Did our meteorologists manage to predict the right weather in 2011?

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This time last year we had just experienced the coldest December in more than a century, yet this year Christmas was bordering on balmy.

Nothing gets us talking like the weather and thanks to ever-improving technology and ongoing research experts say they can now predict the weather for the coming week, month or even year with some accuracy.

Some will even offer climate predictions for a decade or even a century in advance.

They base these forecasts on a combination of historical precedence, statistical probability and assessing the current and predicted global weather patterns.

At the start of last year we published a long-term weather forecast for the whole of 2011 for Northamptonshire compiled by expert meteorologists British Weather Services.

But how accurate was the forecast? Using monthly weather reports from Pitsford weather station, we find out.

JANUARY

We were told to expect freezing temperatures and plenty of snow and ice, but that isn’t what we got.

While there was a little snow on the 3rd and temperatures fell to as low as -4.4C towards the end of the month, it was a fairly average January.

British Weather Services warned us of temperatures of -10C but in fact the monthly mean temperature was 4C and we even saw a high of 13C on the 13th.

There was just the one snow day and 10 days when it rained, though the month was slightly drier than a normal January.

It was particularly wet in the middle of the month, with the 11th, 12th and 13th seeing 21.9mm of rainfall in 36 hours.

FEBRUARY

February 2011 turned out to be a very mild winter month, which is close to what was predicted.

The forecast told us to expect rain and wind and we had both. In fact, the month saw 40 per cent more rain than an average February and there were 15 rainy days in total, the wettest being the 25th with 12.4mm.

There was no snow but plenty of wind. At Pitsford peak gusts reached 39mph on the 3rd and 46mph on the 4th, and remained strong until the 7th when 47mph was recorded.

There were some days which saw some pleasant sunshine, notably the 12th and 14th, and the average monthly temperature was 2.2C higher than normal. The highest was 13C on both the 5th and the 7th.

As the month came to a close, temperatures sank below the average for late February and the 28th especially was cold, damp and dull.

MARCH

Forecasters were some way off with their predictions for March.

They told us this month would see the start of spring but warned it would not be as warm and sunny as March 2010.

However, it turned out to be a very dry month, the driest March locally since 1961.

What they did get right, though, was a bad week weather-wise in the middle of the month and the end of the second week saw the start of just that.

Fog became widespread in the early morning across much of Northamptonshire, lifting very slowly during the day. Daytime temperatures suffered and clear skies overnight following a cold front led to an air frost in the early hours of the 19th.

From the 21st onwards temperatures started to climb noticeably with the highest daytime temperatures of the month reaching 17.5C on the 23rd and 24th.

Rain finally fell across the county on the 29th, making the first significant wet day since February 27.

APRIL

The experts were spot on with their predictions for April and the month turned out to be dry, sunny and very warm. The 23rd was the warmest April day on the local record reaching a sweltering 26C.

The long-term forecast predicted more sunshine than showers and this is what we saw, with just six rainy days and only three days without any sunshine.

The average temperature for the month was 12.7C, 4.5C higher than a typical April. Overall this was the warmest April since 1997 and the driest since 2007.

MAY

Colder and wetter than average – that is what the forecast predicted. But May turned out to be dry and warm with some very sunny days.

The lowest temperature recorded was 1C on the 4th but the highest came just two days later and reached 24.9C. The overall mean temperature was 12.8C – 1.2C higher than an average May.

It was also drier than normal, with just three-quarters of the average monthly rainfall. Most of the month’s rain fell on one day, the 7th.

There was a good deal of sunshine at times, especially on the 12th, 14th and 19th which saw 10.1hrs, and temperatures remained a little above the seasonal average.

The month ended with 9.1hrs of broken sunshine on the 31st.

JUNE

Predictions came true in June with a month of sunny spells and scattered showers, though a continued lack of substantial rain led to the county receiving official drought status on 10th.

The month began warm with temperatures at Pitsford in the low 20s, peaking on the 3rd with a high of 23.8C. There was also a fair amount of sunshine with 11.2 hours recorded on the 3rd making this one of the sunniest days of the entire month.

