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December 2010

1st (Wed) -1.0 C to 1.5 C / 6.9 mm / 1.0 hours / E 4.9 knots
A very snowy morning with a spell of persistent and often heavy snow between 7 and 9 am, adding about 7 cm to the 12 cm of snow which was already lying from the past November. By 9 am snow lay between 17 cm’s and 20 cm’s deep in the garden, with an average depth of about 18 cm. Further snow showers would come and go through the day, though as they were generally less prolonged and heavy than this morning they only added a cm or two, so that by 3 pm the lying snow was measured at a mean depth of 20 cm. Little change going into the evening and overnight, with further snow showers coming and going, so that by dawn the level snow depth in the garden had increased to between 20 & 22 cm.

Thick snow blankets the whole of Yorkshire at the start of this new month, with even coastal locations like Hornsea with a layer of the white stuff. Most areas have now had snow lying for about a week, but it has been in the last few days that depths have begun to increase and the snow has spread far inland. Depths of around six to eight inches are widespread in the lowland regions (Beverley & York both measuring seven inches), though localised spots in excess of these depths are widespread (nearby Lincoln was reporting 11 inches this morning), while in higher regions such as the Wolds and Moors level snow depths are widely in excess of a foot and in places in excess of half a metre. Drifting is also becoming an increasing problem in these areas as the lying snow blows on to the roads, making travelling very difficult to say the least. Further snow is forecast tonight and tomorrow and though it looks set to become somewhat milder by the end of the weekend there are no signs of a major thaw and I think this snow will be around for some time to come.

2nd (Thu) -0.8 C to 2.7 C / 14.0 mm / 5.2 hours / E 1.7 knots
Another snowy morning, with showers blowing in from the ENE. The snow depth at 9 am has now reached a mean depth of 21 cm (8 ¼ inches), while an icicle hanging above the garage door is now in excess of 18 inches long. This is now officially the snowiest spell we have ever had since moving here to Beverley in 1993, now eclipsing December 1995, with possibly more yet to come. Most snow showers dying out by 11am and becoming largely sunny for most of the day, bar the odd flurry from time to time in the afternoon. Slightly warmer than recent days with the sunshine, though the high was still a modest 2.7 C. After dusk cloud would increase and by mid evening we were in the midst of the heaviest snow so far during this cold spell with several hours of continuous and heavy snow. The lack of any wind meant the snow just sat above us for hours, and by the time it cleared snow lay about a foot deep. As the sky cleared later temperatures would plummet, falling to a record minimum of -8 C (17.6 F).

The moderate to fresh easterly breeze had blown the soft fresh snow around during the night, with Shepherd’s Lane now impassable to all but the toughest 4WD’s, ATV’s, & Tractors. In places snow lay in excess of a foot on the road, and if it’s like this here I can only imagine what conditions must be like on the Wolds now. As a result of the drifting I had to walk most of the way down to Long Lane, which in comparison was relatively fine, but despite the cold and periods of snow showers I greatly enjoyed this walk and breaking through the still soft and in places sculptured drifts. Cars were struggling in the conditions this morning though, and I helped three cars get going, including a van which had got stuck while delivering newspapers opposite Dale’s Nurseries. In town itself the road conditions are actually at their worse, at least away from the main roads anyway, with slippery and rutted snow making cycling impossible at worse, and dangerous at best. Another problem in town are snow slips from many of the steeper roofs, which is becoming a very real and potentially deadly danger, and many houses have an impressive string of icicles hanging from their gutters, including our own with one icicle above the garage door now about 18 inches long and still growing. Christmas card scenes are everywhere one looks at the moment (as the snow coated holly berries in the picture testify) and who knows maybe the snow will still be with us in three weeks time.

While out in the garden what sounded like three WAXWING’S were heard passing overhead, heading eastwards towards the town. The unfamiliar trilling call caught my attention and upon checking with a bird song recording I am fairly confident that they were indeed a trio of these handsome winter visitors.

3rd (Fri) -8.0 C to -0.5 C / 1.2 mm / 5.9 hours / SW 2.6 knots
A very cold start with temperatures around -8 C, and deep snow of nearly a foot lying across the local area. It would remain cold throughout the day, the temperature rising to little more than -4 C, but with the clear blue skies, wall to wall sunshine, and light winds it nevertheless felt very pleasant. Cloud however did increase after 3 pm, with the sky becoming largely grey by evening, though there was still the odd gap from time to time. The cloud continuing to thicken during the night, becoming thick enough for a spell of light to moderate snow which added another centimetre or so to the snow cover. The temperature also rising with the cloud, though it would remain below freezing.

