Heavy snowfall and seemingly permanent freezing temperatures have made this December the coldest for 13 years, UK forecasters said yesterday.

The chilliest December tem-peratures since 1996 were re-corded with most areas of the UK witnessing prolonged snowfall.

There was even snow on the ground in many parts of the UK on Christmas Day as the freezing temperatures prevented a thaw from taking hold.

Stephen Davenport, mete-orologist with MeteoGroup, the Press Association's weather division, explained: "Although the first half of the month was predominantly rather mild, the subsequent cold period was sufficient to make this, averaged nationally, the coldest December for 13 years."

The weather loosened its grip slightly on the southern half of the UK during the Christmas week, but in the north it grew even colder.

Braemar in Aberdeenshire was the chilliest spot with the mercury plunging to minus 18.4°C on the evening of the 28th and 29th.

The area also recorded the coldest daytime temperature at minus 12.2°C on the 29th. The UK's highest daytime temperature was 13.4°C, recorded in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on the 5th and the 9th.

London's 2012 Olympics site recorded the UK's highest night-time temperature on the 5th and 6th with 11.8°C.

Rainfall in England and Wales was the highest in December for three years.

But rainfall was down on the average amount for the month in Scotland.

Parts of Scotland still lay under a thick blanket of snow as the month drew to a close with as much as 40 centimetres over the southern flank of the High-lands.

Despite the snow, the month was sunnier than normal in England and Wales with an average of 73 hours of sunshine.

It was also sunnier than normal in Scotland and Northern Ireland with an average of 40 hours and 58 hours respectively.

Bramham in West Yorkshire was the sunniest spot with 94 hours, the gloomiest place was on Fair Isle near Shetland with just 21 hours of sun.

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