January 1940

January 1940 was a severe wintry month with frequent frosts and heavy snowfalls. The CET for the month was -1.4C, the first sub zero CET month of the 20th Century and the coldest month since February 1895.

On the night of the 23rd, a minimum of -23.3C was recorded at Rhaydaer(Powys) a record low for that date. Other lows include -20C at Canterbury, Welshpool, Hereford and Newport in Shropshire.
The Thames was frozen for 8 miles between Teddington and Sunbury and ice covered stretches of the Mersey, Humber and Severn.
The sea froze at Bognor Regis and Folkestone and Southampton harbours were iced over. The Grand Union Canal was completely frozen over between Birmingham and London. Central London was below freezing for a week and there was skating on the Serpentine on 6" ice.
However January 1940 will always be remembered for the Snowstorm and Icestorm that struck the UK.


On the 26th, two occlusions were moving up from the SW engaged the cold air over the UK. At the same time, the anticyclone over Scandinavia was intensifying blocking the fronts from pushing through the UK, they became stationary over Wales and SW England. This resulted in a great snowstorm across many northern and eastern areas.
Vast areas of northern England reported between 30-60cm of level snow, the higher parts in excess of 60cm+. The snow drifted in the strong SEly wind even in the centre of London. Other reports of snow depths include Eastbourne:- 25cm, Pontefract:- 37cm, Malvern:- 60cm and Exmoor:- drifts of 2.5m. The snowfall lasted to the 29th of January


On the low ground in the south, the preciptation fell as freezing rain. The raindrops were of the supercooled nature, so when the rain hit the surface it would freeze instantly. This is a rare event in the UK and the 1940 is reckoned to be the severest that has struck the UK in recorded history.
The duration of the storm was remarkable lasting up to 48 hours in places. For instance at Cirencester, 48hrs of freezing rain fell in temperatures of between -2 and -4C. The effect of this prolonged icestorm was severe and damaging. Many telegraph poles and wires were snapped unable to cope with the weight of the ice. Flora and fauna suffered as well, many tree branches were snapped off by the enormous weight of ice, birds were unable to fly because ice accumulated on their wings. Travel was next to impossible as roads and pavements became skating rinks. Any sloped surface was impossible to climb.

Weather statistics




Short range
Short to medium range
Medium to long range

See the Model inventory for the full list of model charts and data