Brief cold snap this weekend

20 11 2015

It will turn cold as we head into the weekend, courtesy of an arctic maritime airmass spreading across the country from the north. Yellow ‘be aware’ National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued for a risk of impacts as a result of both snow and wind. Keep up to date with the weather for your area using our forecast pages.

Cold air spreading southwards during Friday will result in showers turning to snow over high ground in the north of the UK and increasingly to lower levels towards Friday evening as an area of rain, sleet and snow moves southwards. Northern and eastern Scotland and perhaps the northeast of England could see accumulations of 1-4cm in places at low levels, whereas above around 150m 5-10cm could accumulate.

Other areas of the UK could see some snow Friday night into Saturday as the band of rain, sleet and snow transfers southwards with perhaps some small amounts of settling snow over high ground.

The combination of rain, sleet and snow and dropping temperatures will also lead to a risk of ice in places, particularly over high level routes on Saturday morning.

Strong to gale force north or northwesterly winds are also likely Friday night and Saturday which will enhance the cold feel in what will be the coldest air of the season so far. There is a risk of severe gales with gusts of 60-70mph for a time in the most exposed locations over higher routes and along the east and west coasts of the UK.

On Saturday, wintry showers will become confined to parts of Scotland and to eastern and western coastal counties with plenty of sunshine elsewhere. It will feel cold in marked contrast to the recent mild weather and the second mildest start to November on record. Maximum temperatures by day will be 3-7 degrees Celsius but the wind will make it feel much colder. Overnight, minimum temperatures are likely to drop below freezing away from coasts, to give widespread frosts, with the risk of some icy patches where showers have fallen during the day.

Sat Feel 20th Sat Temps 20th










Chief Operational Meteorologist Frank Saunders said: “The Met Office is forecasting strong winds and some snow for this weekend which means there is the likelihood of some difficult driving conditions and possible disruption to transport. With this in mind, if you have travel plans over the weekend, we’d advise that you keep an eye on the forecast and warnings for your area.”

Although this will be the first widespread cold spell of the season, it is fairly typical for mid-late November and it’s not unusual to see snow to lower levels in the north of the UK in late autumn. In recent years the most notable snow event was in late November 2010 when there was lying snow across parts of northern and eastern Britain.

This cold spell will be fairly short-lived with temperatures expected to return to more typical values for the time of year early next week with the weather remaining unsettled.

Turning colder for this weekend

18 11 2015

Cold weather is expected this weekend courtesy of an arctic maritime airmass spreading across the country from the north. Everyone will notice a change in the weather after the second mildest start to November on record.

On Friday the cold air will begin to spread southwards with showers falling as snow over high ground in the north and increasingly to lower levels here later. Across northern and eastern Scotland and the northeast of England accumulations of 1-4cm are likely in places at low levels, whereas above around 150m around 5-10cm could accumulate. Furthermore, overnight Friday and into Saturday other areas of the UK could see snow, with some accumulations possible, mainly over high ground.

Strong to gale force north or northwesterly winds are also likely Friday night and Saturday across central and southern Britain and will enhance the cold feel in what will be the coldest air of the season so far. There is a risk of severe gales with gusts of 60-70mph in the most exposed locations.

Yellow ‘be aware’ National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued for the risk of impacts as a result of the snow and wind.

Pressure chart for midnight Saturday 21 November 2015

By Saturday the cold air will be in place across all parts of the UK with a mixture of sunny spells and wintry showers likely over the rest of the weekend, with any settling only likely to be temporary because the ground is so warm after the recent mild spell. However, many places inland will avoid the showers and see some good sunny spells. To see what weather you can expect in your area, check out our forecast pages.

In a stark contrast to recent days when temperatures have been well above average for the time of year, we can expect temperatures to be below average with maximum daytime values of around 3-7 degrees Celsius. Overnight minimum temperatures are likely to drop below freezing away from coasts, to give a widespread frost, with the risk of some icy patches where showers have fallen during the day.


