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The winter of 1946-47


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Posted
  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam

    The Winter of 1946-47 was the snowiest winter of the 20th Century and is widely believed to be the snowiest winter since 1813-14 even surpassing the winter of 1878-79. The winter struck at a time when the country was recovering from the aftermath of World War II and many essential items were rationed. The CET for the winter was 1.1C

    The severest spell of the winter struck during the third week of January. Up to that point, January was largely mild and unsettled, although there was a brief cold interlude around the 9th with some snow. A major change in the weather occurred on the 20th as high pressure migrated to northern Scandinavia allowing a cold NEly flow across the UK bringing with it snow showers and night time frosts. These conditions continued until the end of the month with subtle changes as the winds shifted to a southeasterly direction. Many areas had a snow cover which was increasing in depth up to 30cm in places in the south and this drifted in the strong wind. Temperatures were close to freezing and the cold and snowy conditions were already causing chaos with power cuts and disruption to transport.

    February was very severe with very low maxima, frequent snowfalls, freezing rain events, blizzards, drifting snow and severe frosts. The country was on it's economic knees. 4 million workers were made idle by power cuts to industries as coal trains could not get to power stations by deep drifts on the railway lines. Many villages and towns were cut off by drifting snow such as Buxton and Bridlington. The blizzards in the Channel caused chaos with shipping due to very low visibilties, gales and driving snow. Worst still, the fishing industry was crippled as vessels were forced to stay in harbour and one of the few food items that was not rationed, fish, became scarce. The disruption to road transport was huge. The Great North Road or A1 was blocked for 22 miles by 10 foot drifts and during one of the worst blizzards, 300 roads were blocked and up to 15 towns were cut off.

    With pressure high to the north of the UK, low pressure systems took a more southerly track often over northern France or the Channel. The UK was mostly left in the cold sector of these lows but there was very occasional thaws in the extreme south. These lows brought strong to gale force easterly winds and heavy snowfalls with drifting snow. The coldest spell came around the 11th as high pressure was over Scandinavia and this allowed a very cold easterly flow across the UK which lasted to about the 23rd. Maxima were subzero during this period and with virtually no sun, it was very bleak. The NW of Scotland, sheltered from the easterly favoured very well with a lot of sunny and dry weather.

    Many areas were completely snow covered throughout the whole of February and depths of snow were phenomenal, up to 1 to 2 feet of level snow with drifts well in excess of this. It wasn't until the end of the month, when there were clearer skies that very low minima were recorded over the deep snow cover like -21C at Woburn, -19C at Luton, -16C at Rye and -11C at Dungeness. The CET for February was -1.9C, the coldest February in the CET records.

    The severe weather continued into March with even greater ferocity. There were record low March minima with temperatures down to < -20C in a number of places. On the 6th, a low moved through the English Channel producing one of the worst blizzards of the 20th century over England and Wales. The storm lasted for 48 hours with heavy snow, blizzards, gale force easterlies and even in the extreme south freezing rain. The heavy drifting snow caused chaos to transport with many areas either paralysed or snowbound. There was a lull with further severe frosts and very low minima down to -20C in places. The next low moved in and this took a more northerly track and this allowed a thaw into the south but to the north, the fierce blizzards continued. It wasn't until the 16th, that the milder weather finally broke through to all areas. The subsequent thaw was to create devastating problems of its own. March 1947 is the wettest March on record with an EWR of 177.5mm

    Data for winter 1946-47

    December 1946: 3.1 (-1.5)

    January 1947: 2.2 (-2.0)

    February 1947: -1.9 (-6.4)

    March 1947: 3.6 (-2.1)

    February 1947 is the coldest February ever recorded, the CET maximum was just 0.1

