Extra - November 09, 2014
November down the ages
Warmer and wetter

By Philip Eden


November has two faces: one is gloomy and dull with successive days of dismal skies, a thick mist obscuring familiar horizons, the autumn leaves lying around, damp and inert. The other is wild and windswept, with driving rain beating against the windows, the wind moaning in the trees, and dead leaves swirling in the strong wind. Both of these faces reveal important characteristics of November's personality, but there are one or two other traits as well.


Occasionally November surprises, and presents us with a spell of mellow autumn sunshine. Or a sudden surge of air from the Arctic contributes a succession of crisp, sunny days with cloudless skies and sharp night frosts. But rarely does November don winter garb and deliver a foot of snow to our doorstep.


Like most other months November is changing. The ubiquitous underlying warming trend which we have noted in other months of the year is certainly evident in November's figures. The Central England Temperature (CET) record compiled by Professor Gordon Manley allows us to compare present day conditions with those of the last 355 years. The mean CET for the whole period (1659-2013) stands at 42.8F (6.0C), but for the 20th century alone it was 43.7F (6.5C), climbing to 45.7F (7.6C) between 2000 and 2009.


The warmest November of all occurred comparatively recently, in 1994, with a CET of 50.2F (10.1C), but November 2011 was almost as warm with 49.6F (9.8C). The coldest November was that of 1752 with a CET of just 2.3C (36.1F), a figure that has not remotely been approached in the last 80 years.


November is one of the wetter months of the year. Averaged over England and Wales the mean monthly rainfall for the period 1766-2013 is 3.69in, and ten-year averages ranged from 2.68in in the 1860s to 4.54in between 1926 and 1935. The figures show that November was at its wettest from the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s, followed by a drier interlude which lasted until the early 1990s, after which wet Novembers returned with a vengeance.


Sunshine recording began in the 1870s, and since then there has been a marked increase in sunshine hours recorded in November, especially since 1965 - partly a consequence of the Clean Air Acts of the 1950s. The mean monthly sunshine over England and Wales was just 50 hours in the 1930s, rising to 76 hours between 2004 and 2013.


By Philip Eden


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