When I was growing up in the 1960s, December marked the onset of winter with regular falls of snow, even in the London suburbs. But recent Decembers have bucked the historical trend, being mild and wet, and none more so than December 2015.
Indeed, this was not just the wettest December, but the wettest month ever recorded across the UK, with close to twice as much rain as the long-term average. This was largely due to the arrival of three Atlantic storms from the west: Desmond, Eva and Frank. These contributed to an average rainfall across the UK of 230mm (a shade over 9in), beating the previous monthly high set in November 2009.
The prevailing south-westerly airstream also made December 2015 the warmest December on record, with highs of over 17C (63F) in Gravesend, Kent, warmer than Athens and Lisbon. In Dorset, holidaymakers took advantage of the unusually warm weather to bathe in the sea. More ominously, a record night-time temperature of 14.2C (58F) was logged in Devon.
The record highs were the result of a warm airstream reaching the UK from the Azores; with an unusually powerful El Niño leading to warmer sea temperatures, which had a knock-on effect on air temperature readings in the south-west.