Sunday, 20 March 2011

Winter timeline

A diary that was written over last four months; today, in the eve of spring, comes out.

Before it hit – according to long-term forecasts winter 2010/2011 would be long, chilly and snowy. But until the last decade of November the predictions were wide of the mark – first two decades of November were balmy, with temperatures of +17C and sunshine occurring on 1 November and 14 November.

25 November 2010 – first light snow, lingers on the grass for two days, temperature hovers around 0C.

26 November 2010 – 27 November 2010 – chilly, nothing heralds the imminent nightmare.

28 November 2010 – overnight snowfalls, temperature still doesn’t fall much below zero, some of the snow melt in the afternoon, forecasters predict the first winter attack for the next week

29 November 2010 – for that day meteorologists predicted heavy snowfalls and blizzards and unfortunately got it right. Flurry begins around 7 a.m. in Warsaw and continues for the whole day. 27-centimetre-high layer of snow brings the capital of Poland to a standstill in the evening rush hours. Temperature drops continually from –2C in the morning to –8C in the evening. Polish Met Office warns of extreme cold in the coming days.

30 November 2010 – Warsaw gets over the paralysis caused by snowfalls. Main roads are even clear of snow, traffic is not heavy since many drivers left their cars in garages and on car parks. Temperature goes down to –11C, but the frost doesn’t make itself felt as the air is still.

Average temperature of November 2010 in Warsaw: +6.0C, 3.3 degrees above long-term average. November 2010 was categorised as very warm.

1 December 2010 – it takes 17 days for temperature to drop from +17C to –17C. Is “seventeen” a magical number then? Day-time low of –18C in Warsaw.

2 December 2010 – another snow storm paralyses Warsaw, this time in morning rush hours. The biggest havoc is wreaked to rails.

3 December 2010 – cloudless dawn, just –12C at daybreak, no wind chill. The temperature doesn’t rise above –5C, in the evening some snow showers.

4 December 2010 – winter eases up a bit. Day-time high hits –5C. Sunshine and still air make it seem it’s even warm.

5 December 2010 – respite from all imaginable disastrous side effects of winter continues. Not a single snowflake falling to the ground, but the layer of snow lingering in the capital of Poland has reached 33 centimetres, 20 centimetres short of the recent record dated 16 February 2010. Long-term forecasts don’t leave much hopes for any thaw before Christmas.

6 December 2010 – 8 December 2010 – a heat wave (after a week of harsh winter temperature increases overnight by almost ten degrees) comes over and hangs around for three days. In the afternoons temperature even creeps slightly above zero. An almost-thaw is accompanied by snow showers which don’t disrupt traffic.

9 December 2010 – thaw decides to stay the night, so snow doesn’t fall, but is melted by pouring rain, around five centimetres disappear within a few hours. Over the day the temperature falls.

10 December 2010 – sub-zero temperatures and snow showers come around. It’s not really cold, but wind chill makes it below –10C.

11 December 2010 – morning greets Warsaw with clear sky and moderate frost (-7C), then clouds take over and around midday it begins to snow. Forecasters have bad news for those who expect the annual Christmas thaw (unless you think the snow melts when it’s below –20C).

12 December 2010 – the last day of thaw, gloom takes over for good, temperature stays above zero for the whole day. Rain showers melt some snow

13 December 2010 – melted snow and rain fallen the day before freeze over as the temperature overnight drops to –5C. Roads are pavements are slippery.

14 December 2010 – second cold snap this winter begins. Temperature rangers from –10C to –5C, but wind chill factor makes it around –15 (unless you find a shelter). Snow precipitation: 2 centimetres.

15 December 2010 – meteorologists know how to cheer us up. They say if it wasn’t how the layer of clouds, earth would give off heat over the night and temperature would fall much below –20C. Lucky us? If it’s ten degrees warmer than it could be, might we consider ourselves lucky?

16 December 2010 – 18 December 2010 – cold snap continues, temperatures range from –14C at dawn to daytime highs of –7C, the only day of sunshine is Friday, 17 December. The only upside is that it doesn’t snow.

19 December 2010 – after overnight flurry sunshine takes over and it’s gets much warmer, in the afternoon temperature rises to –5C, as no wind blows, it feels like around 0C.

20 December 2010 – 10 centimetres of snow fallen in the morning, then weather changes rapidly – southerly winds blow in warm air, temperature rises to +4C. Snows turn quickly into slush and dirty puddles… It has to be said forecasters predicted daytime high of –1C and were wide of mark. Hopes for white Christmas – dashed?

