Sunshine is in short supply across a swathe of north-west Europe, shrouded in heavy cloud from a seemingly never-ending series of low pressure systems since late November and suffering one of its darkest winters since records began.
If you live in Brussels, 10 hours and 31 minutes was your lot for the entire month of December. The all but benighted inhabitants of Lille in France got just two hours, 42 minutes through the first half of January.
“Sound the alarm and announce the disappearance,” read a despairing headline in photon-deprived northern France’s regional paper, La Voix du Nord. “A star has been kidnapped. We still have no sign of life from the sun.”
Belgium’s Royal Meteorological Institute has declared December 2017 “the second darkest month since 1887”, when it began measuring, after the 10.5 hours of sun recorded at its Uccle weather station last month were beaten only by a bare 9.3 hours in 1934.
France’s northern Hauts-de-France region did better with 26 hours of sunshine in December, but that was against a norm of 48.
But Météo France described the paltry 2.7 hours of sun recorded from 1 to 13 January in Lille, the region’s biggest city, as “exceptional”. The January average stands at 61.4 hours, according to the agency – meaning Lille and its unfortunate residents were deprived of perhaps 30 hours’ worth of rays in the first part of the month.
The previous low of 13 hours, dating back to 1948, could well be beaten, Frédéric Decker of Météo News told La Voix du Nord this week. “The forecast isn’t looking too great,” he said. “The weather’s going to stay pretty damp and dull.”