Chief Operational Meteorlogist Frank Saunders said: “With strong winds and some snow forecast for this weekend there is the likelihood of some difficult driving conditions and disruption to transport. There remains some uncertainty regarding the strength of the wind and snow amounts and so if you have travel plans over the weekend we’d advise that you keep an eye on the warnings for your area.”

Although this will be the first widespread cold spell of the season, it is fairly typical for mid-late November and it’s not unusual to see snow to lower levels in the north of the UK in late autumn. In recent years the most notable snow event was in late November 2010 when there was lying snow across parts of northern and eastern Britain.

This cold spell will be fairly short-lived with temperatures expected to return to more typical values for the time of year early next week with the weather remaining unsettled.

What are the prospects for the weather in the coming winter?

29 10 2015

Anyone who has read the newspapers lately can’t have failed to notice this winter’s weather is in the headlines. Justification for claims of a ‘big freeze’ has come from sources as diverse as the plucky Bewick Swan settling into the comfort of the WWT reserve at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire earlier than ever before, to the strong El Niño and cool North Atlantic Ocean.

But what can we genuinely say about prospects for the coming winter, and what is the influence from phenomena like El Niño? Jeff Knight, from the Met Office Monthly to Decadal Prediction team explains.

In the Met Office we produce outlooks for the UK weather as a whole over three monthly periods. These outlooks are not forecasts in the conventional sense, although they are still made using computer prediction models. While a forecast might say ‘it will rain tomorrow’, the chaotic nature of the atmosphere beyond a few days ahead leads to growing forecast uncertainty, making it meaningless to try to make the same kind of forecast for a day in three months’ time.

Fortunately, atmospheric chaos is only part of the story and, when we consider the broad characteristics of the weather over a three month period, we can see influences from a range of global climate factors that we can endeavor to predict. While the unpredictable part means there is always a range of possible outcomes, the part we can try to predict allows us the opportunity to identify which types of weather are more likely than others. As a result, our outlooks are more useful for professionals who need to assess risk, such as contingency planners, than the public generally. Our current outlook covers the period from November to January.

So what are the global drivers that might influence our weather this winter?

El Niño is the biggest news story currently in global climate. This episodic warming of the waters of the equatorial Pacific Ocean occurs every few years – the last event happened in 2009-10. This ocean warming covers an area about 1,000 km wide and 13,000 km long, stretching along the equator from the South American coast to the West Pacific. El Niño events release a vast quantity of oceanic heat into the atmosphere so it is not surprising that El Niño has effects on weather across the globe.

This year’s El Niño started to grow in April and it has now become a strong, mature event similar to the landmark 1997-8 event. Typically, growth will peak around the end of the year and decline during the first half of the following year. We have already seen its effect on global weather systems: this summer’s Indian monsoon rainfall fell to drought levels and very hot, dry conditions in Indonesia have contributed to widespread forest fires.

Currently, the outlook for El Niño is for further growth over the next two months. Events are often ranked in terms of sea surface temperatures in Central Pacific, and by this measure, this year’s El Niño is more likely than not to become the strongest on record. Temperatures further east near to South America are likely to be not quite as exceptional as in 1997-8. No two El Niños are identical and even very similar events have slightly different characteristics.

What does El Niño imply for the UK this winter?

Unlike some parts of the world, the effect of El Niño on Europe is relatively subtle. In El Niño years there is a tendency for early winter to be warmer and wetter than usual and late winter to be colder and drier. Despite this, it is just one of the factors that influence our winters, so other influences can overwhelm this signal – it is relatively straightforward, for example, to find years where these general trends were not followed.

What about the Atlantic Ocean?

Closer to home, sea surface temperatures to the west of the UK have been notably lower-than-average in recent months. While it is true the westerly winds that we typically get in winter would have to pass over this region, it is unlikely that this will directly have a strong bearing on expected temperatures. This is because temperatures at this time of year are strongly affected by the direction of the wind. Eastern Europe and Scandinavia are 10-20°C colder than the Atlantic Ocean in winter, so our weather will depend much more on how often winds blow in from the north and east than whether the Atlantic is 1-2°C cooler than usual.

