ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

Is this cold weather the end of days or should we all just shut up and stop complaining?

These are the coldest ever UK temperatures on record

Is this cold weather the end of days or should we all just shut up and stop complaining?
06 February 2018

We are in this thing people; winter has finally come and it’s worse than any of us could have feared. Some godforsaken Brits are even in negative temperature territory and are facing persistent snowfall.

The Met Office has warned about a ‘prolonged cold period’ with bitterly cold temperatures that could stretch into “much of February and perhaps even into March”. The lowest temperature recorded overnight was -6C in County Down, Northern Ireland, but it could sink as low as -11C in the Scottish Highlands on Wednesday.

There are weather warnings in place with sleet and snow showers expected for eastern and southeastern England through the week.

A Met Office spokesman told ShortList: “This is certainly the coldest weather we’ve seen this winter – and the worst we’ve seen since 2013. This recent cold snap is being caused by the jet stream tracking further south than usual which is pulling in the cold from further north.

“Sleet and snow showers will continue to affect parts of eastern and southeastern England later on Tuesday, lasting well into the night in places. And accumulations of snow are likely. You should expect delays to travel, while untreated surfaces become icy, leading to an increased risk of accidents or injuries.”

Predictably, lots of people have been moaning about the weather on Twitter:

But we were wondering, how does this weather really compare to winters of yore? Well, again the good people at the Met Office have rounded up the coldest recorded UK temperatures since 1960 – and quite frankly, we have nothing to be complaining about:

  1. Braemar, Scotland (1982) -27.2C
  2. Altnaharra, Scotland (1995) -27.2C
  3. Shawbury, Midlands (1981) -25.2C
  4. Carnwath, Scotland (1979) -24.6C
  5. Grantown-On-Spey, Scotland (1984) -23.6C
  6. Lagganlia, Scotland (1985) -23.4C
  7. Caldecott, Midlands (1987) -23.3C
  8. Altnaharra, Scotland (2010) -22.3C
  9. Grantown-On-Spey, Scotland (1960) -22.2C
  10. Cannich, Scotland (1961) -22.2C
  11. Braemar, Scotland (1963) -22.2C

And while you’re out there kvetching about your cold fingers and toes, spare a thought for the poor people of Oymyakon in Russia. Winter temperatures in this town – the coldest on Earth – are on average around -50C! I kid you not! 

A woman in Oymyakon, Russia - she’s actually frozen in place it’s so cold 

Here are a few more tales of freezing winters that are guaranteed to make you shiver:

  • In 1836, there was such a strong blizzard across the whole of the south of England that passengers were frozen into train carriages.
  • In 1963, temperatures dropped so low that the Thames froze over the first time since the 1880s.
  • During the Great Frost of 1683-84, the Thames froze over for two months solid. One unintended outcome, though, was London’s legendary Frost Fair that saw thousands of revellers gambling, ice-skating and bear-baiting on the frozen river. 

London’s famous Frost Fair on 1684

So when you put it in perspective we should probably stop complaining about the cold - it’s not really that bad is it?

One man who knows all about extreme weather conditions is iconic adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who’s explored in temperatures of minus 50 degrees. Here’s his advice on the extreme cold:

“Falling into a crevasse and dangling from a rope is cold, sure. But you’re dry. Falling through the ice in the Arctic Ocean when the rest of your team are far behind – and you call, but nobody comes – can very quickly get dangerously cold. As you push your hands onto the ice it breaks even further, your clothes are heavy, your polar boots are full of water. You can’t get out.

“So yeah, I’ve had frightening experiences nearly drowning in the North Pole’s icy seas. It’s colder than anywhere else I’ve explored. You don’t have spare clothing, you’ve got to keep moving, so you’re travelling in wet clothes, in minus 40 degrees, in the wind.

“The feeling of mind-numbing cold is a lot like hunger. Not simply feeling hungry – proper hunger, like when we ran out of food after three months trekking across Antarctica. True, inhumane cold? You want to wrap yourself into a foetal ball and disappear somewhere into your imagination.

“I’ve lost several fingers in the cold. It didn’t stop me climbing Everest, because you’ve got ice axes and ropes. British people moan about the temperature, but it’s not too bad. Just be prepared. If you’re in a cold place, and forget something important – like an inner mitt – you’re screwed.”

Sir Ranulph Fiennes in 1991

And you can pick up more top tips on all the ways to crush the cold season from ex-Special Forces supremo and Channel 4 survival expert Ant Middleton here

(Images: whereslugo / REX)