February is second coldest month on record
February 2012 was the second coldest month on record with a mean monthly temperature of 11.0°C. This was just 0.2°C short of the coldest month ever, February 2003, with a mean monthly temperature of 10.8°C. This exceptionally cold weather was mainly due to the Arctic Oscillation which is the difference in pressure between polar regions and mid-latitude areas. During the first two weeks of February, this negative Arctic Oscillation, which favours cold conditions in Europe and relatively warmer conditions in the Arctic, produced the cold spell by driving cold air from the north to the central Mediterranean.
The highest temperature was of just 17.1°C on the 3rd while the coldest was of 4.3°C on the 14th. The highest February temperature ever was that on 18th February 2010 with a maximum temperature of 24.1°C, while the lowest ever was on 1st February 1999 with a chilling 2.6°C. There were also four days with the grass minimum temperature falling to below zero. This only happened once before – in February 1999.
The grass minimum temperature is the temperature recorded in open ground on short grass, with the bulb of the thermometer just in contact with the tips of the blades of grass. The grass minimum temperature often varies substantially from air temperature. In deserts or on the beach during a hot summer day the “grass temperature” might be much higher than the air temperature and much, much lower during clear spells under a starry winter sky. In fact, the grass minimum temperature might be 0°C or less, while the air temperature recorded simultaneously at the same site is 4°C to 5°C or higher. This is known as ground frost and is an important information for farmers, gardeners and drivers.
February 2012 was also the second wettest February on record since rainfall records began in 1985 with 132.3mm compared to the average of 65.9mm. This was practically double the expected rainfall for the month. There were also a record 21 days of rain and 10 of those were with thunderstorms. The wettest ever February was in 1996 with 181.3mm of rainfall. There were also 8 days with hail.
The average wind speed in February at Zebbug Malta was of 14.7 km/h and the most frequent direction was westerly. The highest wind gust at Zebbug (Malta) was of 70.3km/h on the 6th from the NW with the highest gust at Nadur Gozo reaching 86.9km/h during gale force winds caused by a deep low pressure system of 984hPa forming over the southern Adriatic Sea.