The heavy snow last night gave another four inches or so, with the snow lying on the lawn now measuring between 11 and 12 inches, the heaviest snowfall for a generation at least. Everything is completely blanketed with a deep layer of the white stuff now, and when one awoke the scene outside was reminiscent of an Alpine village, with the trees absolutely laden to near breaking point. The frost this morning was also severe for this part of the world, with the thermometer falling to -8 C (18 F), and the temperature would struggle all day, reaching a high of just -4 C (25 F). The icicles outside the garage had grown further overnight, and looked very dramatic this morning in the cold winter blue dawn light, but since they had grown to the extent that the garage couldn’t be opened we had to knock them off as the snow & ice was beginning to overhang dangerously.

As the sun rose the scene in the garden just became more and more beautiful, with the white snow glistening in the December sun, and as the temperature remained below freezing there was virtually no thaw, with the trees covered in their thick mantle throughout the day. The local roads are also still covered in snow, though the major arteries are just covered in slush rather than snow thanks to the tonnes of salt put down, and transportation remains difficult at best down here on the lowlands, while higher up it is nearly impossible in places with thick drifts blocking the minor roads. With the worst of the snow now gone hopefully the snowplough’s can spring into action and clear many of these small yet vital lanes.

The waning crescent moon looked particularly dramatic at dawn this morning, with it hovering low above the snow fields of the East Riding. Above it Venus was shining brightly too, it having being easily the brightest object in the night sky for the last few weeks (excepting the moon of course), while in the evening Jupiter continues to be an easily distinguished object, though it has undoubtedly faded since September.

The garden birds are still finding the feeding station a vital lifeline in this frigid weather, with constant activity seen throughout the day as tits, finches, robins, dunnocks, sparrows, doves, pigeons, starlings, thrushes, and woodpeckers visit for the mixture of seed, nuts, and suet cakes. Hopefully these supplies will help many survive what is a very hard time for most wild creatures.

4th (Sat) -4.5 C to 2.0 C / trace / nil / SW 2.9 knots
A cloudy morning, with temperatures somewhat higher than yesterday morning, and by mid morning rising above freezing for the first time in over 40 hours. It would remain grey and cloudy throughout the day, the cloud thick enough form some light drizzle in the afternoon, and compared to the recent lovely sunny and crisp days it was not particularly pleasant. Most the snow in the trees would thaw today, though the Yews held on to some, though the actual snow lying on the ground thawed very little. Remaining cloudy overnight, though some breaks later did allow temperatures to fall below freezing again.

5th (Sun) -2.4 C to 1.1 C / trace / 3.9 hours / NW 3.4 knots
A largely cloudy morning, with the cloud thick enough to produce some light snow for a time. However this would clear after 10 am and the rest of the day would become largely bright with plenty of crisp winter sunshine. Indeed despite a high of just 1 C it actually felt quite warm out of the wind (this also being true up on Garrowby Hill where temperatures struggled to just -1 C). Under clear skies and with deep snow on the ground temperatures would plummet overnight, eventually reaching a new station record low of -9.2 C (15 F), while the grass minimum also fell to a new record low of -15.0 C (5 F). The previous record low itself was actually just three days old, having previously been set on the 2nd/3rd.

Deepdale & Garrowby Hill
Finally got out into the real Wolds for the first time since the snow arrived at the end of November, and the countryside was looking spectacular under its snowy winter blanket. The major roads and those below 150 metres are actually largely fine, but the smaller minor high roads are still covered in a deep layer of snow, and indeed we were forced into a diversion from our normal route because the Huggate road was proving to much of our challenge for our Jeep and I didn’t want to get stuck again like last year. Instead we took the road up through Fridaythorpe, via Wetwang, and through the morning we would see two accidents along the route, for though the road was free from snow there were still lots of patches of black ice which occasionally caught one unaware. Thankfully we had no problems, though when we arrived at Cot Nab we did need to do some shovelling in order to clear a parking space for ourselves.

