The hot topic: Temperatures

AS the graph here demonstrates, winter temperatures have clearly been increasing bit by bit since the mid-century (a pattern that is actually echoed across the seasons).

This reporter had previously drawn up the table above last year for another news agency, using old-fashioned pen-and-paper and a century’s-worth of data from the Met Office.

But although the winter of 1963 was the coldest overall, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Northern Ireland was actually -18.7C on December 24, 2010 at Castlederg.

So what is going on?

Dr Julian Mayes, a forecaster for the private weather agency MeteoGroup,said: “For the last five years, we’ve had a bit of a question mark. We’ve had a retreat from some of that warming, that peak of warmth.”

For example, that since last October, the weather has been about 0.7 of a degree Celsius colder than would be expected against the 30-year average for that time of year.

“But if you compare it to the winters of the mid-20th century, it’s exactly on average,” he said.

“It looks as though there is a local pausing in warming in north-west Europe.”

But he added that north-west Europe is hardly the entire world, and that “global warming is continuing just as strongly.”

Asked to sum up whether there really is truth in the anecdotal belief that winters just aren’t as cold as they used to be, he said: “There was certainly truth in that in the 1980s, 1990s and until 2009. The main trend was towards, warmer, wetter winters. Since 2009 four winters… have been colder than average.

“It may be an interruption to the warming trend. Certainly over the decades winters are generally, they have become, milder. (But) in the last five years we’ve seen a return to temperatures more typical of the childhoods of the older part of the population.”