    Northern Ireland

    Winter 1947: 1.9

    Scotland

    Winter 1947: 0.5

    The coldest spells during that winter

    15th-22nd December 1946: -0.2

    Rslp19461218.gif

    5th-7th January 1947: -0.1

    Rslp19470107.gif

    24th Jan-2nd Feb 1947: -2.1

    Rslp19470201.gif

    5th-26th Feb 1947: -2.5

    Rslp19470215.gif

    1st-8th March 1947: -1.6

    Rslp19470305.gif

    The period 20th January-15th March 1947 had a CET mean of -1.3

    Second half of January: 0.7

    First half of February: -1.2

    Second half of February: -2.6

    First half of March: -0.2

    The coldest CET day was the 29th January: a CET daily maximum of -3.8

    Rslp19470129.gif

    The coldest CET night was 24th February: -13.6C

    Rslp19470224.gif

    The mildest CET day of the winter was the 16th January with 12.6C

    Rslp19470116.gif

    Data for February 1947

    STORNOWAY

    Mean Max: 2.9 Mean Min: -1.8 Highest Max: 6.1 Lowest Min: -8.3

    Air frosts: 22 Sunshine: 151% Rainfall: 11mm Days with lying snow: 25

    GLASGOW

    Mean Max: 1.4 Mean Min: -3.9 Highest Max: 5.0 Lowest Min: -11.7

    Air frosts: 27 Sunshine: 106% Rainfall: 43mm Days with lying snow: 25

    YORK

    Mean Max: 0.6 Mean Min: -2.7 Highest Max: 3.9 Lowest Min: -9.4

    Air frosts: 26 Sunshine: 68% Rainfall: 49mm Days with lying snow: 28

    MANCHESTER

    Mean Max: 1.0 Mean Min: -2.7 Highest Max: 3.9 Lowest Min: -10.0

    Air frosts: 26 Sunshine: 41% Rainfall: 10mm Days with lying snow: 16

    NOTTINGHAM

    Mean Max: 0.0 Mean Min: -3.4 Highest Max: 5.0 Lowest Min: -12.2

    Air frosts: 28 Sunshine: 31% Rainfall: 45mm Days with lying snow: 28

    BIRMINGHAM

    Mean Max: -0.9 Mean Min: -3.7 Highest Max: 4.4 Lowest Min: -8.9

    Air frosts: 27 Sunshine: 29% Rainfall: 51mm Days with lying snow: 28

    CARDIFF

    Mean Max: 0.4 Mean Min: -3.6 Highest Max: 6.7 Lowest Min: -9.4

    Air frosts: 26 Sunshine: 36% Rainfall: 45mm Days with lying snow: 24

    KEW

    Mean Max: 0.5 Mean Min: -2.7 Highest Max: 4.4 Lowest Min: -9.4

    Air frosts: 25 Sunshine: 31% Rainfall: 30mm Days with lying snow: 26

    BELFAST

    Mean Max: 1.6 Mean Min: -1.8 Highest Max: 3.3 Lowest Min: -7.2

    Air frosts: 28 Sunshine: 87% Rainfall: 31mm Days with lying snow: 13

    PLYMOUTH

    Mean Max: 2.8 Mean Min: -1.8 Highest Max: 8.9 Lowest Min: -8.9

    Air frosts: 19 Sunshine: 87% Rainfall: 60mm Days with lying snow: 10

    Data for March 1947

    STORNOWAY

    Mean Max: 5.3 Mean Min: 2.8 Highest Max: 11.1 Lowest Min: -8.3

    Rainfall: 59% Air frosts: 14 Days with lying snow: 6

    GLASGOW

    Mean Max: 4.5 Mean Min: -1.9 Highest Max: 11.7 Lowest Min: -13.9

    Rainfall: 161% Air frosts: 16 Days with lying snow: 22

    YORK

    Mean Max: 6.0 Mean Min: -0.5 Highest Max: 13.3 Lowest Min: -12.8

    Rainfall: 314% Air frosts: 15 Days with lying snow: 19

    MANCHESTER

    Mean Max: 7.0 Mean Min: 1.0 Highest Max: 12.8 Lowest Min: -8.9

    Rainfall: 265% Air frosts: 13 Days with lying snow: 9

    NOTTINGHAM

    Mean Max: 6.5 Mean Min: 0.5 Highest Max: 12.8 Lowest Min: -10.0

    Rainfall: 288% Air frosts: 13 Days with lying snow: 17

    BIRMINGHAM

    Mean Max: 5.8 Mean Min: 1.1 Highest Max: 11.7 Lowest Min: -7.2

    Rainfall: 366% Air frosts: 13 Days with lying snow: 18

    CARDIFF

    Mean Max: 7.5 Mean Min: 1.2 Highest Max: 12.8 Lowest Min: -7.8

    Rainfall: 295% Air frosts: 13 Days with lying snow: 9

    KEW

    Mean Max: 7.7 Mean Min: 2.2 Highest Max: 14.3 Lowest Min: -5.1

    Rainfall: 319% Air frosts: 10 Days with lying snow: 10

    PLYMOUTH

    Mean Max: 8.7 Mean Min: 3.8 Highest Max: 12.2 Lowest Min: -5.6

    Rainfall: 307% Air frosts: 5 Days with lying snow: 0

    BELFAST

    Mean Max: 5.6 Mean Min: -0.1 Highest Max: 13.3 Lowest Min: -12.2

    Rainfall: 187% Air frosts: 14 Days with lying snow: 15

    Photos from winter of 1946-47

    http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/environment/h...ery/snow472.jpg

