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How Good Was The February 2009 Cold Spell?


A Winter's Tale

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Posted
  • Location: Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire
  • Location: Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire

Does February 2009 rank amongst great easterlies such as January 87 and February 91 and how does the cold spell compare to the likes of December 95 and/or 1963/2010.

I would love to hear your memories of the events and depths, the synoptics and events leading up to it, technical analysis and overall rating of the event - and did it live up to or even exceed your expectations.

I've also heard many say that the last time that the UK had a decent easterly was more than 20 years ago, so how does the easterly November 2010 compare to some classics and would you regard that us your last decent easterly.

I'd also like to know in the past 20-30 years, how many winters have seen an easterly (or more). Also, when is the time that we should be looking east for snow? November to April I would imagine, however I would assume that there more than a few exceptions with some easterlies producing snow in early November and late Arpil.

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FEBRUARY 2009

Fantastic hype, the actual event? For many in the east, the easterly of the 1st/2nd was great. Where I was, in the morning of the 2nd we had a dusting and there were a few showers throughout the morning. It wasn't until after noon that we had a real great shower that dumped 3-7cm of snow that lay on the ground until night. I was expecting snow from a front moving northwards, instead it fell as rain and melted my first proper lying snow since 2006. On the 4th, we had the remains of that front move south again that brought a spell of light snow and a dusting-1cm. This was the last snowfall until the weekend, where a front met the cold air, and brought snow aswell as streaming over the Central Belt. This dumped 10cm and the snow remained on the ground for quite a few days. Of course, the event was fantastic further south where one day there would be a great snowfall in Wales/SW England and the next somewhere else. A pretty good event, amazing at the time but the following two winters were many miles better.

The last time we had a decent easterly, I would say that February 2009 was close to a classic further south. It depends on your location, but here in Scotland, the best easterly that I've ever seen was the event at the end of November 2010 and early December 2010. A constant easterly that brough persistent snow showers into the east and a Forth-Clyde streamer that helped bring 20cm of snow to the western central belt.

The question is, can we expect a great easterly this winter or spring?

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Posted
  • Location: Leicestershire
  • Weather Preferences: Cold, snowy Winters and cool, wet Summers
  • Location: Leicestershire

February 2009 was great for me, got loads of snow.

However, temperatures weren't really particularly low, with temperatures typically 2 to -2c here.

I've always thought of February 2009 as a true winter storm, much like those typically seem in East coast America throughout most winters.

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Posted
  • Location: Upper Gornal, Dudley, 205m asl
  • Location: Upper Gornal, Dudley, 205m asl

February 2009 was pretty good here...and also a bit lucky. On the morning of the 2nd, showers managed to filter in at just right angle to give this part of the West Midlands a fair bit of snow. We maybe shouldn't have got as much as we did in a set up like that. It was around 10cm...not the great depths of elsewhere but certainly respectable. The rest of the cold spell was also respectable after that. A bit more snow here and there...a few more half decent coverings. Never the lion's share but never little enough to feel left out.

5th January 2010 and the 18th December 2010 was better, (5th Jan slightly so and the 18th Dec markedly so)

Edited by Gord
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Posted
  • Location: Whitkirk, Leeds 86m asl
  • Weather Preferences: Anything but mild south-westeries in winter
  • Location: Whitkirk, Leeds 86m asl

February 2009 was more South-east orientated.. it was nothing exceptional here.

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Posted
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl

February 2009 certainly delivered the snowy goods to much of southern and central and eastern england as well as Wales, but not for these parts. We managed a couple of inches at best on the morning of the 2nd. We saw a few snow showers thereafter but nothing special, still the cold lasted until about the 12th and the fells were thick with snow until then as well. It was a decent wintry spell, one of the better ones of the last 20 years but not on a par with the likes of Feb 91, Dec 95, Dec 09/Jan 10 or late Nov/Dec 10. Winter 08/09 was a decent winter with three distinct cold periods of similiar length mixed with milder/average spells, the cold periods being the 28th Nov - 13th Dec, 28th Dec- 10th Jan and the 1-13 Feb.

As for easterlies, yes its been a long time since we saw a decent lengthy easterly. Late Nov 10 delivered a northeasterly and was not associated with a scandi/siberian high.

We saw an easterly of sorts in late Dec 96 into Ja 97 which lasted a week or so. We nearly saw a decent lengthy easterly in Feb 01 but it failed. Feb 10 was also a near miss. The last true great easterly events were Jan 87 and Feb 91 - they are rare beasts.

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Posted
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
  • Weather Preferences: Sunshine, convective precipitation, snow, thunderstorms, "episodic" months.
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire

In the Tyne and Wear area, the easterly of the 2nd February 2009 produced only short-lived snow cover at low levels. The easterly flow brought heavy snow showers in off the North Sea for most of the 2nd, with significant accumulations inland, but only slushy accumulations near the coast, as temperatures there oscillated between 0.5 and 2.5C. During the evening a warmer pool of air came in from the SE associated with a frontal system, and gave rain and sleet, causing a thaw, especially at the coast but also inland.

