LONDON • Two days of unseasonable sunshine in Britain this week have resulted in more than the shedding of hats, scarves and winter coats: they have also brought the highest temperatures ever recorded in the country in winter.
Temperatures peaked on Tuesday at 21.2 deg C in Kew Gardens, London, the hottest February day in Britain since records began in 1910, according to the Met Office, the national meteorological service.
Warmer than an average summer day in Britain, Kew's record ended a short-lived run for Porthmadog, Wales, which had laid claim earlier in the day with a high of 20.8 deg C. This was after the rural community of Trawsgoed, Wales, set a record on Monday with a high of 20.6 deg C.
The run of unusually hot days smashed the previous record of 19.7 deg C, set in the Greenwich area of London in February 1998.
"To get more than 20 deg C in May would be a very pleasant day. So to get that in February is obviously very significant," said Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge. "Whether we will see that again next winter remains to be seen."
The weather could not have been more different from a year ago, when Britons found themselves up against a polar vortex nicknamed the "Beast from the East". On one of the coldest days in Britain for three decades, snow and high winds closed schools, stranded drivers and disrupted flights and trains.
The subzero temperatures extended far beyond Britain last winter. Norway recorded temperatures of minus 42 deg C at the start of March, and snow fell in Rome for the first time in six years.
This week's unseasonably balmy temperatures that sent Britons scrambling for sunglasses also broke records in Ireland, where the national meteorological service declared the February temperatures to be the hottest since 1960.
On the Continent, the Netherlands beat its oldest record for the warmest February day with a temperature of 17.8 deg C.
In France, temperatures were as high as 22 deg C, far above the average for this time of year, and a number of towns in Sweden also experienced their hottest ever February.
But as moods lifted with the unexpected taste of summer, some voiced worries over such a dramatic shift from the norm.
The record temperature in Britain is "concerning, given what we know about climate science", Mr Leo Hickman, the director of an energy and climate fact-checking website, wrote on Twitter.
"This unseasonably warm weather is part of a global trend of record temperatures and unprecedented extremes," Ms Caroline Lucas, the former leader of Britain's Green Party, tweeted. "This is what climate breakdown looks like."
Those caught on the back foot by the climbing temperatures should not store away those heavy coats just yet: February's regularly dreary weather is set to return.
That could be as soon as today, Mr Madge said.