SUN, STORMS AND SNOW – WALES HAS WEATHERED A YEAR OF EXTREMES
FROM arctic blasts to crippling drought to devastating floods, 2018 will be remembered as a year of extreme weather in Wales. Welsh farmers were stretched to nearly breaking point, firefighters tackled devastating grass fires, and people could only stand and watch as floodwaters tore through their homes.
With just two days left until the New Year, the Met Office is already talking about how 2018 will probably be the second sunniest on record for the whole of the UK.
If today and tomorrow continue to remain mild, then 2018 may even sneak into the top 10 warmest years since records began in 1910.
Notably, if 2018 does make it into the top 10, it will mean that every one of the hottest 10 years on record will have been in this century.
You won’t be surprised to hear the hottest month of 2018 in the UK was July, with an average temperature of 17.3°C.
In Wales, we sweltered through average July temperatures of 17.2°C, two degrees above average.
The hottest temperature recorded during the summer was in Porthmadog, Gwynedd, where the mercury hit 33°C on June 28. Wales saw the second highest amount of sunshine out of all the countries in the UK, with 640.3 hours – 123% above average.
But, despite the heat, you might be shocked to hear the last 12 months weren’t exceptionally dry overall for the UK.
In 2018, the UK received close to 90% of average annual rainfall, and in Wales, the west actually had more rain than average.
In the summer, we reported how the heatwave was all down to the jet stream as well as rising sea temperatures and climate change.
But climate change doesn’t just mean hot summers. It means fluctu- ating extremes of weather.
Grahame Madge, from the Met Office, said: “You can’t assume that extremes of weather are caused by climate change, but a changing climate makes new extremes more likely.”
Back in July, meteorologist Simon Lee said: “It is impossible to say during an event whether it was caused by climate change – we’ve seen heatwaves before, and we will see them again. However, as my tweet showed, temperatures across the globe are currently at near record levels, which vastly increases the likelihood of a heatwave – even if the weather pattern is not so unusual.” So, what exactly did 2018 bring us? THE BEAST FROM THE EAST In the last week of February, the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for snow for much of Wales. At the time, they were talking about a so-called “Beast from the East”, which they said would bring the coldest period for at least five years.
Not everyone was convinced, with many disbelieving comments on the WalesOnline website such as “better get 300 pints of milk and 40 loaves of bread in the freezer then” or “4 inches or 10cms of snow and we have panic merchants in the met office almost forecasting the end of the world!!”
Many assumed the warnings would come and go, with people panicking for no reason. One reader posted: “Sadly the yellow warning is not for the amount of snow we will get, but for the amount of people who panic and are unable to cope with just slowing the pace, wrapping up warm and remember, it’ll last a day or 2 at the most.”
But this time, the warnings were spot on. Three days later, the yellow warning turned to amber, and snow was a dead cert overnight on Wednesday, February 28.
The first week of March was the coldest start to March on record.
By March 1, roads were closed, train services were suspended and schools had shut. Supermarket shelves were stripped bare by hoarding shoppers. Even waterfalls froze solid and ice floated down the River Taff in Cardiff.
South Wales saw the most snow in the UK, but after three days of chaos, the great thaw began.
It took several days longer for services to resume and the country to return to normal. THE HEATWAVE The spring that followed a bitterly cold and wet winter was unusually warm and dry, and this continued well into early summer.
Throughout June, much of Wales basked in sunshine and temperatures in the high twenties. On July 2, we published pictures taken by Richard Errington, using his dronemounted camera. He had captured some amazing pictures of the Nant y Moch reservoir in Ceredigion, which gave an early indication of just how desperate things would get.
Yet despite the bottom mud of the reservoir being exposed, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water said it was monitoring levels and that water levels were where they should be for the time of year.
But Welsh farmers were already beginning to struggle as the early summer heatwave caused wells and streams to dry up and problems for livestock and crops.
As the mercury continued to rise, with temperatures well into the 30s, July was one of the hottest months on record.
As a result, ancient ruins were exposed in the ground, forests caught fire, and the grass turned brown.
A crisis began to emerge for Welsh farmers, who started turning to their winter feed stocks and buying in additional feed and straw, which would have far-reaching impacts beyond the summer.
As the grass dried out and the vegetation shrivelled, wildfires swept across Wales. Emergency measures were required to keep Cardiff Bay barrage working, and rare bioluminescent plankton arrived in the sea at Aberavon Beach.
The Beast from the East left much of Wales covered in snow – including Whitchurch High
Storm Ali blows sand across Oystermouth Road in Swansea
Samantha Sutton from Newport enjoys the sunny weather on Sandy Bay beach in Porthcawl in July