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Change in character of February


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Posted
  • Location: Hampshire
  • Weather Preferences: Bright weather. Warm sunny thundery summers, short cold winters.
  • Location: Hampshire

    Is it me or has the character of February changed markedly, perhaps more so than the other winter months even?

    I say that as traditionally, February was the driest month of the year, I definitely remember seeing some historical stats in the 80s (not for the 80s, but for some time before that) suggesting this was the case. This would accord with my logical expectations: it's a time of year when both land and sea are cold, so no real deep warm air to fire up rain-producing systems and no strong insolation just yet for intense convective activity.

    Yet since about 1995, it seems to have become progressively stormier, with very zonal months commonplace: occurring in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2020 and now it seems 2022.  That is 11 years out of 28, so not quite dominant but still pretty frequent. By contrast, the Februaries of most of the 80s, and indeed 1991-93, were a benign lot, with anticyclonic and/or cold types tending to dominate.

    Wondering if there is any reason for this change, maybe raised SSTs meaning February is behaving more like early winter,  i.e. December and early January?

    Wondering also if this is actually a long-term change as I cannot really remember Februaries before 1979 so maybe these sorts of zonal months were as common in the 'old days'? Even still the reputation of February as a dry month would suggest that it wasn't just the 80s and early 90s but a long-term observation.

    By contrast, autumn seems to be becoming less stormy, with more chance of calm weather in Oct and Nov, and, while storms do occur, a lot of the wet spells in autumn seem to be due to large but slow moving lows. So as late winter gets stormier, perhaps autumn is getting calmer?

    So in summary, two common traits of February in the past - anticyclonicity, and cold/snow, both seem to be becoming markedly rarer.

    Not impressed I have to say, first of all there's the lack of snow, but also I like to think of February as a month when we start transitioning to spring so if it's endless dull, wet Atlantic grot, that has quite the opposite effect and it makes it seem the nights aren't drawing out much. Ironically you get more of a sense of spring coming if it's somewhat cold, as you're more likely to see sunshine in a northerly or north-easterly! Thankfully March has not shown a similar pattern in the same time period and spring, as a season, has become drier which gives us a bit of hope!

     

    Edited by Summer8906
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    Posted
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl
    10 minutes ago, Summer8906 said:

    Is it me or has the character of February changed markedly, perhaps more so than the other winter months even?

    I say that as traditionally, February was the driest month of the year, I definitely remember seeing some historical stats in the 80s (not for the 80s, but for some time before that) suggesting this was the case. This would accord with my logical expectations: it's a time of year when both land and sea are cold, so no real deep warm air to fire up rain-producing systems and no strong insolation just yet for intense convective activity.

    Yet since about 1995, it seems to have become progressively stormier, with very zonal months commonplace: occurring in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2020 and now it seems 2022.  That is 11 years out of 28, so not quite dominant but still pretty frequent. By contrast, the Februaries of most of the 80s, and indeed 1991-93, were a benign lot, with anticyclonic and/or cold types tending to dominate.

    Wondering if there is any reason for this change, maybe raised SSTs meaning February is behaving more like early winter,  i.e. December and early January?

    Wondering also if this is actually a long-term change as I cannot really remember Februaries before 1979 so maybe these sorts of zonal months were as common in the 'old days'? Even still the reputation of February as a dry month would suggest that it wasn't just the 80s and early 90s but a long-term observation.

    By contrast, autumn seems to be becoming less stormy, with more chance of calm weather in Oct and Nov, and, while storms do occur, a lot of the wet spells in autumn seem to be due to large but slow moving lows. So as late winter gets stormier, perhaps autumn is getting calmer?

    Not impressed I have to say, first of all there's the lack of snow, but also I like to think of February as a month when we start transitioning to spring so if it's endless dull, wet Atlantic grot, that has quite the opposite effect and it makes it seem the nights aren't drawing out much. Ironically you get more of a sense of spring coming if it's somewhat cold, as you're more likely to see sunshine in a northerly or north-easterly! Thankfully March has not shown a similar pattern in the same time period and spring, as a season, has become drier which gives us a bit of hope!

     

    See my post in winter moan thread.. echo your observations. My post probably best fits in here.