21 December 2010 – yesterday’s thaw lasted no longer than four hours. Three days before Christmas Eve temperatures doesn’t rise above –2C, falling snow (just five centimetres) paralyses Warsaw in evening rush hours, traffic is snarled up even late in the evening. These days forecasters don’t fare well. Weather is so changeable that they fail to predict temperature and precipitation even for coming six hours…

22 December 2010 – the last day before Christmas thaw means the last day to take delight in winter scenery. Next day I won’t see trees beautifully cloaked in snow (unless forecasters get it wrong, again). –1C = excellent temperature, could stay like this until Boxing Day, but won’t…

23 December 2010 – thaw takes over, Poland’s capital is swathed in the fog all day long. Snows melt and layers of brown flakes, blended with frozen slush and mud emerge. Slush, gloom, slush… in abundance…

24 December 2010 – temperature even in the dead of night doesn’t drop below 0C. Christmas Eve is white, just because so much snow couldn’t melt in two days and it won’t melt before new snow falls. Traditionally, Christmas Eve is the warmest day in the whole month (in the afternoon +7C, well above forecasts)…

25 December 2010 – to put it briefly – gloom & zgnilizna. It’s colder hour by hour, and by the evening it begins to snow… Not the dreamt-up Christmas Day (in terms of weather) for sure.

26 December 2010 – winter returns with some flurry, not yet very cold – some –5C.

27 December 2010 – temperatures drops to –12C in the morning and refuses to incline to more than –7C over the day, but weather makes up for chill by clear skies.

28 December 2010 – gloomy and chilly, between –10C and –8C all day long, it somehow reminds of North Korea…

29 December 2010 – still chilly and but cold is accompanied by gusty wind, wind chill around –20C, in the evening it begins to snow.

30 December 2010 – after an overnight snow Warsaw is bestowed with 5 centimetres of totally superfluous white powder, the upside is rising temperature –4C from dawn to dusk.

31 December 2010 – snowfalls cease around midday, by that time we have a few more centimetres of snow. Temperatures rise. Fortunately, the night is quite windless and not really cold.

Average temperature of December 2010 in Warsaw: -5.5C, 5.1 degrees below long-term average. December 2010 was categorised as anomalously cold.

1 January 2011 – howling, gusty (up to 70 kmph) wind wakes some inhabitants of Warsaw up in late morning. As every child knows, snow + wind = blizzard. Before midday temperature creeps above 0C, for the first time since Christmas. Unfortunately, thaw stays just for a few hours and wind chill takes the edge off it.

2 January 2011 – Polish example of changeable weather: 11:15 – sunshine, clear skies, 0C. By 11:30 skies cloud over, snowstorm breaks out, temperature drops to –2C.

3 January 2011 – mild winter returns. Temperature hovers between –1C and –3C, unfortunately, the snows refuses to hold back from falling to the ground.

4 January 2011 – sky is overcast in the morning and the partial solar eclipse can be hardly observed in Warsaw. It is slightly dim only, skies clear up in the afternoon. Winter stays mild – around –5C.

5 January 2011 – this year the annual early-January cold snap does not hit as it did in three preceding years. 4 January 2008 was the coldest day of the year with day-time low of –14C, 6 January 2009 was the coldest day in 2009, temperature at dawn fell to –22C. 4 January 2010 saw temperature of –19C, four degrees warmer than on 26 January 2010. This year the weather pattern does not recur. Cloudless sky lets the earth give off heat, but temperature in the morning drops to only –12C. It will not return to double digits below zero for a while…

6 January 2011 – The last day of proper winter with sub-zero temperatures, clear sky and chilly wind. North Atlantic Oscillation seems to be perking up for good.

7 January 2011 – overnight rain freezes on roads and pavements. All usual routes, no matter if used by pedestrians or vehicles, turn into genuine ice rinks (layer of ice is even 0.5 centimetre thick). A definite upside is the temperature – day-time high of +6C (well above forecasters’ consensus), a downside – lack of sunshine. Snows are melting rapidly.

8 January 2011 – 9 January 2011 – the big thaw continues over the weekend. Day-time highs hit +5C, day-time lows are above 0C. Balmy, but gloomy; melting snow uncovers general dirt, turds, rubbish. I like it anyway.

10 January 2011 – 12 January 2011 – nothing heralds the end of ongoing thaw. Temperatures hover slightly above zero and occasionally drop below zero at night. Deficiency of sunshine makes itself felt, but I still prefer it to frost and snowfalls. Yes, snows, the only remnants are old mounds of snow mixed with salt, grit, soil, mud. Grisly…

13 January 2011 – 14 January 2011 – gloom and warmth continue. Grotty mounds of iced snow melt very slowly. I asked a few people whether they prefer a proper winter with snow and frost or a gloomy thaw. Unanimously all opt for the latter.

15 January 2011 – temperature hovers around +5C. Pouring rain does the job of melting temperature-resistant snow mounds. By and large, the old snow has gone, now there’s enough room to store new, due around 20 January.

