorded at Redesdale Camp, Northumberland. Ireland was hit by snowfall. Overnight, a front brought by a north easterly wind brought 5–10 cm of fresh snow to many parts of Scotland, with 10–15 cm in North East England. The AA dealt with an estimated 15,500 calls regarding breakdowns on the 26th. The night of the 26th/27th saw a thunder storm damage electrical systems and flood roads, causing disruption transport services on the 27th with trains in Dublin worst hit.
The DART and the northern commuter and Maynooth commuter lines were not running and Belfast and Rosslare train services out of Dublin were also affected. The main runway at Dublin airport due to snow and ice for most of the day. The extreme weather was reminiscent of the winter storms of 2009–2010, which were the worst in recent Irish history.
The Met Office Severe weather warnings remained in place across much of the UK, with Scotland and north-east England predicted to have the heaviest snowfalls, with new warnings are also in place for icy roads in Northern Ireland and Wales as forecasters reckon it could remain cold and snowy for up to 2 weeks. Some FA Cup second round football matches, could be affected with Saturday horse racing at Newcastle upon Tyne the first to be called off. Snow was causing problems on the M6 through Staffordshire so gritters were out in force as temperatures dipped to -3°C.
By the middle of the 27th up to 1.5 inches of snow fell in parts of Staffordshire overnight while residents in the Black Country also woke up to a covering today with warnings of way with blizzards expected in the region with a predicted snow fall of 8 inches over the next few days. Snow was causing problems on the M6 through Staffordshire so gritters were out in force as temperatures dipped to -3°C. The Met Office warned that most of the snowfall during last night was in Staffordshire, but with showers in the West Midlands and Shropshire at around dawn. By the afternoon the AA had faced a 40% rise on a normal Saturday in November, a spokesman said. The worst affected areas were around Newcastle upon Tyne, Mid Wales, North Wales, Norwich, Leeds and Bradford. Motorists in Wales and Northern Ireland struggled with icy roads while Scotland was facing more heavy snow and drifts thanks to a biting wind.
The Met Office warned of icy roads in Grater London and the South East, the South West, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber and the north east of England and of heavy snow North East, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands and the South West were also braced for heavy snow. About 10 inches of snow was expected over the higher parts of the country, with a light dusting in Greater London and lower lying parts of the English Midlands. They reckoned that the cold snap would continue, with snow blanketing swathes of the country by the middle of this week. A minimum of -10.2°C at Trawsgoed, Wales was recorded. Further snow showers gave additional accumulations in the North and East.
Ocado online supermarket had seen a surge in demand for de-icer with sales while the cold weather had also brought a 42% increase in sales of cough medicine. Tesco had also seen a rise in the sales of de-icer and table salt
The CET (Central England Temperature) mean of -4.0°C was of note on this day, due to it being the lowest November CET mean since -4.6°C was recorded on 24 November 1904. The lowest temperature of the month was also recorded today, of -17.5°C at Llysdinam, Wales. Heavy wet snow affected Southern and Eastern Scotland widely giving 10–20 cm, but 20–30 cm in places. Thundersnow was reported around Dundee.
The Met Office at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire recorded a record low for November of -11.2°C (earlier that month on the 4th it had recorded a record maximum for November of 17.6°C). The heavy wet snow which had been affecting Scotland the day before gave thundersnow to North East England, and further accumulations of 10–15 cm. Accumulations widely exceeded a foot across Southern and Eastern Scotland and North East England by this point
After a dry night snow showers returned to the North and East. The North West of England, most notably Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire had their first snowfall of the winter overnight which caused many disruptions.
1st December 2010
A minimum of -21.1°C was recorded at Altnaharra, Scottish Highlands. A band of snow moving north affected Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, South and West Yorkshire, giving significant accumulations, with further frequent heavy snow showers to North East England and Eastern Scotland. Up to 40 cm of snow was recorded in Rotherham, 20 cm of fresh snow in Mansfield (bringing total depths to over 30 cm), 20 to 30 cm in Leeds, 30 cm in Pontefract and up to 40 cm in parts of Lincolnshire.
During the night of 1st–2nd December an extremely heavy belt of snow affected Southern England. Heavy and persistent snow started falling on the South Coast at around 8pm, and on the morning of 2nd December there were large snow depths reported widely all across East and West Sussex and parts of Kent, Surrey, Gloucestershire and Hampshire. Snow also affected Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, with accumulations locally reaching 30–40 cm. Level snow depths of up to 70 cm were reported in places in Scotland, with 71 cm at Bathgate, West Lothian.
An all time record low of -17.9°C recorded at RAF Leeming (since records began at Leeming in 1945) and -19.0°C at RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire.
Heavy snowfall in the Central Belt in Scotland led to the closure of the M8 motorway for two days with hundreds of motorists stranded overnight. The resulting political furore led to the resignation of Scottish Minister for Transport Stewart Stevenson.
Milder North Westerly winds initiated a rapid thaw; this was to be a sudden end to a dramatic cold spell for most.
