Last month was the chilliest December in records stretching back 100 years and one of the coldest months ever recorded in the UK, the Met Office has said.
And while globally 2010 has been one of the warmest years on record, provisional figures show that in the UK it was the 12th coldest year in records dating back to 1910.
Temperatures in this country averaged 8C over the year, the Met Office said. The average temperature for December was minus 1C, significantly colder than the long term average of 4.2C and lower than the previous coldest December in 1981, when temperatures averaged 0.1C over the month.
December 2010 was the coldest month in England and Wales since February 1986, the coldest in Scotland since February 1947 and in Northern Ireland it was the coldest on record.
It has emerged the Met Office informed the Government in October that this winter would be exceptionally cold, but did not inform the public.
Last month, temperatures regularly plunged to between minus 10C and minus 20C overnight as the country was hit by exceptionally cold and snowy weather, while it struggled to get above freezing in many places during the day.
But although December 2010 was cold and snowy, it was also relatively dry and sunny, the Met Office said. It was the third driest December since records began in 1910, with just 38% of the expected rain falling during the month, and the third sunniest in a series of records dating back to 1929.
The year as a whole has also been dry and sunny, with figures showing it was the ninth sunniest year since 1929 and the 10th driest since 1910.
Last month, as the UK was gripped by a second harsh winter in a row, meteorologists revealed that globally, 2010 was on course to be one of the hottest years ever recorded.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said that temperatures between January and October were 0.55C above the long-term average of 14C – slightly higher than the hottest year on record in 1998.