Brrr...but will our rivers freeze over?


Sunday Sun - - News - By Ian Rob­son ian.rob­[email protected]­i­tymir­

The frozen Tyne at Hay­don Bridge in Jan­uary 1982 Re­porter IT’S cold, and it’s get­ting colder, but will it ever get cold enough for the Tyne to freeze over?

The an­swer is yes - it’s hap­pened be­fore and it could hap­pen again.

The Met Of­fice says the up­per reaches of the Tyne are most likely to freeze while the mouth of the river is least likely.

A spokes­woman for the Met Of­fice said: “The Tyne is a large mov­ing body of wa­ter. Whether it will freeze is sub­ject to a lot of ifs and buts and caveats.” But how cold does it have to be? Weather ex­pert Ken Cook, who looks af­ter the Met Of­fice’s weather sta­tion at Co­p­ley, near Bishop Auck­land, County Durham, says a week of sus­tained sub­zero tem­per­a­tures would be enough.

He re­mem­bers the win­ter of 1963 when parts of the Tyne froze, trap­ping ships in New­cas­tle.

As the ice melted and broke off, ice floes could be seen at South and North Shields.

Ken said: “For North East rivers to be­gin freez­ing, a long pe­riod of cold weather is re­quired, usu­ally over a week of sub zero tem­per­a­tures.

“The nor­mal tem­per­a­ture of our rivers is pretty close to the av­er­age air tem­per­a­ture which ranges from close to 0C at the source in the high Pen­nines to 5C at the river mouths.

“Where the three main rivers be­gin at Cross Fell is close to 3,000ft above sea level and the tem­per­a­ture there is be­low freez­ing more of­ten than not dur­ing win­ter and ice is quite com­mon. Our rivers are the cold­est in Eng­land.”

He said a long cold spell with plenty of snow in the higher Pen­nines that will melt slowly will soon cool the wa­ter to a de­gree or so of freez­ing.

A low river level also helps as there is not the vol­ume of wa­ter to cool down.

“A block­ing pat­tern of weather is needed to bring a long cold spell and the block should prefer­ably be a cold an­ti­cy­clone ei­ther across Scan­di­navia pro­duc­ing east­erly winds or one across Green­land with norther­lies,” he said.

“The last time this hap­pened was in 2010 when the rivers froze over as far down as the North Sea coast.

“In re­cent times the re­ally cold win­ters of 1947, 1963 and 1979 saw co­pi­ous ice but there have been many oth­ers.

“It is not nec­es­sar­ily the ex­treme low tem­per­a­tures that cause the freez­ing but the con­tin­ual be­low freez­ing tem­per­a­tures by day as well as night, al­though a week of -10C nights would prob­a­bly do it.”

Met Of­fice records say the record for the cold­est place in the North East goes to Hay­don Bridge, near Hex­ham in Northum­ber­land.

It was Jan­uary 1881 and tem­per­a­tures around the whole re­gion plum­meted.

But nowhere as much as Hay­don Bridge where it reached a chilly -23.3 de­grees cel­sius. But as chilly times go it wasn’t alone. Go­ing fur­ther back to 1814, the Tyne froze solid and peo­ple held a frost fair on the ice.

Records say: “On Jan­uary 15, 1814, the river Tyne at New­cas­tle was com­pletely frozen over. For sev­eral days, the ice was cov­ered with crowds of peo­ple, and the scenes ex­hib­ited re­sem­bled a coun­try fair or race­ground. Booths were erected for the sale of liquors, and fires were kin­dled. Fruit and cake sell­ers, fid­dlers, pipers, ra­zor-grinders, re­cruit­ing par­ties, etc were per­am­bu­lat­ing in all di­rec­tions. A horse and sledge, and a horse and gig, were brought upon the ice.”

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