Weather Wise

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST quarter of 1998 was marked by higher-than-average temperatures, inconsistent rainfall, and, at the start of the year, storms across much of southern Britain.

All three months saw temperatures several degrees above normal; the average February temperature was 7.2C, compared to a 30-year central England mean of 3.8C. Barbourne, Worcestershire, saw an amazing 19.6C on 13 February, a British record for the month.

January was mild too, though less so than the following month; the mean temperature across the United Kingdom was 5.1C, compared to the 3.8C norm. March continued the pattern, being 2.3C higher than average at 8C.

Nowhere was very cold for very long, although -17C was recorded at Altnaharra, Caithness, on 1 March.

Rainfall has been sporadic. In England and Wales, January was a wet month, recording 128 per cent (113mm) of the average rainfall (88mm). In February, only 19mm of rain fell, a mere 29 per cent of the 63mm average. March has been about average, with 111 per cent of mean rainfall recorded in England and Wales. The pattern was different in Scotland, with consistently higher-than-average rainfall seen in many places.

Sunshine figures have been average or above average, especially in mid- February in southern England and the English Midlands. There has been little snow anywhere in Britain this year, but on 5 January a few centimetres fell in southern England.

Apart from February's high temperatures, the meteorological highlight of 1998 so far was provided by the storms that battered southern England in early January. On the 7th, buildings in Selsey were wrecked by a tornado.