From here we set of for Deepdale, heading along the Calliswold road, which to our surprise was actually clear having been dug out probably on Friday or yesterday. The banks of snow alongside the road were at least three inches high, while the piles of dug out snow in places were easily in excess of two metres, which made for an impressive sight as we headed down what seemed like a tunnel through the snow. Eventually we arrived in Deepdale itself, where the snow was deep, fresh and virgin, and up here the snow has barely thawed at all with the trees still covered in the white stuff. The scene was like something out of Siberia rather than Yorkshire, and unsurprisingly very little wildlife was around, bar the odd tits, thrush, pigeons, and some Fieldfare’s. However tracks in the snow did reveal plenty of activity nevertheless, with pheasant, roe deer, hare, rabbit, squirrel, stoat, fox, and even Badger prints found at various points.

Passing along the edge of the forest we encountered some unusual ‘snow coils’, a phenomena I have never seen before, and it would seem they were formed by snow slipping of the low tree branches and then rolling down the hill picking up more snow before eventually reaching a halt at the bottom of the hill. After a long trudge up the hill through the snow we eventually rose up above the dale and came to the high Wold between Givendale and Garrowby. The road here was completely impassable, with snow drifts of five to six feet deep covering its entire length, and it would seem that someone had made the mistake of ploughing the road before the last of the snow had fallen. As a result the road had just ‘filled in’ and now only a digger could possibly clear what was a good mile of solid drifts. It is amazing to think that scenes such as these had become consigned to history just a few years ago, and yet here we are with most of the country and all of Yorkshire now in the hard grip of winter. No thaw seems likely in the next week, indeed some severe frosts are expected again, and it would seem that December 2010 will be long remembered after it has passed.

6th (Mon) -9.2 C to -2.5 C / nil / 7.1 hours / W 0.3 knots
A bitterly cold start with a severe frost, after a new record overnight low of -9.2 C (15 F). Ice was on the inside of my windows this morning, while the snow on the ground is now firm and crisp, though where it still lies fresh and undisturbed it is actually still quite soft and remains snow rather than ice after just limited thaws. Remaining very cold throughout the day, the temperature climbing to only -2.5 C (27.5 F), but despite the cold it was a gorgeous crisp winters day with wall to wall sunshine pretty much throughout. Under clear skies the temperature would again plunge overnight, and last nights record minimum would be smashed as the thermometer fell to -10.6 C (12.9 F), the first time the temperature had dipped below the -10 C mark in fifteen years.

7th (Tue) -10.6 C to 0.2 C / 1.1 mm / 6.4 hours / NW 2.1 knots
Another bitter start with a very severe frost after a record overnight low of -10.6 C, this smashing yesterdays short lived record. The compressed snow is now solid as a rock, and the lying snow in the garden still measures in excess of eight inches. Snow has now been lying since the 25th of November, and the snow index for the winter is already an exceptional 200 cm/days (the index for the whole of last winter was 138 cm/days). Remaining cold all day, the temperature remaining below freezing in daylight hours, but it was another sunny and pleasant day nevertheless. Cloud increasing in the evening, with a little bit of snow overnight adding another centimetre or so to the snow cover. The cloud and snow also raised temperatures for a time, reaching a high of 0.2 C, but as the cloud cleared towards the end of the night the temperature would again dip below freezing. In the last 72 hours over 64 hours of frost has been recorded, while in the first week of December alone 119 hours has been noted.

The icicles outside the house are still growing and look wonderful as they glisten in the weak December light. I can’t remember seeing scenes like this for such an extended period and the whole of the local district is still covered in a relatively fresh and soft layer of snow. Where it has been compressed on the roads and pavements it is now solid as rock and a couple of inches thick at least, and even now it is only the major thoroughfares which are clear of snow, with rural and residential roads covered in thick white ice. This morning when the temperature was hovering around -10 C this ice is actually not very slippy, for the ice crystals on top provide some grip, but as traffic increases and the temperature rises it becomes much more tricky and treacherous for motorist and pedestrian alike (cycling being near suicidal).

8th (Wed) -3.0 C to 1.1 C / 0.5 mm / 4.4 hours / NW 3.6 knots
After an initially cloudy start it would become clear with plenty of pleasant crisp winter sunshine for a time, but in late morning cloud would increase with a spell of heavy snow around 11 am, which added another centimetre to the snow cover, which by noon was measured at 22 cm. Clearing after midday and becoming largely clear again, and remaining clear for most of the evening and overnight. However the breeze would freshen from the north west during the evening, and this would prevent temperatures falling as low as they have on recent nights. However the moderate to fresh breeze did see wind chill fall to a numbing -9 C.

