THE dry weather at the very end of January ceased as a fierce battle was fought between a bitter, Siberian airstream trying to push into Britain from the north-east, and very mild south-westerlies.

On the 3rd, temperatures ranged from 12C (54F) over south-west England, to 0C (32F) in north-east Scotland, with -10C (14F) just across the sea in Norway. Fronts thrusting northwards gave rain at times, often heavy, during the first 11 days and blizzards raged across the far north of Scotland. For several hours on the 4th, snow drove south across our region, fortunately for most of us, only lying above about 150m.

A further surge from the south early on the 6th led to temperatures rising above 10C (50F) during the day, the warmest for eight weeks. Victory was finally won by the south-westerlies on the 10th, but not before another substantial snowfall over higher ground, and a final deluge, particularly to the south of the North York Moors, on the 11th. Once again, flooding afflicted some low-lying districts.

The barometer then rose rapidly as an anticyclone moved into Britain from the south-west and stayed around for the next ten days. Pressure reached its highest level for 20 years in some parts of the country. It brought a welcome, mostly fine, sunny and dry interlude, warm by day, but with frost at night.

The range of temperature on the 14th, 16.4C, almost 30F, was remarkably large for the time of year. The minimum and maximum represented the extreme values for the whole month, as well as the coldest night since New Year's Eve and the warmest day since 12th December. The rise in the mercury was obviously helped by the bright sunshine, but probably accentuated locally by a Fohn effect, as the light southerly breeze descended Carlton Bank. Larger diurnal variations do happen in summer when, rarely, they can exceed 20C (36F).

During this fine spell, despite prolonged sunshine, soil temperatures continued to fall to their lowest of the winter. This shows that the ground was losing more heat by radiation into space than was coming in from the sun. At this time of the year the sun's rays are gaining in strength, so it gets warm in a car or room into which it is shining. However, at our latitude, it isn't until the end of March that it has sufficient power to heat up the ground. Low earth temperatures are demonstrated by the frigid water that comes out of the cold tap after running it for a few minutes.

As the high retreated westward and then linked to a new developing cell near Greenland, an Arctic blast plunged south in the small hours of the 23rd bringing frequent, wintry showers. Atlantic systems tried to reassert themselves early in the final week, causing more heavy rain and sleet, and further blizzards over Scotland. This heavy snow slowly and relentlessly worked its way south during the 27th reaching Teesside late in the evening and the remainder of our region in the early hours of the 28th. It resulted in one of the deepest, general falls for several years.

As in January, the month was colder than average, but by a smaller margin, though still the coolest February since 1996. It's a few years since we've had two months together that were below par in this respect. In February, this was due to the many chilly nights, as by day, temperatures were fractionally above normal, reflecting the abundance of clear skies, notably mid-month.

February returned to the soggy character of the previous six months after the fairly dry January. We received getting on for double the rainfall over much of the region, despite the run of nine dry days from the 11th. It was the wettest February also for five years. On the plus side, that fine spell made it a very sunny month, with around twice our usual ration.

The winter was slightly cooler than the mean, by less than half a degree Celsius (under 1F), yet it was the chilliest since 995-96. It was quite wet, despite the dryness of January, with accumulations exceeding those expected by only a quarter, but by enough to make it the wettest since 1994-95