16 January 2011 – temperature rises to +7C, gloom slowly gives in, but skies fail to clear up for good yet. After yesterday’s rainfalls some areas in Warsaw and around are flooded.

17 January 2011 – temperature doesn’t fall below +6C and hits month-time high of +9C, the only missing piece is sunshine; despite upbeat forecasts (sunshine from dawn to dusk), clouds unremittingly occlude the sun.

18 January 2011 – 19 January 2011 – heat slowly retreats. On Tuesday it is not well felt yet, as sunbeams warm the air up, but on Wednesday temperatures are no longer well above zero. Sky is generally overcast and the fortnight-long hot spell draws to a close.

20 January 2011 – morning wakes us up to the temperature of around 0C and one-centimetre-thick layer of wet snow. Beauty of the winter is properly dosed – snow sets on threes, fences and plants, but melts on roads and pavements immediately, which means the dream of Warsaw’s road-clearance services has come true.

21 January 2011 – 22 January 2011 – the winter treats us gently. Temperatures still fluctuate around 0C, snow lingers everywhere but on roads or pavements, so it is generally bearable…

23 January 2011 – morning: light frost means falling snow is heavy and wet, the overnight precipitation brings five centimetres of such wet and heavy snowflakes. Before midday snowfalls cease, skies clear up, temperature rises to 0C and snow begins to melt.

24 January 2011 – till now the second winter episode is not obtrusive. Temperatures do not fall below –5C and snow does not paralyse the traffic. May winter stay merciful…

25 January 2011 – snowfalls give a rough ride, yet it’s not a disaster. Temperature is a bit lower and hovers around –4C all day long. Longing for the sunshine.

26 January 2011 – sub-zero temperatures linger and any thaw is unlikely to give us a relief from winter. A consolation to me is a reminiscence of the previous winter – exactly a year ago, on 26 January 2010 temperature in Warsaw hit its four years’ low of –23C. If it is twenty degrees warmer, grumbling is forbidden.

27 January 2011 – mild winter continues, temperatures hover between –5C and 0C and are bound to stay on. Weather forecasts say uplifting sunshine and mild frost may cheer us up in the coming days.

28 January 2011 – 30 January 2011 – three consecutive days featured by gloom and chill and temperatures ranging from –11C to –2C. Weather spites forecasters, who for each of three days foresaw sunshine and temperatures between –3C and –1C.

31 January 2011 – sunbeams still fail to break through the clouds. Uplifting weather can be found in the forecasts only, but good news is that the first half of February is said to bring temperatures above zero.

Average temperature of January 2011 in Warsaw: -0.5C, 1.7 degrees above long-term average. January 2011 was categorised as normal.

1 February 2011 – 2 February 2011 – ‘North Korean’ weather continues. I call it ‘North Korean’ because I watched two films shot in winter in North Korea and it looks that bad there: chilly, cloudy, windy and little snow on the ground. But winter in the northern part of Korean Peninsula are much harsher than in Poland and the country is anything but joyful…

3 February 2011 – winter slowly retreats. Temperature rises above zero for the first time since 26 January, snows slowly melt. A period of a few warm days is set to come. The downside of the early-February hot spell will be the lack of sunshine. Downpours and gusty winds will take the gloss off the thaw.

4 February 2011 – in the morning the weather is even clement. Sun breaks through the clouds and temperature lingers above zero. In the afternoon wind blows only stronger, sleet falls on the ground.

5 February 2011 – gale does not let me sleep a wink. Overnight downpour accompanied by relatively high temperature of +7C melts the whole snow within a few hours. The day is blustery, yet warm.

6 February 2011 – 8 February 2011 – three subsequent days marked by high temperatures, ranging from +4C to +10C, blend of sunshine and overcast sky. Gales and teeming down rain do plague intermittently.

9 February 2011 – 11 February 2011 – it is getting colder, day by day, yet not below zero. Winds are not as strong as they used to be in the previous days. Sometimes sun breaks through the clouds. Residents of Warsaw are bracing themselves for a return of frosty winter.

12 February 2011 – sunny, windy, chilly – Saturday is the first day since 2 February when the temperature over the day stays below zero. Very little snow precipitation – does not augur well for lawn and plants in the garden. Ground needs a natural cover to be protected from frost, this why usually cold snaps are preceded by bountiful snowfalls. This time it did not happened.

13 February 2011 – looks like pre-spring. Temperatures hover below zero, but thanks to sunshine and lack of wind it feels much warmer. And nothing heralds the advent of biting frosts.

14 February 2011 – February cold snap no. 1, day 1, lots of sunshine, temperature in the morning goes down to –11C, windy.

15 February 2011 – February cold snap no. 1, climax. Temperature in the morning drops to –14C, but howling wind makes it –20C. In the afternoon the absolute temperature is some five degrees higher, but wind chill hits –21C. Ghastly.