9th (Thu) -3.3 C to 3.9 C / nil / 3.3 hours / NW 6.1 knots
A bright and cold start, with more of a breeze today which made it feel that bit more chilly. It would remain bright through the morning, with plenty of sunshine, but after midday cloud would increase and by mid afternoon it had become overcast. The temperature rising with the cloud, this starting the delayed but inevitable thaw, and even by the end of the evening the impressive string of icicles along the side of the house had melted away. By the end of the night snow still covered over 95% of the ground, but the depth had decreased from 22 cm to about 15 cm in 24 hours.

10th (Fri) 2.5 C to 6.2 C / nil / 3.8 hours / W 8.0 knots
A cloudy but nevertheless bright start, and much milder than recently. Remaining bright through the day with plenty of good sunny spells, and in the sun it felt very warm with temperatures reaching a relatively high 6.2 C. However there was a moderate breeze, and this would freshen by the evening with some quite strong gusts by the end of the evening and during night (peaking at 33 knots). This meant it was a mild night with temperatures barely falling below 4 C, and by the end of the night many areas of the garden had lost there snow cover for the first time since the 24th of November.

11th (Sat) 3.8 C to 6.5 C / 0.2 mm / 6.0 hours / NW 4.3 knots
A sunny and pleasant day by and large, and feeling very mild after what has been quite a prolonged cold spell. The lying snow has thawed rapidly in the last 24 hours, going from 15 cm yesterday to just 4 cm this morning, with about 30% of the ground free from the white blanket at 9 am, though the progress of the thaw would slow today with just another 10% of the snow cover being lost by the end of the day. Clear spells in the evening, but cloud would increase overnight, this helping to keep temperatures above freezing again. Indeed the cloud was thick enough for some light rain by the end of the night.

12th (Sun) 2.2 C to 5.0 C / 0.3 mm / 0.8 hours / NW 2.3 knots
A largely cloudy start, with some light rain, but by mid morning some breaks would develop allowing some brighter spells for a time. However showery outbreaks of rain would return by 10 am, these continuing on and off into the first half of the afternoon. Becoming drier thereafter, with some sunny spells at times, but by and large it remained largely cloudy, and would remain so through the evening and night. Somewhat colder again today, with much colder conditions again forecast for the end of the week, with the threat of more ssnow as well as the possibility of severe frosts.

Huggate Dykes & Huggatewold Wood
Another wintry walk with snow still covering most of the Wolds above 150 metres (whereas below 100 metres there are just snow patches now). The temperature was hovering around freezing, and up on some of the exposed wold tops there was a cold and raw NNE breeze, but nevertheless it was very pleasant with bright, if not particularly sunny skies. The roads are now largely clear, though many are very much single file still, with large drifts on either side of the high rural roads. Most of the snow is now hard and compact, obviously having thawed at times in the past week and then refrozen, though in the some of the more sheltered dales which see little in the way of sun at this time of year, the snow was still relatively fresh and soft.

Indeed the daleside leading up towards Hugatewold Wood was still covered in about a foot of soft snow, which made progress slow and tiring. It was here we saw quite a lot of gamebirds about, as well as a few birds of prey, including Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, and Buzzard. The tracks in the snow also revealed the presence of foxes, while on the snow covered dalesides Hare’s were seen in good numbers running about. In the wood itself we came upon two Roe deer, which had no idea we were present as they busily searched for food, and eventually we were able to stalk them to within about 30 yards before they took flight. It must be very hard for the poor wild creatures at the moment, and looking at the forecast for the week ahead it looks like conditions are just going to turn colder again with no signs of a significant respite up here on the high Wolds.

13th (Mon) 1.6 C to 4.5 C / 0.9 mm / 2.3 hours / NW 4.0 knots
A grey and raw morning, with occasional outbreaks of light rain coming from the north, but by the end of the morning conditions did begin to improve, and indeed by the afternoon it had become largely clear with plenty of cold winter sunshine. However as the wind moved into the ENE during the evening cloud would increase, bringing the odd shower with it, and after midnight it would generally overcast and grey with murk forming by the end of the night. Not very pleasant at all, and a far cry from the lovely sharp and crisp weather of a week ago.

14th (Tue) 2.4 C to 3.9 C / 1.0 mm / nil / NW 1.9 knots
A thoroughly grey and damp morning, with heavy overcast and murky skies which produced some bits of drizzle from time to time. Drier by midday but it would remain overcast for the remainder of the day with grey and uninspiring dull skies. After dusk some clear spells would develop, this allowing temperatures to fall lower than recent nights, but this would be short lived and heavy overcast skies would return, bringing with them periods of drizzle by dawn.