    February perhaps more so than January has felt like a month to endure.. when stuck in a mild Atlantic rut you just want to fast forward to March and Spring and put us out of the grey misery we normally have endured since November.

    Edited by damianslaw
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    Posted
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl
  • Weather Preferences: obviously snow!
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl

    Suggested for few years now, Feb month that's changed the most in the m/e, Atlantic dominates and snow is rare

    August, 2nd most changed month

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

    As you've highlighted, it's not just February that has changed seemingly... it's as if autumn storminess has been shared out with the second half of winter more recently. Never used to associated the second half of winter with stormy weather, but always used to expected the first gales in September and more so October.

    At least when the Atlantic is in full pelt in March, the sun is higher and the days are longer so it seems less depressing.

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    Posted
  • Location: Hampshire
  • Weather Preferences: Bright weather. Warm sunny thundery summers, short cold winters.
  • Location: Hampshire
    9 minutes ago, damianslaw said:

    See my post in winter moan thread.. echo your observations. My post probably best fits in here.

    February perhaps more so than January has felt like a month to endure.. when stuck in a mild Atlantic rut you just want to fast forward to March and Spring and put us out of the grey misery we normally have endured since November.

    It definitely feels like that when dull, drizzly-to-wet and sometimes stormy Atlantic weather dominates. Autumn or early-winter weather really, feels past its sell-by-date by now.

    I do actually enjoy February when it's cold and/or sunny. The cold for its own sake, and the sunshine (whether it's cold or warm) because you can enjoy the days lengthening and the promise of spring.

    Dull, wet weather can effectively knock 30 minutes off the day at each end of the day, meaning it has the same effect as going back in time two weeks towards the winter solstice. That's why November and December are probably the least-worst time for dull and wet, as the days are so silly-short then anyway that it doesn't seem to make a big difference.

    There is something of a mild wet Feb - warm dry March pattern though, maybe that will happen this year, some indication of that in the MetO long term.

    Edited by Summer8906
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    Posted
  • Location: Hampshire
  • Weather Preferences: Bright weather. Warm sunny thundery summers, short cold winters.
  • Location: Hampshire
    13 minutes ago, MP-R said:

    As you've highlighted, it's not just February that has changed seemingly... it's as if autumn storminess has been shared out with the second half of winter more recently. Never used to associated the second half of winter with stormy weather, but always used to expected the first gales in September and more so October.

    Yes, other times of the year have changed too, some more recently than the February change. February has the most marked change of the winter months, but we also have:

    January (since about 1988) - less snowy. However does not actually seem to be more zonal than hitherto, as zonal spells in January always were not so uncommon and there are still fairly frequent dry Januaries even today.

    April (since 2007) - warmer and sunnier than previously

    July (since 2007) - cloudier than previously, though not wetter. Also more cool days, but small numbers of intensely hot days and/or warm nights mean the CET does not show this

    August (since 2007) - cloudier and wetter than previously with many cool days though again the CET doesn't look especially cool due to warm nights and/or short spells of intense heat

    October (gradual change) - less zonal and more blocked, but can be either very dry or very wet

    November - somewhat less zonal, though still wet sometimes

    The other months don't seem to have changed character so markedly. May, in particular, seems to be what it always was.

    13 minutes ago, MP-R said:

    At least when the Atlantic is in full pelt in March, the sun is higher and the days are longer so it seems less depressing.

    And to be fair, full on Atlantic weather tends not to last so long in March (though we have had quite a run of years in 2017, 2019 and 2020 when this has been the case in the first half of the month, before becoming much more settled later).

    Edited by Summer8906
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    Posted
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl
  • Weather Preferences: obviously snow!
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl
    8 minutes ago, Summer8906 said:

    Yes, other times of the year have changed too, some more recently than the February change. February has the most marked change of the winter months, but we also have:

    January (since about 1988) - less snowy. However does not actually seem to be more zonal than hitherto, as zonal spells in January always were not so uncommon and there are still fairly frequent dry Januaries even today.

    April (since 2007) - warmer and sunnier than previously

    July (since 2007) - cloudier than previously, though not wetter. Also more cool days, but small numbers of intensely hot days and/or warm nights mean the CET does not show this

    August (since 2007) - cloudier and wetter than previously with many cool days though again the CET doesn't look especially cool due to warm nights and/or short spells of intense heat

    October (gradual change) - less zonal and more blocked, but can be either very dry or very wet

    November - somewhat less zonal, though still wet sometimes

    The other months don't seem to have changed character so markedly. May, in particular, seems to be what it always was.

