Met Office denies Rishi Sunak's claims of 'colder than usual winter'

Met Office goes to war with Rishi over his claims that Britain had a ‘colder than usual winter’ after Chancellor said this was why energy prices soared

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak claimed in newspaper column today that ‘we have had a colder than usual winter’
  • But Met Office forecaster points out UK mean temperature for December of 5.3C was 1.1C above normal 
  • UK mean temperature for January was 4.7C which was 0.8C, and it was the sunniest on record for England
  • A senior Met Office forecaster today ridiculed Rishi Sunak‘s claims that Britain had endured a ‘colder than usual winter’ after the Chancellor said the conditions were partially to blame for the record increase in energy costs.

    Mr Sunak had written in a newspaper that ‘we have had a colder than usual winter so we have used up more of our own stores of gas here at home’, saying this was partly behind the rise along with China pushing up global prices.

    But Met Office meteorologist Marco Petagna tweeted: ‘Colder than usual winter???!!!!!… UK mean temperature (5.3C) = 1.1C above normal for December. UK mean temperature (4.7C) = 0.8C above normal for January.’  

    It comes after Mr Sunak wrote in The Sun today that the factors causing the dramatic rise to energy prices were ‘out of the Government’s control’ – after it emerged the price cap will go up by 54 per cent or £693 from April. 

    The Chancellor said: ‘Energy bills will be going up and I know how anxious families across the country will be feeling about this news. Firstly, let’s look at why this is happening. There are a few factors causing energy prices to rise so dramatically, and unfortunately they are mostly out of the Government’s control. 

    ‘One is the steep rise in demand for gas in places such as China, which has pushed up global prices. Another is the fact that we have had a colder than usual winter so we have used up more of our own stores of gas here at home. All this means that, on average, people will be seeing their energy bills rise by £693.’ 

    Following the tweet by Mr Petagna, a senior operational meteorologist and media advisor for the Met Office who has been a forecaster for more than 25 years, MailOnline put his claims to the Treasury but it is yet to respond. 

    December 2021 averages

    January 2021 averages

    Met Office graphics show how parts of Britain had a warmer-than-average December 2021 (left) and January 2022 (right)

    Rishi Sunak attributed the record energy prices rise to China pushing up global prices and Britain's 'colder than usual winter'

    Rishi Sunak attributed the record energy prices rise to China pushing up global prices and Britain’s ‘colder than usual winter’

    The Met Office said in its December 2021 weather review that the month ‘kicked off meteorological winter with a broadly warm – albeit dull – month of weather’ which finished with the UK’s warmest New Year’s Eve on record.

    That saw 16.5C (61.4F) recorded in Wales while England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all got above 15C (59F). The Met Office said that ‘unusually high temperatures’ had ‘coincided with a temperate end to December’.

    Met Office meteorologist Marco Petagna ridiculed claims by Rishi Sunak that Britain had faced a 'colder than usual winter'

    Met Office meteorologist Marco Petagna ridiculed claims by Rishi Sunak that Britain had faced a ‘colder than usual winter’

    Some stations even broke long-standing one-off records for the month, including Cromer in Norfolk which saw its warmest December day in a 103-year series with 15.4C (59.7F) recorded on December 30.

    Forecasters said the UK had an average minimum temperature in December of 2.8C (37F), which is 1.4C above the 1991 to 2020 long-term average. The highest average minimum temperature seen in December over that period stands at 5.2C (41.4F), set in 2015.

    In South, minimum temperatures were even higher than the meteorological averages, with southern England seeing average minimum temperatures at 4.3C (39.7F), which is 2C above the long-term average for the month.

    The Met Office also said there were ‘some exceptionally mild nights, with overcast conditions and a south-westerly flow drawing air from the Azores’, and daily minimum temperatures on New Year’s Eve remained widely in double figures.

    A woman welcomes in 2022 on what was the warmest New Year's Day on record as she stands in the water by the Forth Bridge

    A woman welcomes in 2022 on what was the warmest New Year’s Day on record as she stands in the water by the Forth Bridge

    Britain had its hottest ever New Year's Eve last December which saw swimmers go into the water at Gyllyngvase in Cornwall

    Britain had its hottest ever New Year’s Eve last December which saw swimmers go into the water at Gyllyngvase in Cornwall

    The ice rink at Hampton Court Palace in London had to shut on New Year's Eve 2021 because the warm weather melted the ice

    The ice rink at Hampton Court Palace in London had to shut on New Year’s Eve 2021 because the warm weather melted the ice 

    Several stations including Sheffield, Bradford and Buxton recorded their highest daily minimum temperature on record in series of over 100 years on New Year’s Eve – around 10C higher than the December average.

