SUN, STORMS AND SNOW – WALES HAS WEATH­ERED A YEAR OF EX­TREMES

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - LAURA CLE­MENTS Re­porter laura.cle­[email protected]­line.co.uk

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

JONATHAN MY­ERS

Storm Ali blows sand across Oys­ter­mouth Road in Swansea

MARK LEWIS

Samantha Sutton from New­port en­joys the sunny weather on Sandy Bay beach in Porth­cawl in July

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