How bad will the weather be this winter in Chesterfield?

Old Tupton amateur meteorologist Graham Biggs looks back at the hot summer of 2018 and predicts what lies ahead in the coming months.
Old Tupton amateur meteorologist Graham Biggs looks back at the hot summer of 2018 and predicts what lies ahead in the coming months.

As an amateur meteorologist of some 50 years standing in the Chesterfield area I thought it might be useful, before we lose sight of what a great summer 2018 has been and to compare it to great summers of yesterday year.

For those of a certain age will have fond memories of the long hot summer of 1976.

Graham Biggs

Graham Biggs

However lest not also forget how good 1975 was when snow of all things stopped play in a cricket match at Buxton on Monday June 2 much to the dismay of the legendary umpire Dickie Bird!

Even more remarkable was that a few days before on the Saturday, spectators were watching cricket in their shirt sleeves in Calypso weather suited to Lancashire captain Clive Lloyd, then again within a matter of days the temperature soared into the 80s. Quite remarkable!

Off course, 1976 was not only notable for its heat but also the drought leading to standpipes on a number of streets up and down the country after the driest period for 200 years.

This led to the government intervening in the appointment of a Minister for Drought, Denis Howell. As is often the case his order by the government to do a rain dance immediately brought on heavy rains and flooding! Oh the British weather, the subject us Brits most like to talk about!

Inevitably when you do historical pieces you are looking for an angle. Which summer was the hottest, which was the driest or which one was the sunniest and then is the past always a good reflection for what the future holds? For instance, what will the winter of 2018-19 hold following on from a good summer? Sit tight and all will be revealed!

Both the summers of 75 and 76 were preceded by very dry winters and spring where less than 60 per cent of normal rainfall levels were recorded.

Contrast that with 2018 which had more than double the rainfall of that of 75 and 76 in the same period. Hence what gave rise to the serious drought of 76 meant that this year, despite a very dry four months (May to August), very few problems were encountered by the water companies.

Which summer could be considered the best? In many ways they correlate quite nicely.

There is no doubt that 1976 was the hottest of the three summers with an average high for the three months of 76.3 F (24.4C) as against 73 (23C) for both 1975 and 2018.

It is also hard to believe that the average night-time temperature was higher in 1975 and 1976 than this year.

Well what about rainfall? Again, 1976 wins hand down with a paltry 1.5 inches (37mm) against 3.9 -4.5 inches (99mm – 114mm) for the other two years.

And what about absolute heat then? By quirky coincidence each summer had 20 days when the temperate got above 80F and had identical highs of 89f (31.5C).

This surprised me on review as there is no doubt in recent summers we have had temperatures in the 90s, with resulting euphoria in the news about global warming.

For me, personally, through evolution the planet warms up and cools down but just maybe with pollution we are hastening inevitability.

So despite enduring a fantastic summer this year undisputedly 1976 wins the count on all fronts but . . . let’s not forget the fantastic May this year where the temperature climbed into the 80s and averaged 66f (19c). Alas meteorologically this month belongs in spring!

My analysis would not be complete without reviewing the autumn and winters that followed these great summers.

As mentioned previously, the heavens opened in 1976 when 10.6 inches (269mm) fell, predominately in September and October.

Whereas in 1975 autumn stayed very dry with only 3.67 inches (93mm) falling. So far in 2018 (up until the end of October) I recorded 5 inches (129mm) so it's shaping up to be similar to 1976.

Last winter was a bit of a shock to the system with cold and snowy interludes lasting into late spring.

The winter following 1975 was again very dry and decidedly mild with 10 incidences of snow. In contrast, 1976 was much wetter (nearly 14 inches) and colder. At this point it would be remiss of me not to give a passing mention to the winter of 1979 which was the coldest since 1962-63 in which I recorded snow on 26 days.

Gazing into my crystal ball and using my past knowledge of weather and where we are now, what do I predict for this winter?

Early indications would suggest it would be dryish with a succession of anticyclones.

As always it depends on when the high pressure anchors itself, as evidenced by the beast from the east, as to how cold it will be.

I would not expect the cold to be that intense this winter as last year was a rarity.

So I am going for a dry, mildish winter with very brief cold interludes. But of course us meteorologists love extremes so would not be too disappointed if I got egg on my face with this prediction!!

Graham Biggs is an amateur meteorologist from Old Tupton