A Treecreeper was seen in the garden Hawthorn looking for food today.

15th (Wed) 0.5 C to 6.6 C / 2.8 mm / 0.7 hours / NW 6.5 knots
Another dull and damp start to the day, with periods of drizzle. A moderate NW breeze made it feel raw as well, which all in all made for a thoroughly unpleasant morning. However by midday conditions did begin to improve, and though it would remain largely cloudy in the afternoon there were nevertheless some brighter periods which allowed even a bit of sunshine at times. Broken cloud and clear spells in the evening but from midnight onwards cloud would increase with the breeze freshening again from the west. The temperature also climbing with the cloud and by the end of the night there were outbreaks of rain, this washing away most of the remaining snow patches from last week.

16th (Thu) 2.5 C to 3.7 C / 2.4 mm / nil / NW 7.5 knots
A grey, breezy, and wet start to the day as a cold front moved down from the north. The cold front itself passed through the area around 9 am, accompanied by a wind shift from the west-north-west to the north by east, and for a time during the heaviest of the rain there were ice pellets mixed in with the general precipitation. The temperature would also fall from 6.4 C at 08 am to 3.0 C by 10 am, and it would continue to fall as the day wore on. Indeed by midday the outbreaks of rain began to readily turn into snow, and it was heavy enough to produce a dusting on the very wet lawn. Further snow flurries in the afternoon, but by dusk they began to die out leaving a largely clear evening and night. A moderate breeze prevented temperatures from falling particularly low (-3.8 C), but this did mean there was a very noticeable wind chill (-9 C), and the ground was like rock by dawn. The dusting of snow still lying at dawn as well.

17th (Fri) -3.8 C to -1.5 C / nil / 4.4 hours / NW 2.6 knots
A very cold start to the day, as a bitter north westerly breeze made wind chill fall as low as -9 C (16 F), but despite the cold it was a pleasant morning with plenty of crisp winter sunshine, and a slight dusting of snow on the rock hard ground. Cloud increasing for a time around midday, but this didn’t come to anything and it began to clear again by mid afternoon. Remaining cold all day, the temperature rising no higher than -1.5 C, making this the third day so far this month which has seen 24 hours of frost. After the cloud cleared in the afternoon the breeze became much lighter, and indeed overnight it would become almost dead calm. This combined with clear skies allowed temperatures to plummet after dusk, eventually falling to -7 C, this being the sixth minimum so far this month to have fallen below -5 C. There is now a strong possibility that December 2010 could see a mean temperature of below freezing (currently it stands at exactly 0 C) and for this fact alone it will take a rightful place amongst the most notable winter months of modern times.

18th (Sat) -7.0 C to -2.4 C / nil / 6.1 hours / NW 1.1 knots
A bright but very cold start to the day, with the temperature hovering around -7 C (19 F). Remaining largely clear and cold throughout the day, with plenty of crisp winter sunshine and the temperature struggling to just -2.4 C (27.7 F). Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, allowing another sharp frost, though later there was one very slight snow flurry which added to the very slight dusting which has been lying since the afternoon of the 16th.

19th (Sun) -5.9 C to -0.6 C / 1.1 mm / 2.7 hours / NW 0.8 knots
A clear and frosty start again, but cloud would move in from the east shortly before midday bringing a short spell of moderate snow and snow pellets. This gave the ground a very slight covering of less than a centimetre. Remaining generally cloudy thereafter, with the occasional slight snow flurry, though some sunny spells did break through from time to time. Remaining cold again all day, with this becoming the third day in a row to remain below freezing. Cloud clearing in the evening, and under clear skies the temperature would plummet again, falling to nearly -9 C by the end of the night.

My mercury maximum thermometer was broken today, and with recent changes to the law I cannot easily find a replacement as the sale of mercury is strictly regulated. Therefore from this date all temperature records will be recorded by my Davis Vantage Pro2 AWS, which had been calibrated at the end of November and has performed accurately within one or two tenths ever since.

20th (Mon) -8.9 C to -3.3 C / nil / 6.0 hours / W 0.3 knots
A clear and very cold start again after another severe frost (minimum of -8.9 C / 16.0 F). Remaining clear and cold throughout the day, and all in all it was a perfect winter’s day with crisp sunshine and the temperature rising to just -3.3 C (26.1 F), which is a new record lowest maxima for my weather station (beating the -2.5 C recorded on the 6th). Under clear skies in the evening and overnight the temperature would plummet again and by the end of the night had fallen to a new record low of -10.8 C (12.6 F).

