How will you remember 2011? The Euro zone crisis. The Japanese earthquake. The Arab Spring. Or possibly the extreme weather events around the world. The UK saw a number of weather records broken during the year. April and spring being the warmest on record, and the highest single-day temperature for October reaching 29.9°C on 1st October at Gravesend in Kent beating the previous record set in 1985. The latter would have certainly helped to make autumn 2011 the second warmest recorded and the year as a whole has been the second warmest on record for the UK.
The warm autumn had a significant impact on flora with an abundance of holly, mistletoe and other berries such as sloe and hawthorn during autumn and early winter, far from being a predictor of cold and snow, the warm spring had led to the trees producing more blossom. Wildflowers burst forth again in November, and in December there have been reports of daffodils budding and blooming in sheltered areas, while growers in south-west England are already harvesting brassicas which they would expect to mature in spring.
The provisional figures from the Met Office show that 2011 had an average temperature of 9.62°C in fact all the UK's top seven warmest years happened in the last decade, with 2006 being the warmest at 9.73°C. This was in sharp contrast to 2010, which was the 12th coldest year on record with a chilly 7.97°C.
The highest temperature in 2011 was 33.1°C, again at Gravesend in Kent, on 27th June - which was the warmest day in the UK for five years. The lowest temperature recorded during the year was at Altnaharra on 8th January when temperatures dipped to -13°C and the strongest gust of wind, 165mph, was also recorded in Scotland on the summit of Cairngorm on 8th December.
Another record broken during 2011 was the total amount of rainfall that fell in Scotland. It was the wettest year on record with 1859.5mm of rain swamping the previous record from 1990. But there have been huge variations across the UK with some parts of England having very little rainfall – East Anglia had its second driest year on record with 449mm of rain and the Midlands its third with 586.5mm. This difference in rainfall across the UK was down blocking areas of high pressure across parts of the southeast that dominated on a number of occasions during 2011 bringing dry, settled weather whilst the cloud and rain was forced further north across parts of Scotland.
Just before Christmas, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gave South East Water a drought order to help it refill Ardingly Reservoir in West Sussex – just 12% full by the end of November – because of "an exceptional lack of rain over the last eight months". South East Water blamed an exceptionally dry September, October and November.
So what will weather have in store for us for 2012? Can't wait.