Environment: Britain basks in warmest winter day for decades

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After storm, flood and tornado, Britain experienced record-breaking warmth yesterday. The mildest January day for decades saw temperatures reach almost 15 C (59F) at several recording stations as warm winds blew from the South-west.

England and Wales have already had most of the entire average rainfall for January, with little more than a quarter of the month having passed. The river Severn and its tributary, the Vyrnwy, are threatening to burst their banks and thousands of homes in Gloucester have been placed on red alert. Local council workers have been issuing sandbags to homes in vulnerable areas.

At Sandhurst in Gloucestershire two men who became stranded used a mobile phone to call emergency services after taking refuge on the roof of their car. They were eventually spotted by the crew of a police helicopter using thermal imaging equipment, and were taken off by dinghy.

Meanwhile, the US government has confirmed the UK Meteorological Office's finding that 1997 was the world's warmest year since global records began a century ago.