In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
(A Christmas Carol)
1310–1330, many severe winters and cold, wet summers in Europe – the first clear manifestation of the unpredictable weather of the Little Ice Age that lasted for several centuries (from about 1300 to 1900). The persistently cold, wet weather caused great hardship, was primarily responsible for the Great Famine of 1315-1317, and strongly contributed to the weakened immunity and malnutrition leading up to the Black Death (1348–1350).
1607-1608, in North America, ice persisted on Lake Superior until June. Londoners held their first frost fair on the frozen-over River Thames.
1622, in Turkey, the Golden Horn and southern section of Bosphorus froze over.
1683-1684, "The Great Frost", when the Thames, hosting one of many River Thames frost fairs, was frozen all the way up to the London Bridge and remained frozen for about two months. Ice was about 27 cm (11 in) thick in London and about 120 cm (47 in) thick in Somerset. The sea froze up to 2 miles (3.2 km) out around the coast of the southern North Sea, causing severe problems for shipping and preventing use of many harbors.
1690s, extremely cold, snowy, severe winters. Ice surrounded Iceland for miles in every direction.
1739-1740, one of the most severe winters in the UK on record. The Thames remained frozen-over for about 8 weeks. The Irish Famine of 1740–1741 claimed the lives of at least 300,000 people
1779-1780, Scotland's coldest winter on record, and ice surrounded Iceland in every direction (like in the 1690s). In the USA, a record five-week cold spell bottomed out at −20 °F (−29 °C) at Hartford, Connecticut, and −16 °F (−27 °C) in New York City. Hudson River and New York's harbor froze over.
1783-1786, the Thames partially froze, and snow remained on the ground for months. In February 1784, the North Carolina was frozen in Chesapeake Bay.
1794-1795, severe winter, with the coldest January in the UK and lowest temperature ever recorded in London: −21 °C (−6 °F) on 25 January. The cold began on Christmas Eve and lasted until late March, with a few temporary warm-ups. The Severn and Thames froze, and frost fairs started up again. The French army tried to invade the Netherlands over its frozen rivers, while the Dutch fleet was stuck in its harbor. The winter had Easterlies (from Siberia) as its dominant feature.
1813-1814, severe cold, last freeze-over of Thames, and last frost fair. (Removal of old London Bridge and changes to river's banks made freeze-overs less likely.)
1816 was the Year Without a Summer in the Northern Hemisphere. The unusual coolness of the winter of 1815–1816 and of the following summer was primarily due to the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, in April 1815. There were secondary effects from an unknown eruption or eruptions around 1810, and several smaller eruptions around the world between 1812 and 1814. The cumulative effects were worldwide, but were especially strong in the Eastern USA, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Europe. Frost formed in May in New England, killing many newly-planted crops, and the summer never recovered. Snow fell in New York and Maine in June, and ice formed in lakes and rivers in July and August. In the UK, snow drifts remained on hills until late July, and the Thames froze in September. Agricultural crops failed and livestock died in much of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in food shortages and the worst famine of the 19th century.
1883-1888, colder temperatures worldwide, including an unbroken string of abnormally cold and brutal winters in the Upper Midwest, related to the explosion of Krakatoa in August 1883. There was snow recorded in the UK as early as October and as late as July during this time period.
1887-1888, there were record cold temperatures in the Upper Midwest, heavy snowfalls worldwide, and amazing storms, including the Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888 (in the Midwest in January), and the Great Blizzard of 1888 (in the Eastern US and Canada in March).
In Europe, the winters of early 1947, February 1956, 1962–1963, 1981–1982 and 2009-2010 were abnormally cold. The UK winter of 1946–1947 started out relatively normal, but became one of the snowiest UK winters to date, with nearly continuous snowfall from late January until March.
1976-1977, one of the coldest winters in the US in decades.
1985, Arctic outbreak in US resulting from shift in polar vortex, with many cold temperature records broken.
2002-2003 was an unusually cold winter in the Northern and Eastern USA.
2010-2011, persistent bitter cold in the entire eastern half of the USA from December onward, with few or no mid-winter warm-ups, and with cool conditions continuing into spring. La Nina and negative Arctic Oscilalation were strong factors. Heavy and persistent precipitation contributed to almost constant snow cover in the Northeastern US which finally receded in early May.
2011-2012, one of the warmest winters. Christmas Day 2011 was the warmest Christmas in Ireland, as observed by the Armagh Observatory.
So, let's see how Christmas Day will be in 2012..............
photo: grethe bachmann & stig bachmann nielsen, naturplan.dk