More broadly within the North Atlantic Ocean, sub-tropical temperatures to the south of this cool region are widely above average. This combination results in an increased north-south temperature gradient, which is expected to provide greater impetus for Atlantic depressions. For the UK, this would favour relatively mild, unsettled weather conditions.

Global sea surface temperature anomaly 28 October 2015

Global sea surface temperature anomaly 28 October 2015

Our weather is also affected by changes in the stratosphere

European winters are also sensitive to what is happening in the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere between 10 and 50 km up that lies above the weather. The equatorial stratosphere is home to the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO), a cycle that sees winds switch from easterly to westerly and back roughly every 27 months. First noted by Met Office scientists over 40 years ago, the link with European winter weather has stood the test of time. This year, the QBO is in a westerly phase, which implies an increased chance of a mild and wet winter at the surface.

A considerable part of the year-to-year differences between UK winters is related to the occurrence of sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs). In these events, the polar stratospheric vortex – the fast moving circulation of stratospheric air that whirls around the North Pole in winter – abruptly breaks down. They occur one winter in two on average, and events are most common in January or February. In the majority of cases SSWs lead to the establishment of cold easterly flow at the surface across Europe and the UK. The last SSW was in January 2013, and this event contributed to the cold late winter and early spring in that year.

Whether we get an SSW or not depends on a number of influences, such as El Niño and the QBO. Currently our models suggest an increased likelihood of an SSW from January onwards. If this were to happen, its effects would not be felt much before the end of our November to January outlook period. At the moment, therefore, this is still a long way off, and we consider this suggestion to be tentative.

So what can we expect in the UK this winter?

Most of the global drivers discussed above tend to increase the chances of westerly weather patterns during our November to January outlook period. Our numerical prediction model, being sensitive to these drivers, also predicts a higher-than-normal chance of westerly conditions. This results in an outlook for an increased chance of milder- and wetter-than-usual conditions, and a decreased chance of colder and drier conditions, for the UK. Our outlook also indicates an increase in the risk of windy or even stormy weather.

It should be noted that these shifts in probability do not rule out the less favoured types of weather completely. Also, a general tendency for one type of weather over the three months as a whole does not preclude shorter spells of other types of weather.

Finally, there are hints that the outlook might be rather different in the late winter, with an increased risk of cold weather developing. Nevertheless, it is currently too early to be confident about this signal.

Warm, dry, sunny start to October

16 10 2015

The first half of October has been dominated by high pressure, giving a warm, dry, sunny start to October across the UK.

The month started with some weather fronts crossing the UK bringing rain in places. However the mid month statistics* (1 -14th October 2015) show that from the 5th onwards a high pressure system has dominated our weather bringing dry, settled conditions for most of us.

However, because of the position high pressure, we have seen relatively cool air coming in from the north-east. This has resulted in plenty of pleasant, sunny days, particularly in western areas, but with temperatures dropping away at night and a few frosts in places (coldest in this period -3.7 °C at Altnaharra on 13th).  Sunshine hours and maximum temperatures so far this month have been above average, but many places have seen night time temperatures below what we would expect, meaning the overall mean temperatures so far are above average for the whole of October.

MeanTemp Oct 1-14 2015

Rainfall has been well below normal in western areas, although closer to what would be expected by this point in the month in some eastern parts of the UK.  As a whole the UK has seen just 20% of the expected monthly rainfall so far, well short of the 50% we would expect to see by mid month.

1-14 Oct 2015 mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
degC degC hours % mm %
UK 10.3 0.8 57.1 62 25.5 20
England 11 0.6 60.7 59 25.2 27
Wales 10.4 0.5 60.2 65 24.8 15
Scotland   9.1 1.2 49.7 66 28.5 16
N Ireland 10.3 0.9 61.4 70 12.1 10

Of course, while these figures are interesting, they don’t tell us where the month will end up overall. Latest forecasts show that the settled weather is expected to continue for many over the next few days, before conditions become generally more unsettled across the UK with outbreaks of rain and stronger winds, interspersed with drier, brighter periods as we head towards the end of the month.

*Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910.

Dreaming of a White Christmas?

