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Christmas shoppers warming to this winter weather in Northern Ireland

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Christmas shoppers swapped their winter woollies for shorts and T-shirts to enjoy one of the warmest December days on record yesterday.

The scarves, hats and gloves have been temporarily set aside while the unseasonably mild weather causes mercury levels to rise.

According to the Met Office, the hottest December in Northern Ireland was in 1994, when 16C was recorded at Murlough in Co Down.

By 9am yesterday, temperatures at Magilligan in Co Londonderry had hit 14.8C, rising to 15.8C by lunchtime - warmer than Paris, Madrid and Bordeaux.

It was slightly cooler in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, which saw highs of 14.1C and at Murlough, where it was 13.2C.

A Met Office spokesman attributed the unusual spell to an area of high pressure bringing settled weather to the east and colder air currently across parts of the USA and Canada, which has been strengthening the jet stream.

Among those making the most of the exceptional conditions was John Miskimmon (34), who was browsing stalls at Belfast's bustling Christmas market wearing just a T-shirt and trousers.

He said: "I am loving this weather. It's great to be able to walk about in a T-shirt and not have to worry about a coat."

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