The UK has experienced its second warmest winter on record, with a mean temperature of 5.47C (41.8F), provisional Met Office figures show.

In southern England, the winter warmth set a new high, reaching 6.53C (43.8F), beating 6.49C (43.7F) in 1989-90.

All three winter months saw above average temperatures, and January also recorded its second highest UK-wide temperature, reaching 6.0C (43F).

The Met Office's UK national record series date back to 1914.

The warmest winter on record was in 1988-89, when the mean temperature was 5.82C (42.5F).

Climate signal

One of the data series used to compile the UK temperature figures is the Central England Temperature Record (CET) record, which is the world's oldest continuous dataset for temperature, stretching back to January 1659.

England temperatures

The CET had recorded a mean temperature of 11.22C (52.20F) for the 12-month period from March 2006 to the end of February 2007, which was the warmest year-long period on record.

"It is very carefully monitored and statistically handled so you can compare yesterday with 348 years ago," said Met Office meteorologist Wayne Elliott. "Therefore it is a good measure of changes to the climate."

The Met Office's figures for the UK from the beginning of December to the end of February showed that the winter had not only been warmer, but also wetter than average.

This matched the sort of conditions that the UK was expected to experience as a result of climate change, Mr Elliott said.


Annual mean temperatures:

2006 - 9.73C (49.5F)
2003 - 9.51C (49.12F)
2004 - 9.48C (49.1F)
2002 - 9.48C (49.1F)
2005 - 9.46C (49.0F)

"It is consistent with the climate change message," he told BBC News. "It is exactly what we expect winters to be like - warmer and wetter, and dryer and hotter summers."

However, he warned that these figures could not alone be used as evidence of the impact of human activity on the climate but said that the "warming trend caused by humans is emerging from the natural variability".

"The fact that the five warmest years on record are the five past years is interesting, but we cannot add anything more to that at the moment," he observed.

"But the winter we have just seen is consistent with the type of weather we expect to see more and more in the future."