THE weather in December 2011 was a complete contrast to that of December 2010. For one thing, there was only the merest sprinkling of snow, and that did not lie for long, and for another, the frosts were nothing like as intense. The main feature of the month was the strong wind, particularly on the 8th, when fierce gales caused damage in many parts of Scotland. These gales were strongest in central Scotland during the daylight hours, before moving to the north-east in the dark.
The month began with a cold, sunny day, and that introduced another feature of December - how much sunshine we had. Most days had some sun, even if there was wind to take away the warmth. The rainfall for the month was 45mm, making it the driest December since 2006.
The first week of the month was dry, cold and windy. Things calmed down on the second week, except for the 13th, when we had more gales. Most of the month’s rain came in the third week, the dry spell ending on the 19th after ten sunny days.
As Christmas Day approached, it became warmer. On the 25th, the contrast with 2010 could not have been greater. It was the warmest day since November 25, and there was no frost. Indeed, it was warmer here than in Barcelona! Boxing Day was the warmest day of the month, with a reading of 15C, seven degrees warmer than the warmest day in December of 2010. The warmest place in the UK that day was Fyvie Castle, half a degree warmer than Ellon. The lowest temperature for the month was -4.9C overnight on the 16th.
This was one of the months when we had reason to be grateful for the sheltering effect of the Grampian and Cairngorm mountains. Much of the wildest and wettest weather was blocked by these mountains, especially when it came from the west.
Meanwhile, the shortest day has passed, and the sunset is slowly moving forward. The sunrise time, though, get later until a few days into January, so it will be a while before we notice any noticeable difference in the mornings.
Looking back over the year, the Met Office says that it was for Scotland as a whole, the wettest year on record. Total rainfall was 735mm and August was the wettest month. On June 2 we had a high of 28.9C, the hottest day for five years, which made Aberdeen the hottest place in Britain that day,. The lowest temperature of the year was -4.7C on January 9. For the UK as a whole, 2011 was the second warmest on record.
All in all, our main grumble was the lack, it seemed, of a proper summer, yet it has been a year without the extremes of weather that cause danger and damage in other places.
So far, there is not much sign of serious wintry weather, but then we’re only half way through january, and that could chance.