There's certainly been a chill in the air recently, and the change in temperature has left many people wondering will it snow in the UK this winter?
The evenings are getting darker and we're getting closer and closer to the shortest day of the year (opens in new tab). Now that the clocks have gone back (opens in new tab), we're all settling into our winter routines, huddled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate - or something a little stronger.
And just like people were asking when does autumn start (opens in new tab) as temperatures dropped and leaves began to fall from the trees, attention has now turned to the possibility of a white Christmas - and the question everyone wants to know the answer to is will it snow in the UK this winter?
Will it snow in the UK in 2022?
At the moment, there are reports that snow is expected in the UK in the next few weeks. Though, as is usual with snowfall in the UK, the regions that will see the most snow will be those on higher ground.
Meteorologist Jim Dale (opens in new tab) from British Weather services told the Daily Star (opens in new tab): "The wet weather is likely to fizzle out this week, but then we are looking at a pattern change to something colder. Pressure will start to rise into the start of December."
Hoping for #snow this winter?❄️ A potentially historic snow event is currently taking place in parts of Canada and the USA⛄ Some places in upstate New York have seen 2 to 3 feet of snow since yesterday and there is still more to come! pic.twitter.com/rm9A4EIZZJNovember 18, 2022
He then added: "This is when we are expecting it to start building, with the first freezing plunge going into Europe and bringing easterlies into the UK. The Beast has opened its eyes." Here, Dale is referring to the 'Beast from the East' - a term many will remember from an exceptionally snowy winter in 2018 - which is a cold front heading toward the UK from Russia.
The Met Office (opens in new tab) explains that for snow to fall, the air needs to be cold enough and there needs to be a supply of moisture. To get cold air in the UK, there needs to be winds from the north or east, but the most common wind direction in the UK is south-westerly - making snow a rare occurrence in most areas.
If there is an easterly wind, it either needs to meet a rain-bearing weather front and turn it into snow, or for the cold air to pick up enough moisture from its short journey across the North Sea, to form showers.
When is it going to snow in the UK this winter?
It is next predicted to snow in the UK in early December, according to James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather (opens in new tab). He said the start of December is expected to see "an easterly component bringing very low temperatures and the risk of snow, with wintry showers possibly turning widespread."
He added that "the prospect for a white Christmas is high".
However, the Met Office's long-range forecast (opens in new tab) doesn't mention snow. The weather service predicts there will be showers in eastern and southeastern areas with more persistent rain in the southwest, and while "these may become wintry, this risk will be mostly confined to higher ground."
They add that "colder conditions are possible at times, with a risk of overnight frost and fog higher than normal."
The Met Office has also warned against listening to predictions from independent weather forecasters, disputing the claims that the UK will see another 'Beast from the East' in the coming weeks.
📉 It's turning colder this week and easterly winds look likely to continue next week with temperatures staying below average❄️ Although it's too early to give specific details, a "Beast from the East" is not expected, but some snow is possible in places pic.twitter.com/FrzbjRkFbRNovember 28, 2022
The weather service also explains that snow forecasting in the UK is difficult, because as it’s so cold high up in the atmosphere, most precipitation either starts off as snow or supercooled raindrops. As it falls to earth, it moves through warmer air most of the time and melts into rain.
They add that weather fronts mark the boundary between cold air and warm air, so when a weather system moves in, there will be warm air and moisture wrapped up in it. While we need the moisture for snow to form, the warm air makes it very tricky to forecast. This is because as the warm air bumps into the cold air, the air mixes together and makes the cold air slightly warmer, and the warm air slightly colder, and so then rain becomes more likely.
Therefore, there’s a fine line between who sees snow and who sees rain - sometimes a fraction of a degree is the difference between rain and snow.
Where will it snow in the UK this winter?
Currently, snow is expected on the tops of the mountains in Scotland - as is usual at this time of year - according to the Met Office via Twitter (opens in new tab). Though there are currently no weather warnings in place.
In 2021, it was Scotland that saw much of the heavy snowfall and was hit by Storms Arwen and Barra, along with northern England which also frequently saw snow forecast. The Midlands also had snowfall in late November, with the Leicester City football team’s training ground one of the locations lightly blanketed.
Southern England saw hardly any snow last year, and instead the region was subject to frost, bitterly cold temperatures and rain, rather than snowfall. Similarly, whilst there were occasional predictions of snow over the hills and mountains of Wales, the country didn’t experience much snowfall pre-Christmas.
Will it snow in London in 2022?
No snow is currently forecast to fall in London, and though it did snow in the capital in the lead up to Christmas 2021, it was only a few flurries.
This isn't surprising in the early days of autumn and winter, as World Atlas (opens in new tab) says data from the Met Office has shown "on average, the central parts of London experience less than 10 days of snow or sleet every year...for the few days that it snows in the central parts of London, the snow rarely settles since it melts away extremely fast."
The outskirts of London as well as areas with higher altitudes tend to get more snow, as the urban centre of the capital often has a higher temperature. This causes snow to melt more quickly and makes it unlikely that snowflakes will settle.
The exception to this, of course, was the 'Beast from the East' in 2018, which saw the entire UK experience 10 days of heavy snow in late February.
Snow magic in London 🌨📸: simonaneu | IG pic.twitter.com/IUVK0y31XTFebruary 23, 2022
How much snow does the UK usually get?
According to the Met Office, the UK gets on average 23.7 days of snowfall or sleet a year. The majority of this snow falls on higher ground where temperatures are lower.
In Scotland, the figure is much higher, with snow or sleet falling on 38.1 days out of the year on average. The Cairngorms in Scotland are statistically the snowiest place in the UK, with 76.2 days of snow or sleet falling per year on average.
In contrast, Cornwall is the least likely to get snow, with an average of only 7.4 days of snow or sleet falling a year.
However, because most of this snow does not settle, the number of days the UK sees snow on the ground is much lower. On average, there are 15.6 days a year where snow is on the ground in the UK, compared to 26.2 days in Scotland.
How cold are the temperatures predicted to get in the UK?
Long-range weather forecasts show that temperatures will soon begin to drop at the end of November and in early December.
The Met Office has said that temperatures are expected to remain mild until around November 21, after which it says "temperatures trending towards average for the season, perhaps feeling rather cold."
Data from the Met Offices UK climate averages (opens in new tab) shows that from the period of 1991 to 2020 the average minimum temperature in the UK in October is 6.42°C and the average maximum temperature is 13.08°C.
As winter begins to draw in, the average minimum temperature in December is 1.42°C, while the average maximum temperature is 7.02°C, falling slightly in January to a minimum of 1.21°C and a maximum of 6.66°C.
Average temperatures in the UK in December by region:
- England - Minimum 1.87°C, maximum 7.6°C
- Scotland - Minimum 0.37°C, maximum 5.82°C
- Wales - Minimum 2.16°C, maximum 7.58°C
- Northern Ireland - 1.91°C, maximum 7.53°C
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