On Monday in the UK, the highest ever winter temperature was recorded and the relative warmth continues with more records likely to be set on Tuesday.
In the Trawsgoed Estate in west Wales, the temperature reached 20.6 degrees Celsius. The former winter record high for anywhere in the UK is 19.7C.
The winter months are considered to be December, January and February, for the purposes of climatological records, and until this year the UK has never seen a temperature above 20C during the winter. West Wales was not alone: west London saw a temperature of 20.4C.
Trawsgoed is one of the UK Met Office’s official recording sites so the thermometer is known to be correctly exposed for creating reliable records. Coincidentally, the estate also holds the record for the UK’s hottest November day: 22.4C on 1 November 2015.
The reason for the current warmth is the static large area of high pressure over Western Europe which allows a gentle drift of warm southerly breezes and maximum sunshine by day. As a result, it is not just the UK that is enjoying this early season spring warmth.
In the Netherlands, three days in a row of unusual warmth have beaten the previous record by a remarkable 3C. In Belgium, the warmest February day on record has just happened with 18.8C on the thermometer. This is a mere 0.1C above the last record set in 1960 but records go back to 1901 and give the average February temperature of 7C.
It is too early to be able to suggest that this record winter warmth has a direct link to a warming world, but extreme weather of all types is forecast, and observed, as a result of climate change.
In the case of temperature extremes, “persistence of type” is usual. This is where the same weather pattern persists because storm systems do not march around the Northern Hemisphere as they used to. This is an expectation of a warming world and expresses “climate change” very well.
In a contrast to the warmth in Northern Europe, the Canadian Prairies, and most of the US states of Montana and the Dakotas have suffered a severely cold February. Temperatures have been 10 to 15C below average for the whole month.
As a current example, Sioux Falls in South Dakota recorded a maximum temperature on Monday of -17C after a night at -21C. The normal for February is a day max of 0C and a night minimum of -11C.