    http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/environment/h...ery/snow471.jpg

    http://www.clonakiltyagriculturalcollege.c...daly_02_350.jpg

    http://www.clonakiltyagriculturalcollege.c...daly_03_350.jpg

    http://www.chrishodgephotos.co.uk/pixcma2/snow01.jpg

    http://www.bedfordtoday.co.uk/mk4custompag...x?ImageID=18843

    http://www.tintern.org.uk/mm19404l.jpg

    http://www.hurlbut.info/oldpics/pics/march1947.jpg

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    Posted
  • Location: Norton, Stockton-on-Tees
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and cold in winter, warm and sunny in summer
  • Location: Norton, Stockton-on-Tees

    Excellent stuff Kevin, that must have taken you a while!

    The continent must have been bloody freezing because in the charts for the 7th of January and the 1st of February the wind is soming from a SSE direction.

    Oh for another winter like that :rolleyes: !

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    Posted
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks

    yes tks for that.

    I do remember it quite well in the Chesterfield area of Derbyshire. Huge drifts, all the collieries working but no coal going anywhere, not even locally as the roads were often blocked. The main Mansfield-Chesterfield road was kept open, just, most of the time, but the diggers and scrapers being used from the large opencast coal site close by.

    John

    Edited by johnholmes
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    Posted
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts
  • Weather Preferences: Rain/snow, fog, gales and cold in every season
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts

    As usual, Mr D, you have come up with the goods in fine style.

    My parents were inconsiderate enough not to have conceived me before 1947 but I never tire of reading or hearing about it.

    The mean temperature at Buxton was -3.8c in Feb' 1947, that would have made it about -4.0 or -4.1c here, about 1c lower than in Feb' 1986.

    The snow at the top of the village was so deep ( up to the top of the bedroom windows ) that the residents dug tunnels from their doorways to the road. And I thought 1979 was bad!

    T.M

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    Posted
  • Location: Buckingham
  • Location: Buckingham

    What an interesting read Mr D - well done. I remember talking to relatives about that winter and can confirm all that you have reported. It was truly staggering in scale for the British Isles and must have been spectacular.

    It will not be repeated so keep hold of those charts!

    Moose

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    Posted
  • Location: South Derbyshire nr. Burton on Trent, Midlands, UK: alt 262 feet
  • Weather Preferences: Extreme winter cold,heavy bowing snow,freezing fog.Summer 2012
  • Location: South Derbyshire nr. Burton on Trent, Midlands, UK: alt 262 feet

    Thanks Mr D, superb reading material on 1947, like TM I wasn’t born then, but I was lucky enough to remember 62-63, so I do have some understanding what it must have been like.

    Paul

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    Posted
  • Location: Huddersfield, 145m ASL
  • Weather Preferences: Lots of snow, lots of hot sun
  • Location: Huddersfield, 145m ASL

    Yep - superb account. But could it really happen again. I mean, I know it obviously theoretically could happen again, but really, honestly, does anyone think it genuinely might ???

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    Posted
  • Location: frogmore south devon
  • Location: frogmore south devon

    my mother lived in wick near kingswood bristol,and they went skating on the local river that winter

    Edited by BARRY
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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    When you look at some of the maps associated with the coldest weather in 1947, you may agree that nothing appears that dramatic, certainly they are cold patterns but the highs are generally rather tame (1035-1040 mbs). I've seen the 500-mb charts for that winter and here again it is nothing earth-shaking. Probably the cause of the very low average temperatures can be found in the fact that deep snow cover was established and then never melted.

    This effect is more familiar on this side of the Atlantic. As recently as January 1994, we had a mean monthly temp in a persistent arctic type month near -20 C at 44 deg north just northeast of Toronto (the normal at the same location is - :blink: . So when you have snow cover in the UK at 52 deg north, it's hardly surprising that the monthly mean would fall to -3 or -4 C.

