Dry and Cold January

3rd February 2021

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This blog is intended to provide hazard and mountain condition information to help plan safer mountain trips.

Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg looking stormy this morning. 

Heading up to the North Face. At times visibility was down to a few tens of metres, other times it was much clearer. The wind was howling down the glen. I got up to about 600 metres but was really struggling against the wind,  at that height decided that was far enough. Many areas are scoured by the strong winds. This has been a mixed blessing as it means that I was not wading through deep snow. On the other hand it has removed any soft snow to expose some very icy paths. 

I had a quick look at some of the statistics from snowpits in Lochaber for this January, and compare this year to other seasons going back to the the winter of 2007/08. In terms of days when rain is recorded at 900 metres it was a nice and dry month (much appreciated by avalanche forecasters).  Of the last 14 seasons, this season recorded the least number of days of rain at 900 metres during January. It only rained 3 days compared with an average of 6. Last year was super wet with 13 days with rain at 900m.

The Aonach Mor midday summit temperature through January 2021. A cold start to the month, a bit more variable in the middle, and then cold again toward the end. On three days the midday summit temperature was above freezing.  The average for this January was -3.7 degree C.

Looking at the average January midday Summit Temperature for the last 14 seasons.  This year was the 2nd coldest at -3.7 degrees C. The coldest was January 2010 at -4.2 degrees C. January 2020 was the mildest of the bunch (as well as the most rainy). The average value for all 14 Januaries is -2.3 degree C.

The data shown in the first three charts is recorded by SAIS personal on the daily snow pits. However, this only goes back to the season of 2007/08. To get a broader view of January temperatures I downloaded Scotland wide mean January temperature values which is publicly available from the Met Office website.  Although the data set goes back to 1895, I looked at the years since 1980. The past 14 years show a similar pattern to the Aonach Mor summit data with 2010 and 2021 standing out as cold years, and 2020 as a warm year. It is interesting to note that this January was the second coldest in over 30 years, and with the exception of 2010 you have to go back to the mid eighties to find colder Januaries. However, at that time there were 4 Januaries in a row that were comparable to this year in terms of temperature.

Comments on this post

  • Mark Figiel
    3rd February 2021 7:02 pm

    Really interesting information above and thanks for publishing it. Hopefully you can publish the Scotland Mean February Temperature as well. That would be really interesting.



    • lochaberadmin
      4th February 2021 1:29 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it. Will try and do something in early March about conditions in February.

  • Barrie Evans
    8th February 2021 10:57 pm

    Interesting but it would be useful to compare with 1947, 1956, 1963, 1979 !

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