16 February 2011 – a bit warmer than yesterday and the last day of with sun on. Look outside the window and you would not guess it is winter at all. There is almost no snow, what means ground is freezing up deep.

17 February 2011 – sun is occluded by clouds, snow showers remind that winter is here. The temperature does not drop that low overnight, day-time low is –8C. Winds relentlessly blow strong.

18 February 2011 – February cold snap no. 1 draws to a close. Snow falls all day, temperature stays between –4C and –2C, wind chill around six degrees lower. But it feels warm.

19 February 2011 – snowfalls recede, yet the temperature does not climb above zero. Winter gives temporary relief, before it hits again. According to current forecasts, the second cold snap will be worse than the first, but this winter’s chill record for Warsaw (-18C on 1 December 2010) will not be broken.

20 February 2011 – snow showers interspersed throughout moments of glorious sunshine. Looks lovely when you stay in. Outside temperature does not rise above –8C.

21 February 2011 – temperature in the morning drops to –16C, with sunshine and still air quite bearable.

22 February 2011 – today’s low hits –17C. The record dated 1 December 2010 has not been broken and nothing augurs it will be broken. Next night should be a bit warmer. Russian high is said to linger until Friday, so three consecutive days should be dry, sunny and frosty. Hang on! It is late February and it is much dreadfully cold. If the same mass of air had come over Poland a month earlier, temperatures would have been some five degrees lower. –22C. Oh, we saw it in January 2010, January 2009, January 2006.

23 February 2011 – the worst is officially over. Temperature dropped to only –16C. I actually got immune to the cold. Temperature is predicted to surge over the weekend, for next Monday meteorologist expect balmy 0C.

24 February 2011 – actually this –17C in the morning is getting boring and doesn’t impress me much.

25 February 2011 – Winter, three months on. First snow fell on 25 November 2010, I can’t even say the end is near. A few days ago forecasters said today it would get warmer. Over the day it was, but morning saw another drop to –15C

26 February 2011 – now it’s really noticeably warmer. –5C, overcast skies, no wind.

27 February 2011 – no wind??? Woken up by a howling wind. Sun breaks through the clouds in the afternoon, temperature slightly above gives a foretaste of spring, which is yet beyond the horizon…

28 February 2011 – in the morning –7C, but shining sun take the edge off frost. In the afternoon –1C and sunbeams melt some snow.

Average temperature of February 2011 in Warsaw: -4.0, 2.7 degrees below long-term average. February 2011 was categorised as a bit frosty.

1 March 2011 – the first month of meteorological spring begins with temperature of –10C in Warsaw. Over the day it barely makes it above zero, but forecasts for the coming days in terms of temperature are upbeat!

2 March 2011 – 3 March 2011 – days of winter are numbered! Daily temperature fluctuations are staggering. In the morning it drops to –8C or even –10C, but it definitely does not feel that cold; as the sun goes up, temperature shoots up to reach around +3C in the afternoon. Days of clement, sunny weather might be also numbered.

4 March 2011 – the last day of glorious sunshine, temperature ranges from –5C at dawn to +5C in the afternoon. The ground is still frozen. Winter quite probably will not return for good, but it may smack us one or two times.

5 March 2011 – overcast sky, chilly wind and occasional short moments of sunshine best describe the day. In the evening a drizzle.

6 March 2011 – morning brings a thin layer of flurry, yesterday’s drizzle had frozen on the ground (-2C overnight), so pavements are treacherously slippery. Moments when sun shines intertwine with snow showers. Although it is slightly above zero, wind makes it feel like –10C.

7 March 2011 – I officially declare the winter is over.

Next days proved I had been right. Dawn-time temperatures hovered around zero for a few days, it took the leftovers of snow three days to disappear, ground was frozen for around three days as well. The next weekend was exceptionally warm, with day-time high of +17C on 14 March. Winter gave up the ghost considerably early, although a light snowfall was observed on 19 March 2011 in the morning and today temperature dropped to –2C.


Michael Dembinski said...

Extremely valuable post. Antidote to all those who claim to remember 2010-11 as being 'amazingly snowy', 'unbelievably cold', 'anomalously warm', 'dull and cloudy' etc.

I look forward to you doing a post like this next year!

scatts said...


Are you bored?? :-)

Seriously though, great effort and I'm sure this will come in useful one day. Perhaps in 100 years from now when scientists are laughing about how we got all het up about global warming, or when they are putting the final touches to the calculations of the date the next ice-age will start.

student SGH said...

Scatts, again you're alive. I was bored through the whole winter, five minutes each day!

I thought about you and planned to drop a line to you. I read some presentations (in fact some drivel) written by Poles in English for a meeting with CRO of ** Capital who's now in Poland and they reminded me of one of your rants on appalling use of English Poles stand for...