Britain could be set for the warmest New Year’s Day ever as the Met Office says temperatures could nudge 60F at the start of 2022.
The mercury rose to similar levels yesterday, making it a record-breaking New Year’s Eve off the back of a mild December in general.
Friday saw temperatures reaching nearly 61F in Merryfield in Somerset and Nantwich in Cheshire, which beat the previous record of 59F, and meteorologists are expecting more of the same today.
Forecaster Craig Snell said: ‘It’s not out of the realms of possibility. It is the first time since December 2016 that we have had three consecutive days reach 15C (59F). It has been a prolonged mild spell.
‘It may break records tomorrow (New Year’s Day), but I was much more confident we would see record-breaking temperatures on New Year’s Eve because the record for New Year’s Day is a bit higher. It will still be an exceptionally mild start to 2022.’
The Met Office said two new all-time highs for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day would create the ‘unusual situation of one weather system perhaps breaking weather records for two days in separate calendar years’.
An area of low pressure over Ireland is dragging warm air up from the coast of Africa, before temperatures in the daytime take a dramatic plunge from Tuesday, falling to highs of 8C (46F) in the South and 5C (41F) in the North.
But despite the warmth in recent days, much of the UK has experienced grey skies and heavy rain which have caused some rivers to burst their banks, putting many communities on flood watch.
Swimmers stand in the sea as the sun begins to rise over Boscombe beach in Dorset on New Year’s Day
Colourful skies were spotted earlier this morning as dawn breaks on a New Year in Dunsden, Oxfordshire
Three members of the She Swims Falmouth group pose after a New Year’s Eve swim at Gyllyngvase beach in Cornwall
The ice rink at Hampton Court Palace in South West London yesterday after it shut because the warm weather has melted the ice
People walk along the seafront on Bournemouth beach in Dorset to enjoy the mildest New Year’s Eve on record
Surfers wait for a wave in the sea off of Bournemouth beach in Dorset yesterday afternoon during the warmest ever New Year’s Eve
Conditions were so warm in London yesterday that the popular Hampton Court Palace rink had to close when the surface began to melt, exactly 59 years after the nearby stretch of the River Thames froze over during the 1962 Big Freeze.
Other ice rinks elsewhere also closed due to the warm weather, including those at Somerset House in Central London, Queen’s House in Greenwich and Coventry Cathedral. Leicester’s Jubilee Square rink shut due to a unspecified ‘technical problem’, although the famous Natural History Museum rink in London stayed open.
Britons took to Twitter as they shared their amazement at the warm conditions – with one saying they ‘didn’t need a coat when I went out’, another pointing out it was ‘warm enough to walk around in just a T-shirt’ and a third saying they ‘don’t even have my heating on’. A fourth added: ‘I’ve got washing on the line and my back door wide open.’
Mr Snell added that the average temperature in December and the beginning of January is usually around 7C or 8C, and this year’s warmer temperatures have been due to a south-westerly wind making its way across the country.
He added that the higher temperatures are usually localised, but ‘plenty of places’ have seen highs of 15C over December. However, he said January could see a drop in temperatures.
Somerset House in London yesterday confirmed it would be closing its ice rink on New Year’s Day due to warmer temperatures.
A spokesperson for Somerset House tweeted: ‘Skate update: Due to the effect of the on-going warm temperatures on the quality of the ice, we have had to make the difficult decision to also close our ice rink on 1 January. All customers are being contacted directly and given a full refund.
‘We are currently dealing with very high level of customer enquiries so it may take us longer than usual to respond. We are very sorry for this inconvenience and are working hard to ensure we can re-open asap. We will update asap if there is any further impact on future dates.’
Meanwhile, a New Year’s Day charity swim in the sea has been cancelled because of fears the cheering crowds and the bathers, many in fancy dress, would pass Covid to each other.
The Caswand dip in the briny near Plymouth, which attracts thousands of entrants, is the latest in a string of charity swims to be called off today, even though many medical experts say the chances of catching Covid in the bracing open air is slim.
In the Devon area alone, similar New Year swims at Wembury and the Firestone Freezer in Plymouth are already cancelled, leaving charities facing a major hit to their finances. But North Devon’s New Year’s Day dip at Saunton beach near Bideford is still going ahead today.
People flock to the sands from all over the South West of England to take part, watched by as many as 6,000 spectators.
Ironically, this year’s swims would have been probably the most comfortable ever thanks to the incredibly mild weather.
In past years, goose-pimpled, shivering swimmers have braved sub-zero temperatures and needed to be wrapped in foil ‘suits’ when they emerged from the sea to prevent them getting frost-bitten extremities and even hypothermia.
Torpoint and Rame Peninsula Lions, announcing the news today, said ‘It is with regret that we have decided to cancel the New Year’s Day Dip at Cawsand beach 1st Jan 2022, due to Covid. At present it seems the only sensible option and our highest priority must be to keep people safe.’
The organisers of the Firestone Freezer, at Firestone Bay on Plymouth’s waterfront, said that even if the event could have gone ahead ‘its spirit would have been lost’.