Startled three Roe deer this morning in the Parklands, as they grazed beside the road looking desperately no doubt for what little food lies beneath the slight snow covering from yesterday. Patches of snow at the very least have now lain around the Beverley area for nearly a month, while on the Wolds (above 150 metres) a covering has blanketed the rolling fields and deep dales for the same period.

The moon was very bright this morning (illuminating the aforementioned Roe deer), lying low in the NNW sky and having a golden hue caused by the earth’s atmosphere and pollution. Lying so low in the sky it seemed larger than usual and it was a wonderful sight as it cast its strong shadows over the glistening snow and frost prior to dawn. Venus too is still very bright in the pre dawn sky, shining like a beacon in the SSE sky. Meanwhile in the evening I took a quick look at Jupiter, which is now noticeably smaller and fainter than it was a few months ago. Looking through my 60mm spotting scope I found it hard to pick out any features on the planets disc, but the four Galilean moons were clearly obvious, with Io very close to the planet on the western side, Europa & Ganymede more distant to the west (and very close to each other), while Callisto lay quite distantly to the east. Interestingly a faint star within the field of view made it look like there were five moons. The full moon was also very bright again during the evening, casting strong shadows and making the snow and frost on the ground glisten, absolutely enchanting and magical.

21st (Tue) -10.8 C to -2.8 C / trace / 6.0 hours / NW 1.1 knots
Another sharp and clear morning with a severe frost (-10.8 C) to start the day. Remaining clear and cold throughout the day, with the temperature remaining well below freezing with a high of just -3.3 C (26.1 F), equalling yesterdays record low maximum. Under clear skies in the evening the temperature would again plummet, falling below 20 F by 5 pm, and reaching a low of around -9 C (16 F) by 9 pm. However thereafter high cloud would begin to invade from the west, this slowly raising the temperature through the night so that by dawn it had risen to about -3 C. The cloud also became thick enough to produce some snow grains by dawn, adding a very trace amount to the centimetre of snow which has been lying completely unthawed since Sunday.

There was an eclipse of the moon just prior to dawn this morning, staring at around 6.30 am. The moon lay low in the NNW sky, and by the time it reached totality the moon was nearly below the horizon, an interesting sight, though somewhat spoiled by the ever brightening twilight which washed out a lot of detail. This apparently is the first time since 1638 that there has been a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice, so a truly rare event indeed.

Later in the morning Dad and I went to the Tip, though on the way we quickly stopped off at Weel as the frost was so beautiful coating the grass and hedgerows. The river is still flowing fine, though ice coats the edges and the odd bit of ice was seen floating down its course from time to time. With most ponds and other waterways now frozen solid, the river Hull is a crucial lifeline for the local waterfowl, and this was highlighted by the relatively large number of wildfowl seen hanging around near the Beverley beck outflow. Obviously Mallards and Gulls dominated, though also seen were a pair of Wigeon and most notably of all a single female Goosander, a new species for my Beverley borough list. A good number of Cormorant’s were seen flying over the area as well. while in the hedgerows a flock of Redwings were busily feeding on the now nearly dwindled Hawberry crop.

In the evening I again took advantage of the beautifully clear and dark winter skies at the moment, and though the temperature hung around -8 C I spent a happy two hours looking at the heavens shining above. First off I started with my old favourite Jupiter, which through the eyepiece of my larger refractor clearly showed a dark north equatorial belt, and though a SEB was hinted at I think for the time being it remains at the very most a faint feature on the planets disc. Just three of the Galilean moons were seen, as Europa was passing in front of the planet, though Io was seen close to the eastern limb, Callisto much more distant to the east, and Ganymede quite a distance to the west. After looking at the Jovian system I turned my small scope towards one of the most beautiful sights in the winter sky, the Pleiades cluster. This collection of bright blue coloured stars is a fantastic sight through any telescope or indeed binoculars, with my spotting scope having a perfect field of view to enjoy the spectacle. From here I moved on to the greatest of all the winter constellations, Orion, with its easy to recognise three star belt as well as the red giant star of Betelgeuse shining with an obvious orange tint even to the naked eye. However the jewel of this constellation has to be the Orion Nebulae which through the telescope looks like a fuzzy patch with some beautiful stars shining forth from within its gas clouds. Though the bright full moon washed out much of the detail tonight, it nevertheless was a fine view, and I look forward to catching up with it when the new moon comes around in a fortnight.