    This is one reason why I find it possible, if perhaps unlikely, that such a winter could come again. Colder spells have occurred, for example Jan 1963, and even as recently as Jan 1982 and 1987, but the flow changed and melted the snow cover. If everything set up just right, why could there not be a winter like 1947, or even harsher as in the more distant past?

    I suppose the only way to find out is to wait and see. I'll give you a 50-50 chance of seeing another severe winter that will rival 1947 or 1963 in the next 10-20 years. The recent run of mild winters is no sure guarantee that such an event cannot happen. We were told this same thing in Ontario after mild winters from about 1985 to 1992, then the next two (and several since then) turned out much colder, like "old-fashioned" winters.

    On the other hand, the modern urban landscape is one factor that must be overcome by any winter of a marginal character -- getting that widespread snow cover is that much more difficult when large areas of the landscape are paved and highly heat absorbent. This so far does not seem to have spared the northeast US or Ontario from true winter conditions, and neither has the 1-2 C rise in global temperatures.

    As I've said elsewhere, this season might give you a shot at a return to a more severe winter. It's actually been quite a bit colder so far this autumn in most of Canada than it was in 1946, and it looks quite cold at present across Siberia. So why not -- don't give up hope completely, at least.

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    • 2 months later...
    Posted
  • Location: Cork City(Southern Ireland)
  • Location: Cork City(Southern Ireland)
    IBy the way JS you know I said about yourself expecting too much for your location. Click on the link below to see how little snowfall you had in your region back in the famous winter of 47 where many were buried with snowfall!.

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/gesc_b/Pages/...20snow%20cover%

    I cant seem to open that teits.

    Can you repost it?

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    • 8 months later...
    Posted
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks

    as the song goes

    'I remember it well'

    no lights, no coal, using wood from the mines from underground, home baking as the bread vans did not get through, yeast being like gold dust I can remember my mother saying, no chance of any vegetables out of the garden or allotment, they were frozen solid into the ground for weeks,drifts over 10ft deep, icicles from gutter to ground outside the school when a leak developed in the water system.

    Yes, wonderful memories as a kid but no thank you very much now.

    oh yes and no GFS, that outlook at the end of yet another fascinating paper cutting from Mr D is for TOMORROW not T+whatever!

    Edited by johnholmes
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    Posted
  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam
    as the song goes

    'I remember it well'

    no lights, no coal, using wood from the mines from underground, home baking as the bread vans did not get through, yeast being like gold dust I can remember my mother saying, no chance of any vegetables out of the garden or allotment, they were frozen solid into the ground for weeks,drifts over 10ft deep, icicles from gutter to ground outside the school when a leak developed in the water system.

    Yes, wonderful memories as a kid but no thank you very much now.

    oh yes and no GFS, that outlook at the end of yet another fascinating paper cutting from Mr D is for TOMORROW not T+whatever!

    To think, John, there has only been 8 sub zero February CETs and you have lived through half of them! :doh:

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    Posted
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks

    frightening statistic there mate!

    I had not realised that before, I should change my avatar to reflect that perhaps.

    The Ice Man, or something like that?

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    Posted
  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam

    Weather coverage suffered after World War II, there is nowhere near the extensive coverage as it was pre-second world war with individual data shown for certain stations and no synoptic charts.

    It would seem rationing wasn't just restricted to food and other items.

    Infact weather coverage is better now than it was just after the war, I would say.

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    Posted
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks

    there are less reporting stations that are manned in the UK. That is a fiction of both cost and improving technology. Far fewer RAF stations than in 1947, and they have/had always been the backbone of the surface observing network in the Uk.

    hoping to add my comments into my memories thread sometime this week.

    Edited by johnholmes
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    • 13 years later...
    Posted
  • Location: Beccles, Suffolk.
  • Weather Preferences: Thunder, snow, heat, sunshine...
  • Location: Beccles, Suffolk.

    Thanks, Mr. Data:

    today (adv.) - Old English todæge, to dæge "on (this) day," from to "at, on" (see to) + dæge, dative of dæg "day" (see day). Meaning "in modern times" is from c. 1300. As a noun from 1530s. Generally written as two words until 16c., after which it usually was written to-day until early 20c. 

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