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Winter 2009/10 Review - coldest for years and years!


Phew, winter is over!

Despite predictions of a mild winter (not just from the Met Office, but also from me!) this winter was anything but mild and in fact was the coldest in about 25 years, certainly far colder than anything in the 14 years I’ve lived here. There were frequent (but locally light) snowfalls and regular and sometimes persistent frosts, although thankfully no particularly extremely low temperatures. The prolonged nature of the cold meant that some of my fairly established plants (such as Coprosma) suffered, and I lost cuttings from Pelargonium and Osteospermum, overwintering in the greenhouse, when they would have made it in most of the 14 winters I’ve been here. Lets look at things month by month.


December began very mild after a mild autumn, it showed little sign of the freeze around the corner which was to keep temperatures low for most of the next 3 months! By midmonth there were signs of a freeze on the continent (as I mentioned in a blog entry) and some of this cold air came our way, mixing with some milder moist air. The result was a heavy regional snowfall, with up to 6 inches or 15cm in places, this snowcover lasted into Christmas, but the cold eased a little to end the month. Overall it was the coldest December in 13 years, and it was also rather wet (a mix of rain and snow), in fact the wettest for about 15 years. Snow fell on 6 days, the most since 1995.


January soon turned very cold again, but this part of the country avoided the very low temperatures (below -10C/14F) that some parts of Britain suffered in. We had more snowfall and the rivers and lakes in Bedford froze over, the most since 1997. The highest temperature in the month was just 8C, which is actually the long-term AVERAGE daytime temperature for January! Come months end the average temperature was more than 3 degrees colder than average, the coldest January in 23 years. The December/January combined period was the coldest here in 13 years, but in other parts of the country quite close by, it was the coldest in 28 years. With snow on 9 days this was our snowiest January for over 20 years.


While there was no deep cold in February it remained moderately cold and often raw feeling, with little evidence of the coming spring. Temperatures were depressed, still not reaching double figures – this was the first time that both January and February failed to reach 10C in over 30 years. Towards the end of the month low pressure systems on an unusually southern tracking jet kept rainfall and snowfall up. The number of snowfall days for the winter was 25, the most since the winter of 1985/86.

Garden/plants notes:
In early winter and autumn the mild weather meant even some of the spring bulbs such as Iris were bursting up and the garlic made an appearance just weeks after it went in, it actually retreated completely a few weeks later though! My Coprosma ‘Pacific Night’ has lost around 2/3rds of its leaves but it appears to be thriving (just!). My star of the winter garden has been my pale blue Vinca which has kept on flowering through the worst of the weather, and of course the Viburnum tinus has probably looked as good as it ever has. I discovered Skimmia this winter too, its overwintering flower buds (in red and yellow) have been faultless. I’ve also loved the coppery tinge of the Stipa grass I bought last summer. Spring bulbs made a real appearance come late February,but other than snowdrops and the odd crocus, there is nothing from the so-called ‘early’ daffs. As an example, the bulbs are about 3 to 4 weeks ‘behind’ the rate they were at in the mild winter of 2006/07.

I’m looking forward to spring! The good news is we are very unlikely to see as cold a winter next year.

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I hope you're right about next winter! I've lost so many plants - it's hard to decide what to replace. Yes, I reckon that spring must be about 4 weeks behind, from the look of the plants especially bulbs.

1 Mar, 2010


Oh heck, I was hoping for a prediction of good weather to come for spring and summer....Never mind, I hope your good news is right .........

1 Mar, 2010


I'm glad i live in the south west - aswell as in a very sheltered region because we miss the extreme cold, the 'bad' weather i see here are spring and autumn high winds.

2 Mar, 2010


I do hope you're right about next winter. I couldn't stand another like this :o(((

2 Mar, 2010


I hope you`re right too, I`ve lost more than enough plants that would otherwise have made it through. I`m planning on enjoying this nice weather while it lasts...just in case! :o)

2 Mar, 2010


Hi WW,

I'm interested to know weather your job is or was the whether? You obviously have lots of good measurements to hand. One thing that's always intrigued me and also many others I know - I freely admit I'm a big cynic on this point - how on earth can weather experts predict anything longterm? I can understand that just by probability next winter for example is very unlikely to be so harsh, but of course that doesn't mean there is any other reason to think that way is there? I wonder if you could give me some of your wisdom? I always think there are simply too many variables to make reliable longterm weather predictions - say anything longer than 4 days-ish.

Thanks for your time,
Weeding. x

18 Apr, 2010


Thanks for your words Weeding. I'm not a pro, just an enthusiast - I take my weather readings with my own equipment in the backyard - some of the past data I refer to I have found on the internet. Its right to say that forecasts beyond 4 days have a low chance of being right. Its a little easier to 'forecast' climate, because thats just an average of weather. The chance of next winter being as cold as the last is pretty low, if you look back in the history books its unusual to get two extreme seasons in a row, it has happened though,

18 Apr, 2010

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