22nd (Wed) -9.0 C to 1.1 C / trace / 1.4 hours / NW 2.6 knots
A largely cloudy morning, with some snow grains at first, and with the cloud and north east breeze the temperature would rise higher than it has done recently, reaching a high of 1.1 C (34.0 F). This ended a period which had seen 139 hours of continuous frost, beginning on the afternoon of the 16th. Becoming brighter in the afternoon with some sunny spells, though by dusk some light snow showers began to come in off the sea, adding a slight accumulation to the light covering which is still very much intact despite the higher temperatures today. So far snow has lain on 18 days this month, while the snow index for this winter (including November) has reached 270 cm/days. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, with the odd slight flurry from time to time, and much milder than recent nights with a low of just -3.3 C.

I have managed to acquire a new mercury maximum thermometer, though for the time being the Davis Vantage Pro2 will continue to provide my climatological data.

23rd (Thu) -3.3 C to 2.8 C / 0.6 mm / 0.3 hours / N 3.5 knots
A mostly cloudy start, and though it was relatively mild by recent standards (above freezing even at 6 am), there was more of a breeze today which if anything made it feel colder than it has. Remaining largely cloudy throughout the day, though there were some brighter spells too from time to time, particularly in the latter half of the morning and around midday. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, with some clear spells at first, but cloud would again increase later with some occasional, largely light, snow showers by dawn.

24th (Fri) -2.2 C to 1.1 C / 1.2 mm / 2.7 hours / NW 3.4 knots
A day of sunny spells and occasional light snow showers, these not really prolonged or heavy enough to add any new noticeable accumulation. However after dusk there were some heavier spells of snow, and these would provide a lovely fresh and clean covering for the following Christmas morning. The showers would clear later in the night, and under clear skies it became nice and frosty with an overnight low of below -4 C.

A Fieldfare was seen in the garden today, the first time one of these large winter thrushes has actually been in the garden itself (rather than just flying over).

25th (Sat) -4.4 C to 1.1 C / trace / 2.8 hours / W 3.7 knots
A cold and crisp start to Christmas Day, with largely clear skies and a soft, fresh covering of snow on the ground. However cloud would increase by the end of the morning, and by noon this would be thick enough for a bit of light snow, but this didn’t last long, with the skies clearing again by 2 pm. Temperatures falling away after dusk under the clear skies and continuing to fall overnight to a low of -3.9 C (25.0 F). So far 341 hours of frost have been recorded this month, more than was recorded during the whole of last winter.

Enjoyed another evening of astronomy on this Christmas Day, taking advantage of another largely clear sky. However observing wasn’t as good as the other evening as there was a thin layer of high cloud which just veiled the stars ever so lightly. I looked at all of the stars, planets, and nebulae that I did the previous evening, though when looking at the Jovian system I took in URANUS tonight, which is currently located just above Jupiter. I took a quick sketch of the view through my 60mm spotting scope (see bottom right), and the field of view of this scope was perfect to take in all of the Jovian system along with Uranus in the very top of the image. Two stars can also be seen in this image, which I later identified as HIP117375 and HIP117112, the first of which is also designated as 20Psc. Through my larger telescope I could yet again decern the NEB on Jupiter, though I was unable to see any detail beyond this as to be honest this is all this cheap telescope can resolve and I think I may have to upgrade my optical equipment to get a better view. The four Galilean moons were all visible, with G, E, & I all to the east of the planet (from most distant to nearest), and Callisto to the west. While out under the stars I also took the opportunity to learn more of the constellations, mainly because I wanted to find Andromeda so that I could see the famous galaxy located within it. Unfortunately the seeing wasn’t great, thanks to a combination of the aforementioned high veil of cloud and light pollution from Beverley & Hull, though I did learn the distinctive ‘W’ shape constellation of Cassiopeia, as well as the huge sprawling constellation that is Taurus with its massive horns, the top one of which ends at the beautiful Pleiades cluster.

26th (Sun) -3.9 C to 0.6 C / nil / 1.0 hours / SW 1.2 knots
A cold and bright start to Boxing day, though a thin high veil of Cirrus and Cirrostratus made the sunshine quite weak and hazy, and this would continue to thicken as the morning wore on. By midday it had become overcast, and it would remain so for the rest of the day, and indeed through the evening and night. Remaining dry however.