17 12 2014
Summit of An Socach, the Cairngorms, Scotland.

Summit of An Socach, the Cairngorms, Scotland.


With less than a week to go before Christmas Day, we are going to look at the likelihood of a white Christmas – will we be waking up to a picturesque covering of snow on the big day?

So far, December has seen some large fluctuations in the weather, with spells of wetter, milder conditions interspersed with colder, sunnier conditions with temperatures closer to average.

Through today and tomorrow, we will see plenty of fine weather across the UK, with some crisp winter sunshine. There will be some showers across the north and west of the country, that are likely to be wintry over higher ground.

A return to largely mild weather is expected from Sunday (21st), with cloudy, damp conditions for many parts, and there is the threat of some heavy rain in places.

As we head into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty – which is as you’d expect this far ahead. The strongest signal currently shown in the computer models is for the colder, showery weather to return across Britain, with showers most frequent across the north and east. But will we see any snow?

At this point, the most likely areas that will see some of the white stuff will be across higher ground in the north, with rain at lower levels. Temperatures will be fairly close to average and there will be some frosty nights under clear skies.

It is important to note, however, that there’s still a small chance we could see different weather for Christmas Day. So with just under a week to go until the big day, it looks most likely that the majority of us won’t be seeing a white Christmas. Because of the uncertainty of long range forecasts, however, we recommend staying up-to-date with our website for the latest information on our forecasts and warnings.

Winter Forecasting – Responding to the headlines

12 10 2013

Once again it is the season for speculation and big headlines regarding what the weather will do over the winter period. The front page of the Daily Express today claims: ‘Worst winter for decades: Record-breaking snow predicted for November’.

We saw similar headlines last year and instead winter 12/13 ended up being only the 43rd coldest on record with an average temperature of 3.3C and flooding until the turn of the year.

What the Daily Express has failed to explain to its readers is that there is absolutely no certainty about what weather the UK will see over the winter period. The science simply does not exist to make detailed, long-term forecasts for temperature and snowfall even for the end of November, let alone for the winter period, which does not officially start until 1 December.

While we have seen a return to more normal, cooler temperatures for this time of year, this is no indication of what we can expect over the next four months with regards to temperatures and when we might see snow. It is far too early to tell.

Ultimately, we’re heading into winter and it is perfectly possible that we will see the whole range of weather that we get in winter at some point over the coming months, including snow and freezing temperatures, but also heavy rain, windy weather and mild conditions too.

Our five day forecasts and warnings will provide you with the best possible guidance on any periods of cold weather, frost or the likelihood of snow, giving detailed local information across the UK to help you make the most of the weather over the coming months.

Lowest temperatures 10 October

10 10 2013

Last night saw the first widespread cold night of the season. Here are the lowest temperatures from around the UK:

Bridgefoot        CUMBRIA       1.5
Leek, Thorncliffe STAFFORDSHIRE 2.2
Spadeadam CUMBRIA       2.2
Warcop Range      CUMBRIA       2.5
Keswick           CUMBRIA       3.0
Saughall    AYRSHIRE      -0.7
Drumalbin   LANARKSHIRE   1.4
Salsburgh   LANARKSHIRE   2.4
Balmoral    ABERDEENSHIRE 3.1
Carterhouse ROXBURGHSHIRE 3.1
Libanus                      POWYS 1.6
Sennybridge       POWYS 1.6
Tredegar Bryn Bach Park GWENT 3.9
Llysdinam                    POWYS 4.1
Trawsgoed                    DYFED 4.2
Killylane ANTRIM 4.0
Thomastown FERMANAGH 4.2
Derrylin Cornahoule FERMANAGH 4.3
Castlederg TYRONE 4.6
Aldergrove ANTRIM 4.9

Met Office figures show we are on course for coldest March in over 50 years

28 03 2013

This March is set to be the coldest since 1962 in the UK in the national record dating back to 1910, according to provisional Met Office statistics.

From 1 to 26 March the UK mean temperature was 2.5 °C, which is three degrees below the long term average. This also makes it joint 4th coldest on record in the UK.

