'Near average' January masks extremes

Temperatures overall in January were just 0.4C below the UK mean of 3.7C according to the Met Office, based on data which started in 1910.


But this is one example of how statistics can hide extremes and give a misleading impression of one month’s weather.


The first ten days were often mild, with temperatures reaching double figures, as was the last week, when double figure temperatures returned for a time.


But sandwiched in the middle was a cold spell which lasted around two weeks, and which gave the heaviest snowfall since December 2010.


That said, it’s the monthly average that climatologists will look back at in time, and from that perspective January 2013 very much a middle ranked month in the 103 year Met Office data set.


From a UK point of view, to illustrate how unremarkable it was, January came in 52nd coldest.


And according to Philip Eden writing in the Sunday Telegraph, in the last 100 years, based on the Central England Temperature (CET) data set, 40 Januarys were colder, 54 warmer, with 6 the same.


In fact the CET temperature ended up at 3.8C (38.8F), just 1 deg F below the long term average.


It shows just how incorrect some of the tabloid headlines continue to be, fuelled by a small number of private weather outfits, some of whom talked of January being one of the coldest on record.


Early February has seen a return to unsettled, cold weather, although the air is not as cold as it was mid-January.


With little expected to change at least until early next week, the UK will continue to be at risk of further wintry weather.  

Follow me on twitter @Hudsonweather


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