A Mild Alert

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  • A Mild Alert
    23.12.2010 15:09

    Much has been written and discussed about the winter so far and its potentially historic proportions. Nationally it is not yet a record-breaking month but it does look like being the coldest December since 1981 and possibly, should the cold persist for the rest of the month, since 1890, which was the coldest December on record.

    Some local records have been broken, most notably at Castlederg in County Tyrone. Temperatures plunged to -18.6 degrees early on Thursday, beating the -18C set only a few days before. These were record lows not only for Castlederg but for Northern Ireland as a whole. Moreover, Castlederg’s temperature has not risen above -4.5C for nearly a week.

    There is a change in the offing, however, with the air becoming less cold next week, or even mild, with double-figure temperatures possible in the southwest.

    The transition will be marked by a broad band of precipitation coming eastwards, which will start off as freezing rain or snow, most likely arriving later Sunday or Sunday night and lasting into Monday but then turning to rain as the milder air encroaches.

    Travel plans on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day might be affected by freezing fog patches and ice but no significant snow for most of the country. However, the snow and freezing rain around Boxing Day have the potential to be temporarily disruptive before the temperature rises.

    This might bring its own problems next week, with a risk of local flooding as rain falls and lying snow thaws.

    In Santa Claus’s neck of the woods it’s staying very cold through Christmas, with temperatures of -20 to -30C in Lapland, if you think that’s where he lives. Towards the North Pole there are similar temperatures, although some locations in the Arctic Circle are remarkably mild, the flip side of the cold plunge at our longitude. While we suffer Arctic temperatures in Britain, parts of the Arctic are enjoying British temperatures.

    A place called Alert in Nunavut, Canada, at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, is only 817 kilometres from the Pole, and the northernmost permanently inhabited settlement in the world. Nevertheless, on Wednesday the temperature there rose two tenths of a degree above freezing.

    Although wild swings in temperature are not unusual in the Arctic, that’s a remarkable 30 degrees above the December average, which would be like Britain having a mid-December temperature of 36 degrees Celsius – a level to which we didn’t even come close last summer.

    By: Stephen Davenport