A Review of the weather on Christmas Day in Coventry (1892-2020)

This study was made using climatological statistics collected in Coventry over the past 127 years. Unfortunately, the record is not as complete as it might have been, and there are a few gaps;

1943-45a result of war damage & restrictions

1968-73no reliable observations were made on Christmas Day

Bablake began recording the weather in Coventry in 1977, keeping a detailed weather diary for the city archives and the Met Office, so we can vouch for the accuracy of observations from that point!

On analysing the figures available, it has been found that an average Christmas Day in Coventry could be described as mild, after an early slight ground frost, with a light south-westerly breeze. There would be little sunshine to brighten a mainly cloudy day, and enough rain for the day to be classified as a ‘wet day’.

The following averages support this view:Average maximum temperature 6.8 ºC

Average minimum temperature1.3ºC

Average grass minimum-1.5ºC

Average 24hr rainfall total1.6mmAverage sunshine total1.3hr

So, if you are hoping for a ‘white Christmas’ with snow lying deep crisp and even, then Coventry is not the place to be! Our Christmas is much more commonly ‘green’! In fact, the Festive season more usually heralds the end of a cold spell, rather than the other way round. Mid-December is often frosty, with enough snowlying to give us false hopes for a white Christmas, though by the 25th, there is more mud than ice!

However, there have been some notable exceptions to this pattern:

In the 127 years for which we have records, snow or sleet has fallen just 12 times on Christmas Day, or one year in every 10 on average (1895, 1906, 1923, 1935, 1927, 1938, 1956, 1970, 1993, 1995, 1999 and 2004). Remember however, that just one flake of snow, in an otherwise rainy day, classifies the day as a ‘snow day’, and a ‘white Christmas’!

Nevertheless, it is 13 years since we had even a flake of snow on the day itself, so we are now overdue some Christmas Day snow!

If your perception of a ‘white Christmas’ is rather more than just an odd flake of snow however, then perhaps a covering of snow on the ground is more to your taste! However, Santa has only been able to use his sleigh whilst delivering Christmas presents in Coventry on 8 occasions since 1892 ( 1895, 1925, 1938, 1956, 1970, 1981, 1995 and 2010). So you are only likely to experience snowlying on the ground on Christmas Day once every 16 years, so not again perhaps until 2026?

There have been 35 air frosts on Christmas morning since 1892 in Coventry, that is, one year in every 3; perhaps enough hoar frost to at least give an early impression of a white Christmas. The coldest dawn on any Christmas Day since 1892 recorded an overnight minimum temperature of -11.1ºC in 1962; as recently as 2010, we experienced an overnight minimum of -7.6ºC. The coldest Christmas Day in this 124-year record was also experienced in 1962 with a maximum temperature of -0.7ºC, a prelude to the heavy Boxing day snow that year, and the start of the coldest winter of the 20th century.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer has had a very easy time of it in recent years; there have been just 9 foggy Christmas days since the late Victorian era in Coventry, but only one since the Second World War. Rudolph was employed in 1894, 1914, 1916, 1932, 1933, 1937, 1939, 1940 and 1986 – I year in every 14 on average.

If an afternoon stroll in the Memorial Park is the way you like to walk off your Christmas Dinner, then what are the prospects of a dry day? There have been 41 ‘wet days’ (>1mm rain) on Christmas Day since 1892, an average on one day in 3. The wettest Christmas Day on record registered 16.4mm of rain in 2017, with 12.9mm in 1990 close behind. Bizarrely, we have heard thunder on Christmas Day twice in recent years, in 1990 and 1999. Christmas Day 1990 was not the year for a Christmas Day stroll – not only was it wet with thunder, there were also gales and hail. Only one other Christmas Day has had gales in Coventry, and that was in 1949.

Of course, with just over an average of one hour of sunshine on the 25th December, it is only rarely that we are going to enjoy prolonged sunshine on our stroll on Christmas Day; the sunniest on record blessed Coventrians with 6.6 hours of sun in 1979, with 6.5 hours as recently as 2010. It's not all doom and gloom however on the most magical day of the year, only 4 Christmas Days have recorded no sunshine at all since the Millennium, with 14 dull days since 1974.

Not surprisingly, mild days at Christmas are not at all rare on the 25th December in Coventry; however, we have to go back to 1902 to find the warmest Christmas Day on record when the maximum temperature rose to 15.0ºC, a respectable daily high even in Spring! No fewer than 28 Christmas Days have recorded maximum temperatures above 10ºC, the most recent being in 2017, 2016 with 14.1ºC and 2015 (13.7C).In 1998, 2003 and 2017, Santa was even able to leave his fur coat behind as he set out to deliver presents in Coventry, each of which had mild nights with a minimum temperature of 8.6ºC or more, the warmest Christmas mornings on record.

In recent years, 23 Christmas Days have been milder than average in the past 46 years, with only 12 air frosts in this period. However, Christmas Day 2010 was an iconic Christmas Day scene in Coventry with a maximum temperature of just 0.8ºC, ice and snow covering the ground and unbroken yuletide sunshine. A year later, it was mild dry and spring like, but cloudy with just 6 minutes of sunshine – quite a contrast!