    And to be fair, full on Atlantic weather tends not to last so long in March (though we have had quite a run of years in 2017, 2019 and 2020 when this has been the case in the first half of the month, before becoming much more settled later).

    Aye, agree with those month changes, Dec not changed as such, but generally milder than the 90's on average, 2015 record breaking mild, this year warmest ever new years Eve and Jan 1st,

    Winter records for warmth much more likely to be broken

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

    August the month that has least changed here, always the worst of the three summer months! Often very wet and dull!

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    Posted
  • Location: Hampshire
  • Weather Preferences: Bright weather. Warm sunny thundery summers, short cold winters.
  • Location: Hampshire
    5 minutes ago, damianslaw said:

    August the month that has least changed here, always the worst of the three summer months! Often very wet and dull!

    I think in the past we used to get more instances of higher pressure in the south, lower in the north. Nowadays the south shares in the damp and cloud as the low-pressure systems move further south! (Perhaps far north Scotland is drier in August nowadays, as a result...)

    Edited by Summer8906
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    Posted
  • Location: Eden Valley, Cumbria
  • Location: Eden Valley, Cumbria

    I don’t know if I’ve noticed that much of a change in February, maybe I’m not quite old enough. I’ve always associated October, November and the run up to Christmas with dark, wet and windy weather. And entire days on end of rain. If anything I’ve noticed that being less of an issue. The biggest changes I’ve noticed, lack of snow and cold aside, is that April (though not last year) and September are essentially summer months now, and October isn’t far off joining them. I’m not sure I’ve noticed much change in July and August. 

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    Posted
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl
  • Weather Preferences: obviously snow!
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl
    5 minutes ago, trickydicky said:

    I don’t know if I’ve noticed that much of a change in February, maybe I’m not quite old enough. I’ve always associated October, November and the run up to Christmas with dark, wet and windy weather. And entire days on end of rain. If anything I’ve noticed that being less of an issue. The biggest changes I’ve noticed, lack of snow and cold aside, is that April (though not last year) and September are essentially summer months now, and October isn’t far off joining them. I’m not sure I’ve noticed much change in July and August. 

    August change is really only in the south,

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    Posted
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl
    42 minutes ago, trickydicky said:

    I don’t know if I’ve noticed that much of a change in February, maybe I’m not quite old enough. I’ve always associated October, November and the run up to Christmas with dark, wet and windy weather. And entire days on end of rain. If anything I’ve noticed that being less of an issue. The biggest changes I’ve noticed, lack of snow and cold aside, is that April (though not last year) and September are essentially summer months now, and October isn’t far off joining them. I’m not sure I’ve noticed much change in July and August. 

    September definitely now feels a summer month. April I'm torn with sometimes it very much can feel like summer but spring growth year to year varies.

    June is always a safe bet for at least one decent dry sunny spell, use to think that of May but last year, oh dear what happened! July and January are the most definate months of the year, most contrasting and when I feel most grounded.. 

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    Posted
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl
  • Weather Preferences: obviously snow!
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl

    Feb got milder too, not just the increasing Atlantic air, last year a decent easterly only produced wet snow, from 8th to 10th, coldest days were 11th to 13th, before Atlantic arrived on 14th, 2nd half was more Spring than winter

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    Posted
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl
    11 minutes ago, I remember Atlantic 252 said:

    Feb got milder too, not just the increasing Atlantic air, last year a decent easterly only produced wet snow, from 8th to 10th, coldest days were 11th to 13th, before Atlantic arrived on 14th, 2nd half was more Spring than winter

    Last Feb did a 2009 and 2012, cold first half cancelled out by mild second half. 

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    Posted
  • Location: halifax 125m
  • Weather Preferences: extremes the unusual and interesting facts
  • Location: halifax 125m

    Not sure why you have singled out February.The whole of the extended winter has become milder,less snowy,less frosty and just endless changable weather even compared to 90s winters.With the exception of 2018 that certainly seems to be the case and any wintery spells seem to have been February and March.I would actually say that January has been less of a winter month than February in recent times.