From late evening, a cold front reached the Shetland Isles and moved southwards across Scotland overnight. Mild air preceded the front, with cold air straight from the Arctic following it, resulting in some rapid temperature drops throughout Scotland and its Isles overnight. An unofficial temperature of 11.6°C, the highest of the month so far, was recorded near Lairg, Scottish Highlands at around 7pm in the milder air.
The cold front continued to move southwards across the UK passing Northern Ireland and North England during the morning and into midday, and reaching central and then southern parts of the UK during the afternoon and into the evening. However, relatively little snow actually settled across most of the UK, due to the short-lived nature of the snow showers associated with the front. Areas of Northern Scotland in particular did receive upwards of 30 cm of snow during the day, resulting in many school closures and disruption to transport.
The Met Office issued an extreme weather warning for Northern Ireland and North Wales as very heavy snow showers brought by a northerly wind, made conditions dangerous and dumped over 30 cm of snow in many places. Heavy snow begins falling in Devon. About 8 cm of heavy snow also fell in Manchester.
Following overnight snow showers, a band of snow organised itself over the West Midlands during the day, resulting in 10–15 cm lying in a wide area from Shropshire to around Coventry, and south into Warwickshire and parts of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. 20 cm was reported from higher ground south of Birmingham. The M5 was gridlocked, and shops in the Birmingham area closed early on the last Saturday before Christmas. A number of passengers travelling by coach had to spend the night at Birmingham Coach Station due too not only coaches for onwards destinations being unable to depart and arrive Birmingham, but also widespread disruption to train services making onwards alternatives impossible.
Snow also fell to the southeast, including London and Oxfordshire, with London Heathrow Airport closing its runways for a time leading to long delays. On one of the busiest Christmas shopping days of the season, Brent Cross Shopping Centre was closed. Overnight, temperatures plunged to as low as -8°C in parts of South East England and Greater London.
A minimum temperature of -19.6°C was recorded in Shawbury, Shropshire. Heathrow airport continued to be affected with only 20 flights from a scheduled 1300 taking off. Heavy snow affected North East England, with 10–15 cm in South Northumberland.
A minimum temperature of -17.6°C was recorded at Castlederg, a new record for Northern Ireland and -19.6°C was recorded at Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Heavy snow fall was also reported over large parts of Devon causing major travel disruption.
Dublin Airport - where 15 cms of snow was recorded, and City of Derry Airport were forced to fully close. The band of snow dumped several more centimeters over an area stretching from North Wales, through parts of Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and into the West Midlands by the morning of the 22nd.
Only 3 days after breaking the record minimum for Northern Ireland, Castlederg broke the record again with a low of -18.7°C. Meanwhile, further snow showers affected North East England, but fresh accumulations only reached around 5 cm.
Both northern and southern Ireland were under a thick blanket of snow. Bitterly cold temperatures and heavy snow fell in many places, with scattered, mainly light snow showers in the North and East. Later in the day, a band of more persistent and heavy snow reached northern and western Scotland, resulting in further accumulations of several centimeters of snow. 63 cm of lying snow was reported at Braemar, Aberdeenshire.
Snow fell in many parts of Scotland giving the country two consecutive White Christmases. It was also the coldest Christmas Day, with a CET of -5.9°C, since Christmas Day 1830.
The Republic of Ireland's lowest ever December temperature on record was recorded on this date, as the mercury plummeted to -17.5°C at Straide, County Mayo. 27 cms of lying snow are recorded at Casement Aerodrome weather station in Dublin.
Thousands of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland and Wales were without water as melting snow and ice revealed many burst pipes. Northern Ireland Water said it was alternating supplies from reservoirs in order to help alleviate the crisis in which some properties had been without supplies since before Christmas.
January again was colder than average across the UK, although much milder than December, with a mean temperature across the UK of 3.1°C. In contrast to December, it was dry across most of the country (except Southeast England which was wetter than average). It had more frost than average across most of the UK. However, freezing rain caused disruption in Shropshire, whilst Greater Manchester experienced heavy overnight snow which affected travel on the morning of the 4th. Snow also fell in the West Midlands, parts of Wales, Cheshire and Lancashire on January 7th.
February was a very mild month (the 9th mildest in the last 100 years) with very little frost and much of the country having its first snow-free February since 1998. The only significant wintry weather came on the 18th-21st when some overnight dustings of snow fell as far south as the Midlands.
Record Breaking December
In the UK it was the coldest December since Met Office records began in 1910, with a mean temperature of -1°C. It broke the previous record of 0.1°C in December 1981.
December 2010 has the lowest CET, -0.7°C, since a CET of -1.1°C was recorded for February 1986. December 2010 can also be confirmed to be the coldest December for 120 years, since a monthly CET of -0.8°C was recorded for December 1890, and the second coldest December since records began in 1659. Probably the most notable record of the winter is the new all time record low for Northern Ireland, of -18.7°C recorded on 23rd December at Castlederg, County Tyrone.
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