The table below gives details of statistics up to the 26 March for broken down by the counties used to compile climate statistics.

  mean temperature precipitation
  Actual  (deg C) Difference from 1981-2010 average (deg C) Actual (mm) Percentage of 1981-2010 average (%)
UK 2.5 -3.0 62.2 65
England 2.9 -3.3 63.4 99
Wales 2.8 -3.0 86.2 74
Scotland 1.6 -2.5 50.3 36
N Ireland 3.0 -2.9 78.9 83
England & Wales 2.9 -3.3 66.6 94
England N 2.0 -3.5 54.0 72
England S 3.4 -3.2 68.4 118
Historic Counties        
Aberdeenshire 0.6 -3.1 67.9 86
Anglesey 3.9 -2.9 79.8 100
Antrim 2.9 -2.8 68.9 75
Argyllshire 2.5 -2.1 47.2 22
Armagh 3.1 -3.1 96.8 125
Ayrshire 2.0 -2.9 53.8 41
Banffshire 0.8 -3.1 56.4 76
Bedfordshire 3.0 -3.5 50.1 119
Berkshire 3.4 -3.2 78.5 157
Berwickshire 1.6 -3.2 65.0 108
Brecknockshire 1.9 -3.1 100.5 74
Buckinghamshire 3.1 -3.4 66.6 137
Buteshire 2.7 -2.3 58.0 36
Caithness 2.3 -1.9 45.5 52
Cambridgeshire 3.2 -3.5 40.0 102
Cardiganshire 2.8 -2.8 62.5 54
Carmarthenshire 3.4 -2.7 87.0 69
Carnarvonshire 2.8 -3.0 96.1 64
Cheshire 2.9 -3.5 42.1 72
Clackmannanshire 1.7 -2.7 65.3 57
Cornwall 5.1 -2.3 102.0 109
Cumberland 1.6 -3.3 42.1 37
Denbighshire 2.1 -3.4 66.2 75
Derbyshire 1.9 -3.7 58.8 81
Devon 4.0 -2.7 112.9 118
Dorset 4.0 -2.7 96.8 132
Down 3.2 -3.0 158.4 193
Dumfriesshire 1.3 -3.1 65.6 53
Dunbartonshire 2.1 -2.7 49.4 25
Durham 1.6 -3.4 61.9 99
East Lothianshire 1.9 -3.2 55.4 100
Essex 3.5 -3.3 44.2 110
Fermanagh 3.0 -3.0 45.6 42
Fifeshire 2.3 -3.0 58.8 89
Flintshire 2.9 -3.5 60.9 105
Forfarshire 0.9 -3.0 73.1 89
Glamorganshire 3.6 -2.8 123.1 98
Gloucestershire 3.2 -3.3 77.1 129
Hampshire 3.9 -2.9 85.4 133
Herefordshire 2.9 -3.5 80.3 134
Hertfordshire 3.2 -3.4 50.3 109
Huntingdonshire 3.1 -3.6 56.4 143
Inverness 1.3 -2.1 36.9 19
Kent 3.8 -3.1 58.2 121
Kincardineshire 1.5 -3.1 56.5 82
Kinross 1.5 -3.0 65.6 65
Kirkcudbrightshire 1.7 -3.0 79.2 54
Lanarkshire 1.2 -3.0 51.8 47
Lancashire 2.6 -3.3 41.1 45
Leicestershire 2.4 -3.8 52.4 114
Lincolnshire 2.7 -3.6 49.0 113
Londonderry 3.0 -2.8 59.3 60
Merionethshire 1.8 -3.1 98.6 62
Mid Lothianshire 1.7 -3.1 59.4 83
Middlesex 4.2 -3.3 57.7 128
Monmouthshire 3.1 -3.2 94.8 100
Montgomeryshire 2.0 -3.4 64.5 56
Moray 1.7 -2.8 39.5 60
Nairnshire 1.5 -2.9 32.0 47
Norfolk 3.0 -3.4 60.5 128
Northamptonshire 2.6 -3.6 61.0 133
Northumberland 1.5 -3.3 63.0 92
Nottinghamshire 2.6 -3.8 49.0 113
Oxfordshire 3.0 -3.3 74.3 149
Peeblesshire 0.4 -3.4 69.6 68
Pembrokeshire 4.0 -2.6 76.9 77
Perthshire 0.6 -2.6 58.8 39
Radnorshire 1.7 -3.2 87.8 91
Renfrewshire 2.5 -2.8 42.8 29
Ross and Cromarty 2.1 -2.0 35.1 20
Roxburghshire 1.0 -3.4 62.8 73
Rutland 2.4 -3.7 58.0 123
Selkirkshire 0.5 -3.1 76.5 68
Shropshire 2.6 -3.5 61.6 108
Somerset 3.8 -3.0 65.3 91
Staffordshire 2.3 -3.7 51.0 87
Stirlingshire 1.9 -2.9 53.2 36
Suffolk 3.2 -3.3 46.4 104
Surrey 3.7 -3.1 72.1 135
Sussex 4.0 -2.8 64.6 103
Sutherland 1.5 -2.4 38.8 27
Tyrone 2.8 -2.8 60.1 57
Warwickshire 2.8 -3.6 52.2 110
West Lothianshire 1.9 -3.1 49.3 62
West Suffolk 3.3 -3.5 31.8 80
Westmorland 1.2 -3.1 56.1 40
Wigtownshire 2.7 -2.8 55.5 51
Wiltshire 3.3 -3.0 76.1 118
Worcestershire 3.1 -3.5 63.9 133
Yorkshire 1.9 -3.6 59.0 84

