UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

What a difference a decade makes! Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020 – ten years on from New Year’s Day whiteout

  • Highs of 10C (50F) today and 12C (54F) tomorrow after warmest December day on record last Saturday
  • Swimmers in bikinis and fancy dress take part in a dip in the sea at Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear today
  • But winter of 2009/2010 saw parts of the UK buried under nearly a foot of snow and -22C temperatures

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This time one decade ago in 2010, Britain was enduring its most widespread and prolonged period of sub-zero temperatures and significant snowfall in 28 years.

But the outlook at the start of the 2020s is very different with highs of 10C (50F) expected widely today and 12C (54F) tomorrow in the South West following the warmest December day on record last Saturday.

Photographers captured a beautiful sunrise this morning, while swimmers in bikinis and fancy dress were later seen taking part in a dip in the sea at Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear as part of New Year’s Day celebrations. 

But the winter of 2009/2010 saw parts of the UK buried under nearly a foot of snow, temperatures regularly falling to -15C (5F), sheet ice causing fatal road accidents and whiteout conditions affecting airports and rail services. 

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

Two satellite pictures show how Britain was covered in snow in January 2010 (left), but hardly any is on the ground now (right)

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020 UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

People take part in the Panama Swimming club New Year’s Day dip at Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear this morning

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

People run into the water as part of a New Year’s Day dip at Whitley Bay on the North East coast this morning

Climbers died in avalanches on Ben Nevis and in Torridon, 1,000 motorists were stranded overnight on the A3 in Hampshire and 25,000 homes lost their electricity supplies as trees and ice brought down power lines.

By January 7, 2010, the whole of the UK was covered by lying snow – and the mercury at Altnaharra in the Scottish Highlands fell to -22.3C (-8.1F) which was the coldest recorded temperature in the UK since December 1995. 

Met Office meteorologist Aidan McGivern said: ‘Who could forget the first days of the 2010s? A rare widespread snowfall across the country.

That was caused by low pressure to the east of the country and a bitterly cold north-easterly wind with a jet stream diving well to the south of the UK.

‘As we ended the 2010s, very different weather patterns prevailed during the last few months. We’ve seen a powerful jet stream across the Atlantic sending low after low after low into southern parts of the UK and a lot of wet weather – very saturated ground across parts of England and Wales at the moment.’

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020 UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

Swimmers at Whitley Bay this morning as parts of Britain enjoy mild temperatures for the time of year this week

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

People take part in the Panama Swimming club New Year’s Day dip in Whitley Bay today, as part of January 1 celebrations

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020 UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

Men and women dressed up in colourful outfits – including a Santa outfit – as they took to the water at Whitley Bay today

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

People take part in the Panama Swimming club New Year’s Day dip at Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear this morning

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020 UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

Highs of 10C (50F) are expected widely today and 12C (54F) tomorrow in the South West, according to the Met Office

Looking ahead, he added: ‘If you’re in one of those areas with saturated ground, you might be hoping for some different weather patterns for the start of 2020, and indeed we do have very different weather patterns.

‘We replace the low to the south with high pressure to the south and the jet stream taking a much northerly track, on average during the next ten days. That will bring more unsettled weather to northern and western Scotland, but much drier conditions further south.

‘Occasionally the jet stream will dip across the UK, bringing colder weather to northern parts and a bit more rainfall further south, but on the whole high pressure looks likely to dominate across much of Europe and southern parts of Britain.’

Today will be mostly dry, grey and cloudy in the morning but there will be bright spells in northern and eastern Scotland and coastal North East England.

In the afternoon, it will remain mostly cloudy with patchy mist.

This evening will again be grey and cloudy, with drizzle possible in southern England. A few clear spells are likely in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, northern and western England, with patchy rain by dawn in Northern Ireland.

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

A foggy morning in Orpington, Kent, this morning as a London bus drives through the misty conditions

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

A photographer at sunrise at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay on the North East coast this morning

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

A man walks to work in the foggy conditions this morning in Orpington, Kent, on the first day of 2020

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

The sun rises over a ship off the coast of Whitley Bay this morning on New Year’s Day

Tomorrow will start dry but cloudy across England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland will start overcast with a few spots of rain or drizzle but heavy rain will spread eastwards through the morning. 

In the afternoon, southern and eastern England will remain dry and cloudy – with rain elsewhere.

By Friday, once any early patchy rain clears south-eastern parts of England, the day will be mostly sunny. 

However there will be scattered showers in northern Scotland. Saturday will be wet in Scotland, while Northern Ireland and northern England will be dry and cloudy – and there will be sunshine in Wales and southern England.  

It comes after Britain logged its hottest December day ever – 18.7C (65.7F) last Saturday at Achfary, a hamlet in the Scottish Highlands, although the Met Office said the ‘provisional’ reading still needed to be confirmed.

But, if it is validated, the centre’s forecasters said it would be ‘the highest temperature officially recorded in the UK during December’. The current record for the month is 18.3C (64.9F), logged in Scotland in 1948.

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

A truck drives down a street in a snow storm in Fleet, Hampshire, on January 6, 2010 when Britain suffered a severe winter

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

Residents attempts to break and shovel ice from the road in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, on January 11, 2010

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

A curler from the Port of Menteith Curling Club throws a stone on the Lake of Menteith during a match on January 4, 2010

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

Mothers tow children on their sledges on their way to class at Oakwood Infant School in Hampshire on January 13, 2010

UK weather: Britain basks in balmy 54F temperatures on first day of 2020

A Peugeot 406 car after it went through ice covering the Union Canal in Winchburgh, West Lothian, on January 12, 2010

The highest December temperature in England was the 17.7C (63.9F) that was recorded both in 1985 and 1994.

Very mild conditions over last weekend in northern areas were caused by a freak rush of hot air, or tropical plume.

At Cassley in Sutherland the temperature in the middle of Sunday night was a balmy 16.9C (62.4F).

Daytime temperatures were in the low to mid teens in Scotland and northern England all through the weekend.

By contrast, Rome reached a high of only 9C (48.2F) and Athens 8C (46.4F).

Last year also saw the hottest winter day on record, with 21.2C (70.1F) recorded at Kew Gardens in West London in February. 

The hottest day on record in the UK was also registered last year, when it was a sweltering 38.7C (101.6F) at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens on July 25.

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