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    Posted
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl
  • Weather Preferences: obviously snow!
  • Location: Wildwood, Stafford 104m asl
    8 minutes ago, damianslaw said:

    Last Feb did a 2009 and 2012, cold first half cancelled out by mild second half. 

    Kind of, those months had decent snow here, unlike last year

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    Posted
  • Location: Ossett, West Yorkshire
  • Location: Ossett, West Yorkshire
    16 minutes ago, damianslaw said:

    Last Feb did a 2009 and 2012, cold first half cancelled out by mild second half. 

    Although Februarys 2009 and 2012 were cold right from the start up until the cold disappeared abruptly in mid-month and both went very mild for the rest of the month, whereas February 2021 wasn't that cold from the start, it only really saw a cold spell for about a week or so from the 7th to 14th, then like as you say, it disappeared abruptly in mid-month and went very mild, much like Feb 2009 and 2012.

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    Posted
  • Location: Cleeve, North Somerset
  • Weather Preferences: Continental winters & summers.
  • Location: Cleeve, North Somerset
    2 hours ago, Summer8906 said:

     

    And to be fair, full on Atlantic weather tends not to last so long in March (though we have had quite a run of years in 2017, 2019 and 2020 when this has been the case in the first half of the month, before becoming much more settled later).

    Well, very much depends on the year... as you've pointed out to name a few years. Until the equinox, Atlantic weather is fairly standard fare in March, and is quite often in resurgence after a break in February. I think the main difference though is that the alternative options mostly bring more pleasant weather and often bring the first warmth. Likewise, the Atlantic can often roar on at a higher latitude such that the south becomes more settled with time e.g. in 2007. I don't mind that of course. The first half of March is often too early for proper spring and too late for lasting winter cold.

    If I had to pick the two most changed months, they'd have to be April and September. Always used to have at least one decent spell in both months but would have never expected prolonged settled conditions from either. I remember how unusual September 2002 felt as I'd never experienced a dry settled September up to that point, then 2003 came along and blew it out the water. Granted, both of those came after dry Augusts so, if anything, continued the theme... Since then, I view September more as a semi-summer month and expect fine weather from it at least 50% of the time.

    Conversely, August has gone downhill in my lifetime, so August and September kinda merge into one long period of 'sometimes summer and sometimes autumn'.

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    Posted
  • Location: Close to Loch Lomond, 20 miles NW of Glasgow
  • Location: Close to Loch Lomond, 20 miles NW of Glasgow

    February has always been the driest winter month but I can recall  one or two pretty bad ones with endless wind and rain, just like this one.

    It has never been the driest month of the year (or anywhere near it) in the West of Scotland which is traditionally May with June and April not far behind.

    When we do get a wet and windy February my impression is that March, which is typically a windy transition month, is a little calmer, with the pent up energy in the Atlantic reduced due to the February storms.

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    Posted
  • Location: Hampshire
  • Weather Preferences: Bright weather. Warm sunny thundery summers, short cold winters.
  • Location: Hampshire
    11 hours ago, hillbilly said:

    Not sure why you have singled out February.The whole of the extended winter has become milder,less snowy,less frosty and just endless changable weather even compared to 90s winters.With the exception of 2018 that certainly seems to be the case and any wintery spells seem to have been February and March.I would actually say that January has been less of a winter month than February in recent times.

    I think because December and January always could be very zonal and wet, particularly December. Look at the run of eight consecutive mild Decembers from 1982 to 1989 for instance as well as 1993 and 1994, and for January you have months such as 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1994 from the same sort of era.

    By contrast February always was much more settled, dry and quiet in the majority of years, and as February is further away from the autumn 'warm sea' season, one might expect it to inherently be drier and quieter. December and early January, by contrast, are pretty close to autumn.

    I do however completely agree about the lack of snow in the rest of the winter, particularly January, in which the only Januaries to produce significant snow, with a good cover, in the south since 1988 over a wide area have been 1994 (brief), 2010 and 2013. However, anticyclonic Januaries have not declined in frequency to the extent that anticyclonic Februaries have.

    Edited by Summer8906
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    Posted
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl
  • Location: Windermere 120m asl

    There were a number of cold snowy Februaries often blocked in the 78-87 period but not all 1980, 81, 82 were mild, 84 mixed colder in north, likewise 87. I would only class 78, 79, 83, 85 and 86 as properly cold and snowy.