Fresher air arrived on the 5th and outbreaks of rain followed. The 17th and 18th were particularly wet days across Northamptonshire, but sultry temperatures came at the end of the month.

The long-term forecast predicted a high of 30C towards the end of the month and we saw a close 29.4C on the 27th.

JULY

This month turned out to be among the coolest Julys on record with rainfall about average.

It began with below average temperatures, a signal for how the month as a whole would pan out. We had a high of 25.4C on the 28th but a low of 4.5C on the 5th.

There was heavy ran on the 7th which saw 13.5mm recorded at Pitsford in the space of 4.5hrs. It also became quite windy, notably on the 8th.

Towards the middle of the month daytime temperatures generally rose to the low 20s, but no sunshine was recorded at Pitsford at all on the 20th and daytime temperatures climbed to just 17.2C.

The experts told us 90F was a distinct possibility for the end of the month but while the last two days of July were fine and warm, the 24.9C (76.8F) registered on the 31st fell some way short of the forecast.

AUGUST

We were told not to expect a heatwave for August and sadly this prediction came true.

August has a very warm start, but soon became rather cool and cloudy with frequent showers.

Daytime temperatures hit 27.6C on the 1st and 2nd, and 28.2C on the 3rd, the warmest day of the month, though a band of rain spread north-eastwards across the county on the 4th on what was a particularly wet day with 10.1mm recorded in a little over 5 hours.

Some days saw some good spells of sunshine, notably the 14th and 15th, although average daily amounts were significantly down on what we should have seen in August.

Heavy rain hit the county on the 18th when 10.8mm were recorded at Pitsford in the space of 5.3hrs and daytime temperatures struggled at 14.5C.

As the month came to a close, most days were cool and rather cloudy as predicted with showers on the 28th and 29th.

The forecast high of 32C sadly never materialised.

SEPTEMBER

“September is a month very capable of showing two faces”, said the forecasters, and so it did in 2011.

The month was changeable for the most part, but became progressively warmer towards the end of the month.

The period from the 5th to the 11th was unsettled with showers or bands of rain spreading across the county at times windy.

There were 12 rainy days during the month but overall we saw just over half of a typical September’s rainfall.

There was a turn for the better by the 23rd and temperatures peaked on the 30th with 27.9C recorded at Pitsford.

The 28th and 30th both recorded more than 10 hours of sunshine.

With an average temperature 1.5C above the average, this was Northamptonshire’s warmest September since 2006.

OCTOBER

After a disappointing summer, October delivered the long-awaited Indian summer as forecast.

The month saw an exceptionally warm start and, other than some occasional outbreaks of rain, remained generally dry and sunny.

The first three days of October in Northamptonshire were glorious, with daytime highs on the 1st and 2nd of 27C at Pitsford and 25C on the 3rd.

Overnight temperatures began to fall away quite sharply on the 15th and 16th and frost was reported from rural parts of the county early on the 20th.

The wettest day came on the 26th with 8.5mm of rainfall but the month saw just one-third of an average October’s rainfall.

NOVEMBER

As predicted, November turned out to be much drier than average.

There were 13 rainy days in total and just two-thirds of the rainfall of an average November, the wettest day coming on the 3rd with 14.1mm of rainfall.

The month was also exceptionally mild – 2.5C warmer than normal – and the highest temperature recorded was 16.8C on the 3rd.

Overall this was the mildest November since 1999 and the mildest autumn since 2006.

DECEMBER

December was something of a treat after last year’s horrendous snow.

Though there was some snowfall on the 16th and snow that settled for a couple of hours on the 18th, the month was more autumnal than it was wintry.

Contrary to the long-term forecast, the second half of the month was verging on warm with the highest temperature of the month on the 22nd at 12.1C. Christmas Day and Boxing Day were similarly mild at 12C.

A low of -1.4C was recorded on the 18th and 19th but there were few frosty morning and even some overnight temperatures of 8C and 8.3C recorded in late December.