March 2013: “In like a lamb and out like a lion!”
March 2013 in Reigate recorded an average temperature lower than January and a minimum temperature lower than February and the lowest dew point of -7.1°C so far this year. It was an exceptionally cold month and got colder and colder from the the one lovely day at the beginning.
The opposite of what should happen, did happen. March started with rapidly rising temperatures reaching over 16°C in the first week but things deteriorated rapidly after that as a Polar blocking HIGH built to the North and pushed vigorous easterlies and north easterly winds towards the UK for much of the month. A number of Atlantic LOWS tried to bust the BLOCK but were pushed to the south of the country where fronts between freezing polar air and milder air created exceptional blizzard-like conditions for some areas. The Channel Blizzard created exceptional snowfall on 11 March for the Channel Islands but Reigate got away with 1cm of lying snow which melted in the town quite rapidly and left a day of severe wind chill down to -12ºC at 5am. Mini snow drifts persisted on the North Downs and Reigate Hill for several days. Arctic air arrived later on the 12 March as the LOW drifted SE and dragged northerly winds in creating brighter conditions with spectacular cumulus snow and sleet showers through to the 13 March. Reigate had episodes of heavy sleety rain mid-March and even a clap of thunder (first recorded since Christmas Day!) on 18 March as milder air met colder air creating unstable conditions on complex fronts. March 23 saw another snow event over the UK: record-breaking snow fall occurred to the NW over the Isle of Arran, Cumbria and Wales but Reigate again escaped the worst with a few cm falling but melting rapidly while a covering of snow lingered for a few days over the Downs. Cold easterlies then dug-in and pushed dew points to -6°C with temperatures hovering around freezing through to the end of the month. Dull blanket layers of stratocumulus caused by a persistent isothermal layer at around 900m in the easterly winds brought occasional flurries of sleet and snow grains and severe wind chill but little sunshine. Temperatures fell throughout the month and Spring was delayed in the coldest UK March since 1962.
Very low dew points (down to -7ºC) show that dry air persisted for much of March. People with lots of hair to manage may have had a difficult time through March with curly hair going straight or fly-away due to drying out in the low humidity and dry, skin-cracking north-easterly winds. Low dew points have a bad impact on curly hair, dragging out the moisture from the hair into the dry air. Whilst dew points in the UK are usually high in our moist humid climate which is good for keeping curly hair curly, anyone with lots of hair to manage should check dew points on weather forecasts very carefully, especially in winter and avoid expensive hair-dos on days with low dew points… just a thought. More seriously, farmers across the UK struggled with lost livestock in deep snow and delayed sowing of spring crops. The weather sparked some debate over climate change and the possible causes of the cold which gripped the whole of the northern hemisphere.
January av 3.7ºC; HIGH 11.9ºC LOW -5.9ºC RAIN 58.4mm
February av 3ºC HIGH 11.6ºC LOW -2.4ºC RAIN 42.9mm
March av 3.3ºC HIGH 16.2ºC LOW -3.3ºC RAIN 67.8mm