If you live almost anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, you don’t need me to tell you that it has been a dismal, gloomy winter. The technical reason, apparently, is a “heatwave” in the Arctic, which has pushed the Arctic Jet Stream further south than normal and resulted in an uninterrupted wave of depressions. Thankfully, the signs of spring are appearing, more of which below, but I thought I’d share with you a summary of the statistics about the weather that we have kept for 20 years.
One of the harbingers of spring must surely be increased bird activity. The sparrows and blue tits are seeking nesting places in our house walls, and the male blackbirds have started their dawn and dusk choruses. The cuckoo arrived on Saturday morning, although it has not been heard since, so it might have decided not to stay. The plants are coming out in fits and starts, although some of them are slow, because the weather has been colder than normal. Some of our early daffodils were bent over by sharp frosts in February and March.
So, how does this winter stack up against previous winters in SW France? First, some definitions. My husband (aka the Statistics Freak because of his penchant for recording anything and everything) classifies November to February inclusive as winter. I’ll include March as well, which was anything but spring-like.
Second, a quick reminder of our weather assessment method: we assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. This is subjective, clearly, but over a period of years you can see patterns emerging.
During the period from 1st November 2017 to 28th February 2018, we recorded the following:
Pluses: 26 (22%)
Zeros: 36 (30%)
Minuses: 58 (48%)
In March, we had only 6 pluses, 12 zeros and 13 minuses.
Surprisingly, this was not the worst winter we’ve experienced here. That dubious accolade goes to the winter of 2012/13. November 2017 was actually one of the best Novembers we have had, which dragged up the figures a little.
However, it all changed from last December, which was the worst in 20 years. This January was equal worst with January 2013. February was the worst in 20 years. And it continued on into March, which shares second worst place with March 2006. We had frost on 45 nights (including six in March), which is not particularly high.
The charts, which show the proportion of pluses over 20 years, reveal that the months after Christmas are getting worse (the line is the trend).
You can see from the rainfall (in millimetres) just how gloomy it has been.
Having said that, we did need rain, since many parts of France were suffering from drought up to the end of November. However, we also need sun, and it was in very short supply. We normally expect to eat lunch outside on at least a handful of occasions during the winter. This winter we were not able to do so once.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Not being able to get outside meant that I was unusually productive in my writing work. Yesterday, we enjoyed a lovely sunny day in the garden, catching up with some of the tasks we had meant to do over the winter.
I hope you’ve spent a happy and peaceful Easter.
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