The snowfalls during the rest of that month were generally marginal with significant accumulations on high ground across the region but not much on low ground, particularly next the coast. The biggest snowfall was probably the unexpected one on the 12th, as a frontal system collided with Arctic air and gave heavy wet snow with about 2-3 inches on the ground for a time.

I was near Exeter at the time where it certainly was a notable easterly outbreak by Exeter standards, with an inch of snow from snow showers that got all the way across from the North Sea, and then another day of sunshine and snow showers on the 3rd from a cyclonic south-westerly which brought remnants of the continental air up, though the snow melted in the afternoon sunny intervals. The bigger snow event in the South West though was the frontal event on the 5th/6th when southerly tracking depressions gave snow (even thundersnow locally near the south coast) as Arctic air engaged the system. Exeter had a couple of inches of snow which turned slushy and then icy due to rain at the back end of the event, but further inland and upwards, snow lay 1-2 feet deep in places. Meanwhile places just 5-10 miles to the south and east of Exeter had just rain and sleet from the event.

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Posted
  • Location: Manchester Deansgate.
  • Weather Preferences: Heavy disruptive snowfall.
  • Location: Manchester Deansgate.

It was what got me back into winter weather, i had more or less given up since the late 90s. I was living in Salford at the time, i thought the easterly was going to be strong enough to get the snow all the way across the pennines and it started great with a heavy snow shower on the sunday lunchtime, but then it melted and i had about 24 hours of nothing apart from a few spells of very light snizzle while the main band of snow / showers stayed 8 miles east, Stalybridge got a lot, Oldham town centre got 8 inches with a foot on some higher ground around where i live now, what made matters worse was i would have got a pasting if i still lived in the West midlands as well and hadnt had one there since 1996!, i dont think it was a marginality issue though, although Salford is on very low ground (75ft asl), i think if the PPN would have been heavier it would definately been snow, it felt bitter outside, it just didnt have the legs to get all the way, i would take a repeat of that this winter though.

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Posted
  • Location: Warminster, Wiltshire
  • Location: Warminster, Wiltshire

I'm surprised nobody else from the West Country has posted here yet. It was a memorable week and the first of 3 major snowy periods

within just 20 months (Dec 2009, Nov/Dec 2010 being the others).

I think it was more memorable for the pure surprise factor and rarity factor of having such frequent snowfall after so many winters where

brief snowfall with a few inches at best had been the norm.

There were 4 snowfalls within 5 days with the deepest measurement being 5 inches* and, as mentioned above, it wasn't especially cold with

the lowest minimum being -5.1c and 1 ice day where the maximum was -0.2c. Otherwise the temperature was between -3.5c and 4.3c.

* = There was a slow thaw of the first 3 inches before it was topped up and maintained later in the week.

Perhaps of more interest and my most memorable day of the week, despite there being other days with more snowfall, was the Tuesday

which had heavy snow/hail showers as RPm air circulated around the LOW. It was the first day I could remember where snow fell under a SW wind!

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Posted
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
  • Weather Preferences: Sunshine, convective precipitation, snow, thunderstorms, "episodic" months.
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire

I did mention experiences from near Exeter although I suppose I do waffle a bit!

I remember that SW'ly well- that was on the 3rd February 2009 when snow cover melted in the sunny intervals in between the showers in the Exeter area, but showers surprisingly continued to fall as snow and hail (there was quite a dramatic hailstorm around midday for instance). Snow cover persisted all day in some inland areas of the West Country if I remember rightly, particularly with a bit of elevation. Unusually, the airmass that "returned" from the south-west wasn't primarily polar maritime air- the previous day's continental airmass got caught in the circulation of the shallow low over SW England, spread south into the western English Channel overnight 2nd/3rd and then came back up again from the south-west.

I remember my parents being amazed that I was getting sunshine and snow showers in south Devon while they were grey and drizzly with 4C up in Tyneside.

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Posted
  • Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms and heat, North Sea snow
  • Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

It was a huge disappointment here. We had 12cm from snow showers by midday on the 2nd, but the frontal snow that evening turned out to be rain and sleet so we had nothing left by the morning of the 3rd. I was braced for a 20cm covering, but it never materialized. Between the 5th and the 11th we never had more than 1cm.

The 12th was brilliant though - we were forecast for a few sleety afternoon flurries before drizzle spread in from the west overnight, but an area of snow quickly developed during the morning and it snowed heavily for about 6 hours. The final depth was 8cm.

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Posted
  • Location: Cheddington, Buckinghamshire
  • Weather Preferences: Winter: Cold & Snowy, Summer: Just not hot
  • Location: Cheddington, Buckinghamshire

I was gutted just before it happened...I was due to go to Somerset on a Geography field trip and thought I would miss all of the snow. We set off on the Monday morning from school, 4 inches of snow on the ground, school was closed and it was still bucketing it down. Still gutted. As we ventured further south, the snow became more and more scarce. We got hardly anything the first few days while home got pasted. However, come Thursday night, that was to change...

