The Weather at Durham in 2014

The warmest year at Durham since records began in 1850.

Like December, January was mild with temperatures well above average; mean air temperature, mean maximum and mean minimum were all the highest since 2008. It was the 20th equal warmest January since 1850. The mean minimum was the 7th equal highest since 1900. Whilst January rainfall in the North East was not record-breaking, nevertheless it was the 13th wettest January since 1850, the wettest since 2008. Curiously, the wettest day only recorded 10.4mm and there were 24 rain days in all, showing the rainfall was persistent and regular, rather than a few heavy falls. Sunshine was exactly average, the dullest January since 2006. February was the 12th equal warmest since 1850 and the warmest since 2004. The mean maximum temperature was 17th equal highest (since 1900) and the mean minimum was 7th equal highest (also since 1900). There were only 7 ground frosts, the lowest number for February since the available record began in 1961.

February rainfall was just below average, with the wettest day (8th) only receiving 5.4mm. It was the sunniest February since 2008 and the 18th sunniest on record since 1882. It was the 4th warmest winter since 1850, beaten only by 1989, 1998 and 2007. It was just warmer than 1863 which must have seemed remarkably mild at the time. Overall, it was the 42nd wettest winter since 1850 (n=164). Clearly, Durham was too far north to experience record-breaking totals; it was the wettest winter at Oxford since 1767, for example, a most remarkable season in the south therefore. It was 9th sunniest winter on record, but only the sunniest since 2011-12, which ranks 3rd. 1999-2000 and 2006-07 are the sunniest winters on record at Durham and it interesting that of the top ten, seven have been since 1988-9.

March 2014 was well above average, equal 20th warmest since 1850, quite unlike the very cold March of 2013. The number of ground frosts was the lowest for March since 2007. It was a dry March, the equal 56th lowest total in 165 years of record at Durham. Even so, the 12-month total remained well above average. It was a reasonably sunny month too, but still well short of the 1894 record of 191 hours. April was another warm month, well above average, the 7th equal warmest April on record at Durham since 1850 – but only the warmest April since record-breaking 2011 (mean = 11.2°C). Rainfall was just about average; the 6-month total has now fallen below average but the 12-month total remains well above.

April was less sunny than March but this is not unusual having happened in 39 out of 131 years of record.

It was only the warmest May since 2011 but it was nevertheless considerably (more than 1°C) warmer than 2012 or 2013. This was the equal 19th warmest May at Durham since 1850. Of particular note, May had the highest mean minimum since 2003, which it equalled – these two years have the highest mean minimum for May at Durham since records began in 1900. The 12-month running mean went above 10°C for the first time since March 2012; this is the 15th highest value since 1850 (n=1962) so Durham was once again in a very warm period. May was a wet month, well above average. It was also a dull month with only three quarters the normal number of hours of bright sunshine. Overall, it was the 5th equal warmest spring on record (with 2004); other than 1945, the warmest springs have all been this century: 2011, 2007 and 2003.

June was a warm month, with night-time temperatures notably above average, no doubt due to the cloudy conditions. It was the highest mean maximum for June since 2010 and the highest mean minimum since 2004 (equal to 2005 and the equal 5th highest on record since 1900). Mean air temperature was the highest since 2006 (equal 13th highest since 1850). Rainfall was almost exactly average for June but it was the 12th dullest June since 1882, reflecting the dominant cyclonic weather conditions for much of the month.

Maybe not as warm as last July but nevertheless this was the 9th warmest July on record at Durham since 1850. The mean maximum was the 16th highest since 1900. Rainfall was just about average with only one notable daily total, 16.4mm on the 5th. Total sunshine was above average. All in all, a very pleasant month!

August was by contrast disappointing, the first since November 2013 to be below-average temperature. It may only have been the equal 51st coolest August since 1850 but it was nevertheless the coolest August in Durham since 1986. The 12-month running mean slipped below 10°C once more. Not surprisingly, rainfall was just above average and sunshine below average. Whilst the 3-month and 6-month rainfall totals are almost exactly average, the 12-month total remains well above average.

September was just about as warm as August. It was the 11th equal warmest September at Durham since 1850 although only the warmest since 2011. It was also a very dry month, the 23rd driest September since 1850 and the driest since 2004.

After a very warm September, the mild weather continued with the 7th warmest October on record since 1850. October recorded 9th highest mean maximum (data from 1900) and 6th highest mean minimum, although 2001, 2005 and 2006 all had higher mean minima. The 12-month average was now back to 10°C again. It was the equal 49th driest October at Durham since 1850, the driest since 2009. Even so, hours of bright sunshine were again below average; this has been the case six months in the last seven.

November was the 9th equal warmest on record. The mean maximum was the 10th warmest on record (since 1900) whilst the mean minimum was the 5th equal warmest on record (with 1951); the record breaker for mean minimum in November is 2011 (5.8°C). There were only 2 air frosts and 6 ground frosts. The average air temperature to the end of November 2014 was the 9th warmest 12-month period on record at Durham (i.e. since December 1850, n=1969). Other than 8 months in 2007, the only warmer 12-month period has been to the end of February 2012. Rainfall in November was a little above average and sunshine just below average. For autumn as a whole, it was the 3rd equal warmest on record (11.1°C). The autumn mean maximum (14.4°C) was the 4th equal warmest on record and the autumn mean minimum was also 4th warmest. It was a dry autumn, but only the driest since 2011; it was the 32nd driest autumn since 1850. Hours of bright sunshine were a little below average for autumn; it was the dullest autumn since 2004.

December was another month with above-average temperature, although not nearly so mild as December 2013. Nevertheless it was the 39th equal warmest in 165 years. Both mean maximum and mean minimum were well above average. Rainfall was below average for the third month in four and all longer-period totals fell below average. There were more than twice as many hours of bright sunshine than would be expected in December, a welcome counterpoise to the shortest days. This was the sunniest December at Durham since 1882 (96 hours), easily beating the previous record: 79 hours in 1886. It has been said that Durham was the sunniest location in the country in December.

For the year as a whole, only August experienced below-average temperatures and overall 2014 was the warmest year in Durham since records began in 1850. Indeed, if the 2014 average temperature (10.07°C) is expressed to two decimal places, this was the first time that the annual average has exceeded 10°C at Durham; the previous records holders (2004, 2011) both averaged 9.96°C. Of the ten warmest years at Durham, eight have been since 2000; 1990 and 1949 are the only exceptions. The mean maximum temperature (13.5°C) was the 12th highest since 1900 whilst the mean minimum temperature (6.6°C) was the highest on record. The absolute minimum for the year (-3.3°C; 24th March) is the highest absolute minimum since available records begin in 1962. There were only 65 ground frosts, the second lowest total on record. Following two very wet years, 2014 was the driest since the very dry year of 2011. The annual total fell for hours of bright sunshine was below average.

Professor Tim Burt
Department of Geography
Durham University