Got up well before dawn this morning in the hope of finally seeing one of the jewels of the night sky and our solar system, the ringed planet SATURN. Through my 60mm spotting scope the rings were just visible, but it was through my larger refracting scope that the rings became clearly obvious, with just a hint of division between the planet and the rings at higher power. The rather cheap and poor scope actually gave far better views than I was expecting, and actually the view became better as the sky began to lighten as the contrast between the dark void of space and the bright light of Saturn became less pronounced. While out I also had a look at Venus, which dominates the dawn sky in the SSE, and through the scope it revealed it to be about 40% lit. I also looked at the waning gibbous Moon, and took some good pictures through my small 60mm scope (see right). As a side note I have now decided to upgrade my optical equipment, giving myself a budget of around £500, and I already have a number of candidate scopes. However it looks like the next week and indeed fortnight don’t look promising for astronomy so there is no rush and I can thoroughly research before making any decisions on what is after all a significant acquisition.

27th (Mon) -3.3 C to 1.7 C / 6.2 mm / nil / S 1.8 knots
A grey and overcast morning, the cloud thick enough for some light snow around 9 am. As the morning wore on these outbreaks of snow would turn into sleet, and by the time it began to clear it had largely turned to rain. Drier by the afternoon but remaining dull and overcast and it would remain little changed going into the evening. However overnight further outbreaks of rain and, or sleet would come and go, some of which were quite heavy (3.2 mm/h), and it looks like the long awaited end to the current cold spell has come. Indeed by the end of the night the lawn was covered with just a messy mixture of slush and ice which should thaw totally over the next day or two.

28th (Tue) 0.6 C to 1.7 C / 2.2 mm / nil / S 0.7 knots
A thoroughly grey, damp, and murky day, with outbreaks of rain and drizzle and visibility between 1 to 2 km. The thaw is now well under way though, with the snow cover diminished to just a messy mix of slush and ice at 9 am and almost completely gone by the end of the evening, though a few patches would survive to the next morning. By evening the cloud would lower and it would become foggy for the rest of the night, with visibility falling as low as 200 metres.

After the severe frosts of the past month the ground is now frozen to at least a depth of half a foot (the 30cm soil temperature was 1.5 C at its lowest), and with the overnight rain and snow melt there was a fair amount of standing water on the lawn today as it is unable to drain through the ground. Some of the drains are also blocked by ice, meaning that they are backing up (the one outside the toolshed in particular) and all in all it is a thoroughly grey and miserable end to the cold spell which began over a month ago.

29th (Wed) 1.1 C to 3.9 C / trace / nil / NW 0.0 knots
A foggy and damp start to the day, with visibility widely down to around 200 metres for a time (down to nearly 100 metres in rural areas). Remaining grey and foggy throughout the day, though visibility did improve for a time around midday. However by mid afternoon the cloud again began to lower, and by dusk the visibility had fallen to less than 100 metres even here in Beverley. Remaining foggy for most of the evening, though overnight it began to become merely murky rather than foggy as the cloud base began to rise a little. Barely any wind was recorded today with a mean wind speed of just 0.04 knots, and a maximum speed of 5 knots, both new station records.

The odd snow patch is still persisting here and there around the garden and the borough in general, though the countryside is now once again largely green and brown as one would expect at this time of year. The local birdlife seems to be already responding to the milder weather and perhaps even the lengthening days, with quite a bit of Robin song heard this morning. The roving bands of tits were also noticeably noisier than they have been lately, with a little group of Coal tits catching my attention in particular.

30th (Thu) 1.7 C to 5.0 C / trace / nil / NW 0.7 knots
Another grey and murky day with totally overcast skies and no signs of any brightness whatsoever. However the temperature did manage to climb above 40 degrees for just the sixth time this month (the usual average for December is 45.5 F compared to this months average of just 35.2 F). Little change overnight with persistent low cloud & occasional light outbreaks of drizzle.

Six Fieldfare’s were in the Sycamore this morning, with their loud chattering calls being heard in the garden almost daily at the moment.

Add died this afternoon in hospital after suffering a heart attack. He had been ill for some time but nevertheless his demise came as a shock to us all. He will be sadly missed and life will never be the same without him.

31st (Fri) 2.8 C to 5.6 C / nil / 0.1 hours / W 3.1 knots
Another grey and murky morning, but by the afternoon the cloud base did begin to rise, and by mid afternoon there was even the odd very short break in the cloud allowing just very brief glimpses of sunshine. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight.

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