    Feb 88-90 very mild. 

    Feb 91 cold and snowy. 

    Many 70s Februaries were mild and wet.

    There has been much variance  in our Februaries since 1970. 

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    Posted
  • Location: Hampshire
  • Weather Preferences: Bright weather. Warm sunny thundery summers, short cold winters.
  • Location: Hampshire
    25 minutes ago, damianslaw said:

    There were a number of cold snowy Februaries often blocked in the 78-87 period but not all 1980, 81, 82 were mild, 84 mixed colder in north, likewise 87. I would only class 78, 79, 83, 85 and 86 as properly cold and snowy.

    Feb 88-90 very mild. 

    Feb 91 cold and snowy. 

    Many 70s Februaries were mild and wet.

    There has been much variance  in our Februaries since 1970. 

    True, but I think most of the non-cold Februaries were fairly anticyclonic, or at least not consistently zonal.

    I am fairly sure 1981 was cold, just not dramatically so, though perhaps one of those months which was colder in the south. Main memory I have is a lot of frosty mornings, a proper snowfall on the 21st (W Sussex) which then thawed by afternoon, and a cold if rather cloudy half-term (week of the 23rd, I think).

    Likewise I remember both 1984 and 1987 being mostly settled and fairly cold, though without snow. I actually think 1989 and 1990 were the first really zonal Februaries I can remember, even though by then I was in my late-teens; I lived through much of the 70s but can't remember most of them.

    Interesting if the 70s before 1978 were mild and wet; I cannot remember those. Would be interesting to compare the means for rainfall and temp for (say) 1895-1994 with (say) 1995-2021, if such things can be obtained.

    But the other thing I've noticed (and I need to analyse this a bit more really) is how frequent 'non-stop-zonal with barely a break' Februaries are. Perhaps this year, and certainly 2011, 2014, 2016 and 2020 also in recent years. In contrast (from memory)  even December, and certainly the autumn months, are more likely to have a break of a week to 10 days.

    Edited by Summer8906
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    Posted
  • Location: Caernarfon
  • Location: Caernarfon

    February is only different to my mind and memory ( which has a longer reach than I would wish it to have) in as much that it used to be snowy and now it's just dreary. The thread starts with the observation that February used to be " the dryest of the winter months" but weather lore names it " Fill dyke February". I'm not quite sure how we square that contradiction!

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    Posted
  • Location: Ossett, West Yorkshire
  • Location: Ossett, West Yorkshire
    9 hours ago, Summer8906 said:

    I think because December and January always could be very zonal and wet, particularly December. Look at the run of eight consecutive mild Decembers from 1982 to 1989 for instance as well as 1993 and 1994, and for January you have months such as 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1994 from the same sort of era.

    By contrast February always was much more settled, dry and quiet in the majority of years, and as February is further away from the autumn 'warm sea' season, one might expect it to inherently be drier and quieter. December and early January, by contrast, are pretty close to autumn.

    I do however completely agree about the lack of snow in the rest of the winter, particularly January, in which the only Januaries to produce significant snow, with a good cover, in the south since 1988 over a wide area have been 1994 (brief), 2010 and 2013. However, anticyclonic Januaries have not declined in frequency to the extent that anticyclonic Februaries have.

    There is a difference in the sort of zonality in the months that you mention.  January 1984 wasn't that mild, it was close to average for that time period, and it saw a lot of polar maritime zonality with frequent and at times heavy snowfalls in the northern half of the UK at least even to low levels at times; it was an impressive event when there was widespread snowfall from an Atlantic zonal flow, as it orientated on a NW - SE track and the air in its circulation was from the northern Atlantic ocean and at times Greenland.  January 1986 was also often cold although I think it did get milder for a time around mid-month, so some cold outbreaks in that month as well.  For January you could also add 1995 into that list as well, as that was generally quite mild, zonal and wet, although there were intervals of colder polar zonality that on one occasion did give a fairly localised heavy snowfall in the south Pennines and Yorkshire later in that month.  December 1993 also featured cold polar maritime zonality at times that gave some snow at times in the northern part of the country (although the setup was less impressive than Jan 1984), so the zonal months that you mention were not all of the milder zonal variety.

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