Split personality Winters

Yes, ‘split personality Winters’ is a bit of a weird title for a blog, but I couldn’t think of a better one at the time of writing this piece. What started me investigating, was just how the Winter of 1946-1947 suddenly transformed from being so mild in its first half, to be being so cold in its second. I wondered just how many more ‘split personality’ Winters (or seasons come to that) there have been down through the years. So I enlisted the support of the trusty daily CET series, which started in 1772, to see just how unique 1946-47 actually was as ‘split personality’ Winters go.

Here is a table of the meteorological winters [DJF] with second halves colder than their first halves (fig 1), and surprise, surprise 1946-47 is only joint eighth in the list. Top of the list is the Winter of 1854-55 (fig 4), the second half of which was 6.5°C colder than the first. The Winter of 1946-47 only managed a 3.9°C difference in temperature (fig 3), but thanks in part to the coldest February in the CET series back to 1659, and to the prodigious amounts of snow that came with it, it is burnt into the psyche of anyone interested in the weather and climate of the UK.

The temperature difference between the first and second half of Winter 1985-86 and 1941-42 was also greater than that of 1946-47, but neither were memorable. It’s understandable how we forget about weather events that occurred outside our own lifetimes and never directly experienced, I’m sure that the Winter of 1854-55 was talked about for the rest of the 19th century as being the winter of two halves, much in the same way as we talk about 1946-47.

Figure 1 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

I’ve overlaid, as usual, a  moving average and a linear trend on the series of meteorological winters from 1772 to 2015 (fig 2), and it’s interesting to see how gradually the second half of winter has become colder than the first half over the past 244 years.

Figure 2 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

Figure 3 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

Figure 4 – Data courtesy of the Met Office


About xmetman

I am an exmetman who is passionate about all things to do with weather and climate. I have no axe to grind, and am continually upsetting people on both sides of the global warming debate with the articles that I publish, hell, I'm even banned from commenting on the Met Office's own blog! What I do fight for is the freeing up of climate, observational and forecast data collected and created on our behalf by the Meteorological Office.
This entry was posted in Central England Temperatures, Winter. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Split personality Winters

  1. wansteadmeteo says:

    Interesting, Bruce. I had a look at Greenwich mean values yesterday and was surprised that February 1947 was more severe than 1963. Though the sun starts to get quite high in the sky in the second month it would seem that the severe lack of sunshine would have stopped any thawing of lying snow.
    1947: Mean -1.1C Precip 30.3mm Sun hrs: 17 (1981-2010 72.5)
    1963: Mean -0.5C Precip 11.9mm Sun hrs: 55.3

    Footage and photos I’ve seen from 1947 would suggest that much of the country was under this cloudy and windy regime?


    • xmetman says:


      Yes winter 1962-63 was a very cold dry anticyclonic affair, whilst 1947 was cold, snowy and cyclonic for much of the time.



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