We went to bed not expecting much, I had checked the Met Office site that evening and didn't see anything of interest and we were due to go home the next morning. I was awoken at around 4am by what sounded like fireworks going off, it startled me but I thought nothing of it. We got up at 7am to get ready to go, I tried to turn the light on...nothing happened. We also noticed the heating was off. When we opened the curtains we discovered why. There was at least 8 inches of wet snow on the ground, and the fireworks noise I heard happened to be a tree branch that snapped due to the sheer weight of the snow. It wasn't a little branch either, it was huge. Several branches had fallen and severed the power lines so we had no heating or electricity. That wasn't the biggest problem though...

The snow kept falling, 50p sized flakes easily. The depth reached around 10 inches by 9am, and we realised we were going to struggle to get home. But at lunchtime we made a break for it as the snow had stopped and the minibus was dug out. Took about half an hour just to get out of the driveway of the place we were staying. It was incredibly localised though, the snowfall. Just a mile or two down the road there was only about 2-3 inches, if that. I went on the trip gutted, thinking I would be missing all the fun. I was staying in a place called Nettlecombe, scroll down to the bottom table of this link, and see where in England got the deepest snow that day...yup!

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/interesting/feb2009/

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Posted
  • Location: Cleeve, North Somerset
  • Weather Preferences: Continental winters & summers.
  • Location: Cleeve, North Somerset

As a West Country guy myself, I have very fond memories of this event. Although it has been sort of shoved a few seats back by the following winters, it was still a very notable week of weather that came totally out of the blue.

It all started on the 2nd with a few flurries in the morning that had us looking out of the classroom windows the whole time. Then the real heavy stuff arrived around lunchtime in the form of showers. Then there was a pause before a more persistent area of moderate snow arrived by nightfall and lasted for much of the night I think. 2-3cm fell on the 2nd. This was also the only ice day of the spell.

The 3rd was then a sunny day. Another 5cm had fallen overnight but cleared before dawn and the high sun allowed for a gradual thaw to take place throughout the day so only bits and pieces were left in the shade by the end. I do remember looking out to black sky to the west from showers moving up from the southwest through the Bristol Channel.

The 4th was a dry but cloudy day which helped maintain snow cover on slightly higher ground. The first flakes of snow starting falling around 9-10pm.

The 5th saw the first Channel Low dump 7cm in total, effectively starting from scratch as Tuesday's had melted. I don't think we received the heaviest of the snow as that was slightly further northeast but it stayed as snow, no sleet or rain so that was good. Light snow lasted most of the morning and stopped by midday. A very slight thaw took place in the afternoon but only about 1-2cm of the 7 melted.

The 6th saw a repeat of the Channel Low again, this time with much heavier snow. On top of the 5cm or so left from the 5th, another 8.5cm fell leading to a depth of 13.5cm by the time the snow finished around lunchtime once again. School was cancelled on this day. A minimal thaw took place when the skies began brightening from the northwest towards the end of the day leading to a sharp frost overnight.

There was then no snowfall after that despite a forecast winter storm on the 9th which never materialised. This was the best winter spell I could remember for some time, then came the following winter...

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Posted
  • Location: Longlevens, 16m ASL (H)/Bradley Stoke, 75m ASL (W)
  • Weather Preferences: Hot sunny summers, cold snowy winters
  • Location: Longlevens, 16m ASL (H)/Bradley Stoke, 75m ASL (W)

This February was right up there with the best of them, we had a number of snowfalls including a couple of falls measuring a depth of 5-6inches on both occasions. Unfortunately due to our low altitude the snow generally melted away during the day, however the nearby Cotswolds didnt suffer this fate and even over a week after the last snow fell we were still able to go up to Birdlip and find snow depths in excess of 20cm

In many respects although the temperatures were not that impressive, the amount of snowfall we had makes me rate this month as better than December 2010 personally where we had very cold temps but not much snow.

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Posted
  • Location: South East Cambridgeshire 57m ASL
  • Location: South East Cambridgeshire 57m ASL

February 2009 gave the snowiest period of weather here since 1991. Three big snowfalls on the 2nd, 5th and 6th and another on the 12th. Certainly would take a repeat of Feb 09 every winter.

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Posted
  • Location: Hanwell, west London
  • Location: Hanwell, west London

For where I lived at the time, in north-west London, it went from absolutely epic to absolutely rubbish!

The snow on February 1st and 2nd was incredible for it's intensity and longevity. It began around 8pm and lasted all night, finally easing about 9am, leaving around 14cms or so, less than other parts but the most we'd had since '91.

That was the epic part. The rubbish part came in the afternoon, when a band of snow moving up from France was forcasted to drop another 5 inches or so. What we actually got was a continuous light flurry for about 3 hours, which added nothing to what had already accumulated.

The following week was frustrating, as a series of lows gave us heavy rain, turning to snow about 20 miles to our north. But for what happened the night of February 1st into 2nd, it still ranks as an epic event.

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