By LEE MORAN
Britain will enjoy near-record New Year’s Eve temperatures tonight – with parts of the country warmer than Iraq, Morocco and Spain – capping the second-warmest year ever recorded.
Forecasters said today will be as warm as average peak temperatures in May, with a balmy New Year the ‘icing on the cake’ after a year of ‘exceptional’ weather.
The Met Office said mild Atlantic breezes mean many places will see temperatures today 6-8C warmer than yesterday, with all of the UK will enjoying the mercury in double figures.
Waving the year goodbye: Two surfers took advantage of the warmer weather today to catch the last of 2011’s surf at Tynemouth Longsands, Tyne and Wear
Balmy: Londoners are set to take advantage of the warmer weather to flock in their thousands to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks display, as seen in last year’s picture here
Government weathermen predicted 14C highs in the south – with independent meteorologists forecasting the mercury could hit 15C – before a mild night at 10C in the south and 5C in the north.
The balmy conditions – cloudy, with showers focused only in the west – are expected to lead to some of the biggest ever crowds celebrating New Year outdoors, with hundreds of thousands of revellers expected at midnight fireworks in London, Edinburgh and other cities.
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- Finches feeding on kitchen scraps. The churchyard alive with birdsong… Oh, the joy of January in an English village
Britain today will be as warm as Iraqi capital Baghdad (14C) and Marrakech and Paris (13C) , New York (10C), Madrid (7C) and Moscow (2C).
But the UK cannot quite match Sydney’s 24C, where a million will watch the Harbour Bridge fireworks.
Remarkably, temperatures will be as warm as the normal 14C maximums in May, up to 8C warmer than the usual 7C peaks at this time of year.
Hotter than the Med: Britain will be warmer on New Year’s Eve than Marrakesh, in Morroco, and Madrid in Spain
But Britain will be cold in comparison to Sydney, where revellers will enjoy temperatures of 24C as they see in the New Year
And they will nudge the highest temperature even recorded on a December 31, which the Met Office said is understood to be just shy of 16C.
Forecasters said New Year’s Day will also be mild, at up to 12C, with sunny spells – boosting 500,000-plus spectators expected at London‘s New Year’s Day Parade, and making for perfect conditions for a brisk hangover-easing walk for others.
The warm New Year is capping a barmy year’s weather which saw the seasons turned upside-down, with Britain’s hottest ever recorded spring and second-hottest autumn making up for the coolest summer since 1993.
Warmest on record: Early blossom on a tree in St James’s Park in London this week as the extremely mild weather continued to confuse nature
Winter sunshine: Two youngsters made the most of the winter sunshine during a trip to Tynemouth Beach in North Tyneside yesterday
Met Office figures showed the UK’s mean temperature through 2011 has been 9.6C, making this year the second warmest year since records began in 1910. Only 2006, at 9.73C, was hotter.
Boffins will produce final figures after adding temperatures today, but 2011 is expected to just edge out the previous second-warmest year, 2007, at 9.59C.
This year has also been more than 1.5C warmer than 2010 – a giant amount in meteorological terms.
Flashback: Was this really just a year ago? A herd of deer in Bristol’s Ashton Court estate pictured in December 2010 as temperatures plummeted across Britain
Enlarge The average temperature for the UK in 2011 was nearly 9.73C – compared to the long term average of just 8.59C
Met Office forecaster Charlie Powell said: ‘Today looks exceptionally mild and it’s safe to say this will be potentially one of the warmest New Year’s Eves on record.
UPCOMING WEATHER FORECAST:
New Year’s Day
Sunshine and scattered showers for most places in western side. Eastern side of UK should remain dry. North 4C, South 9C. Breezy – all areas, some gale force coastal gusting to the north and west.
Monday, January 2
Showers for western side of Scotland, NW England, SW England, South and West Wales. They will advance further south and east late on but for the bulk of the day it should be essentially dry with sunny spells. North 5C South 9C. Breezy – all areas, some gale force coastal gusting to the north and west.
Tuesday, January 3
Heavy and persistent rain for much of the UK. Showers over the hills of Scotland and Northern Ireland possibly wintry. North 4C South 10C. Breezy – all areas. Gales – chiefly north and west, but fairly widespread in general.
‘There will be nationwide double figures and 14C in a few places in the south, although 15C might be pushing it.
‘It will be mainly cloudy and breezy, with winds not as strong as earlier this week.
‘The evening will stay mild, with some rain most likely in the west – but nothing too heavy.
‘New Year’s Day will mild again at 8C-12C, with some bright, sunny spells suitable for a walk, and cloud and scattered showers at other times.’
Positive Weather Solutions senior forecaster Jonathan Powell added: ‘An extraordinary year’s weather is ending on a balmy note.
‘A good chance of 14C-plus across parts of south-west England.
‘It’s remarkably mild for the time of year.
‘It means partygoers can dress down rather than up, with far fewer scarves and hats than would normally be on show.
‘2011 stands out as an exceptional year weather-wise, with extremes right through the 12 months.
‘A mild spring and scorching parts of autumn made up for a lacklustre summer – so a mild end to the year really is the icing on the cake.’