By Philip Eden
High pressure dominated our weather for the second month in a row bringing quiet, dry, settled conditions - again providing a stark contrast to the incessant rains of autumn/winter 2000-01. Barometric pressure exceeded 1040 mbar somewhere in the UK for the 12 consecutive days 8th-19th; the longest such period for at least 50 years.
The Central England Temperature for December 2001 was 3.5°C which was 1.6 degC below the mean for the standard reference period 1971-2000. In the last 100 years there were 24 colder Decembers, while 75 were warmer (one had the same mean temperature); in the last two decades only the Decembers of 1995 and 1996 were colder.
Rainfall, averaged over England and Wales, was 43mm which is just 45% of the average for the standard reference period 1971-2000. It was the driest December since 1991 and there were in all only 9 drier Decembers during the 20th century. In the main population centres in Scotland the provisional monthly total for December 2001 was 51mm which is 65% of the normal, while the Northern Ireland total of 56mm amounted to 57% of the long-term average there. It was exceptionally dry in parts of eastern, central and southern England with just 11mm at Clacton and 16mm at Southend, both in Essex. A very few isolated sites in northeast Scotland and northeast England exceeded their local average.
Snow fell frequently during the second half of the month, especially from the 21st onwards, and it lay 33cm deep at Bonar Bridge in Sutherland on the 26th/27th, and 25cm at Aviemore on the 30th/31st. Some 12cm fell in Shropshire on the 29th/30th. Strong winds were remarkable for the absence, but the 27th was a very windy day especially in Scotland where thousands lost electricity and telephone services. Gusts to 85 mph were recorded in the Western Isles.
Sunshine over England and Wales totalled 76.7 hours, about 60% above the long-term average for December and easily beating the previous record of 70 hours which was set way back in 1962. The equivalent figure for Scotland's population centres was 55 hours (41% above), and for Northern Ireland 73 hours (88% above). Monthly aggregates ranged from 31 hours at Lerwick in Shetland (which was double the local average) to 119 hours at St Helier on Jersey and Weymouth in Dorset, beating the previous site-record for December of 117 hours at Eastbourne in 1962.