    Millions of households hit with £693 energy bill rise 

    Household energy bills will soar by £693 per year from April, energy regulator Ofgem confirmed yesterday as the Government stepped in with help for households.

    The regulator hiked the energy price cap to a record £1,971 for a typical household as gas prices soared to unprecedented highs. For customers with prepayment meters the price cap will go up by £708 to £2,017.

    Ofgem shows the breakdown of costs in the energy price cap for a dual fuel customer paying by direct debit with typical use

    The decision is likely to impact 22 million households across Great Britain, and applies to those who are on their energy supplier’s default tariff.

    Shortly after the announcement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised to ‘take the sting out’ of the price rises. He promised that all 28 households in Britain would get a £200 up-front rebate on their energy bills from October.

    The Government will provide the cash for this, but it wants the money back so will hike bills by £40 per year over the next five years from 2023 to recoup its cash. 

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    There was also an average of just 11.5 days of ground frost reported across the UK in December, well below the long-term average of 16.3 days. The fewest average number of days of ground frost in December was in 2015, with just 5.8 days.

    The following month, January 2022, was the sunniest start to a year on record for England, and the third sunniest for the UK – and began with the warmest New Year’s Day on record for the UK, with 16.3C (61.3F) recorded at St James’s Park in London.

    Scotland and Wales also broke their New Year’s Day record high temperatures, with 15.9C (60.6F) reported at Achnagart and 15.6C (60.1F) at Hawarden.

    The Met Office said this ‘mild theme continued for much of the month, albeit with some cool night-time temperatures in the south for much of the month’.

    Forecasters added that it was an ‘especially mild January for Scotland, with a mean temperature of 4.7C (40.5F) putting it as the country’s sixth warmest January on record and 1.8C above the long-term average’. 

    Meanwhile, in the wake of the Government’s £9billion package announcement to try and ease cost-of-living expenses, Mr Sunak said the financial squeeze on households in the months ahead could not be underestimated.

    He wrote: ‘We made a difficult decision last year that in order to tackle the unacceptable backlogs caused by the pandemic, as well as to pay for vaccines and integrate our health and social care system, we would have to raise the money to do so. We can’t borrow for wholesale reform and we were upfront about that from the beginning.’

    The Government’s newly-announced Energy Bill Rebate was rolled out yesterday to try and ‘cushion the blow’ of rising energy costs – which will be coupled with a 7.25 per cent increase in inflation in April.

    The £9billion package will provide each family with £350 which will include a one-off repayable £200 discount and a £150 rebate on council tax bills. Following the announcement yesterday, the Prime Minister defended the measures as a ‘mega package’, adding: ‘I don’t think we have seen anything like it in recent memory.’

    Speaking to 5 News, he said: ‘We know the cause, it’s been driven by inflation in energy costs around the world, particularly the gas price spike that we are seeing. We have got to help people, I think that Rishi’s package is extremely good.’

    Wholesale electricity price costs in the energy price cap are shown in pounds per megawatt hour in this graphic from Ofgem

    Wholesale gas price costs in the energy price cap are shown in pence per therm in this graphic from Ofgem

    Mr Johnson did not directly answer a question, also raised in Parliament, about a windfall tax on fuel companies like Shell, which have profited from the spike in global prices. He said the world is experiencing a ‘bumpy period post-Covid’ with ‘inflation, blockages in supply chains as the global economy recovers’.

    He added: ‘I think when it comes to taking huge sums of taxpayers’ money, £9.1 billion, transferring it to help people with the cost of their heating and their energy, everybody can see that that’s a massive commitment.’

    Ofgem, the energy regulator, has said prices are set to soar by 54 per cent for 22 million households from the beginning of April, adding £693 to the annual costs of a typical household. The Chancellor also rejected calls for a windfall tax on energy companies making profits while customers struggle to pay rising bills.

    The Chancellor told The Martin Lewis Money Show such a levy would ‘deter investment’ in the North Sea, which he said was needed to boost the economy and employment levels. And the Chancellor said there could be a further price hike later in the year due to an ‘unpredictable’ energy market.