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Mother Nature left her mark in an eventful year



Unseasonably warm temperatures at the beginning of January saw Edinburgh forced to close its "winter wonderland" ice rink as the mercury hit 15°C - making the Scottish capital hotter than Barcelona.

But torrential rain and gusts of up to 90mph battered the north-east of Scotland towards the end of January, leading to road closures in the Glencoe area and the cancellation of public transport and after-school clubs in the Western Isles as the public were urged to remain indoors. Downpours led to the cancellation of an SPL clash between Motherwell and Dundee United after the pitch became too waterlogged for play, and there was tragedy in Argyll when oceanographer Dr Tim Boyd, 54, was killed during a lightning storm near his home in Port Appin.


Winter finally blew in February when icy blasts and gale force winds saw snow flurries inland and hail falling on the coast. Up to five inches of snow fell on higher ground and ferries were cancelled off the west coast. The sudden dip in temperatures marked the beginning of what would turn out to be the coldest spring in 50 years. Wintry and at times "atrocious" conditions on Scotland's mountains contributed to the deaths of 11 climbers within the first two months of the year.


Amid the coldest spring in 50 years, came the coldest Easter Day on record. On March 31 the mercury plummeted to nearly -13°C in Braemar, in the Highlands. Other parts of Scotland fared better, but even in the cities temperatures remained below freezing at -3°C and -4°C. By the end of the month forecasters were officially declaring it the coldest March since 1962, with average temperatures for the whole month coming in at just 2.5°C.


The night sky over Fort William was ablaze with wild fires in early April after weeks of unseasonably dry weather in the Highlands created tinderbox conditions. Just 1.5 inches of rain fell in Northern Scotland in March, a mere 23% of the region's expected rainfall.


Long-suffering Scots finally got to bask in a long, hot summer - well, a three-week heatwave at least. The sunshine lasted throughout Wimbledon fortnight, which began later than usual in the last few days of June, and carried straight on through Andy Murray's scorching victory until the third week of July when the temperatures - at times in the 30s - finally petered out. It was the longest spell of unbroken sunshine in more than 30 years, with Gourock Outdoor Swimming Pool attracting a record number of visitors desperate to cool off and retailers enjoying a boom in trade as shoppers flocked to the high street to stock up on summer clothes.


By the time the Edinburgh festival drew to a close in the last week of August, Scotland's heatwave had been replaced by torrential rain which brought flooding to the capital and other parts of the east coast. Firefighters had to pump six inches of floodwater from the Usher Hall after thunder storms deluged the venue hours ahead of a classical music concert, while bad weather also forced the organisers of the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert - which closes the festival - to relocate its family viewing area from the waterlogged Inverleith Park to Princes Street Gardens.


The month began with yet another storm, this time claiming the life of a lorry driver who was killed when his HGV blew over onto cars during gale-force winds near Bathgate, West Lothian. It came as Scotland's entire rail network ground to a halt for almost five hours and police issued a red alert urging motorists to keep off the roads. The highest wind of 142mph was recorded at Aonach Mor in the Highlands.

Recent years have seen the country brought to a standstill by blizzards, Arctic blasts and frozen roads and railways, but by mid-December there was little sign of a cold winter. Temperatures were so mild in some areas that the mercury was almost 20°C warmer than the coldest parts of southern England. The average maximum temperature for December is usually 5.5°C but halfway through December it reached as high as 16.2°C in Achnagart, in the Highlands, compared to -3.1°C in West Sussex.

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