Clearly March has been extremely cold and snowy and joins 2006, 2001, 1995, 1987, 1979, 1970 and 1962 as years when March saw some significant snowfall.

The cold weather is expected to continue through the Easter weekend and into April. You can stay up-to-date with forecasts and warnings online, through our mobile apps, facebook and twitter, and through TV and radio broadcasts.

The table below lists the coldest March average temperatures on record and details where March 2013 ranks in terms of cold months of March.

Area Coldest March

on Record

(deg C and year)

Rank of March 2013
Aberdeenshire -1.4 1947 5
Anglesey 3.6 1962 2
Antrim 2.2 1947 5
Argyllshire 1.5 1947 5
Armagh 2.9 1919/1947 4
Ayrshire 1.0 1947 5
Banffshire -1.0 1947 5
Bedfordshire 2.3 1962 2
Berkshire 2.6 1962 2
Berwickshire 0.3 1947 5
Brecknockshire 1.1 1962 2
Buckinghamshire 2.3 1962 2
Buteshire 1.5 1947 5
Caithness 0.0 1947 5
Cambridgeshire 2.6 1962 2
Cardiganshire 2.0 1962 3
Carmarthenshire 2.5 1962 3
Carnarvonshire 2.3 1962 3
Cheshire 2.6 1962 2
Clackmannanshire 0.1 1947 4
Cornwall 3.9 1962 2
Cumberland 1.0 1947 4
Denbighshire 1.4 1962 2
Derbyshire 1.5 1962 2
Devon 3.1 1962 2
Dorset 3.1 1962 2
Down 3.0 1937/1947 4
Dumfriesshire 0.5 1947 5
Dunbartonshire 0.3 1947 5
Durham 0.9 1947 4
East Lothianshire 0.2 1947 5
Essex 2.8 1962 2
Fermanagh 2.8 1947 3
Fifeshire 0.7 1947 5
Flintshire 2.4 1962 2
Forfarshire -0.6 1947 4
Glamorganshire 2.9 1962 3
Gloucestershire 2.6 1962 2
Hampshire 3.0 1962 2
Herefordshire 2.4 1962 2
Hertfordshire 2.4 1962 2
Huntingdonshire 2.6 1962 2
Inverness 0.0 1947 5
Kent 2.9 1962 2
Kincardineshire 0.3 1947 2
Kinross -0.1 1947 5
Kirkcudbrightshire 0.9 1947 3
Lanarkshire 0.0 1947 5
Lancashire 2.3 1962 2
Leicestershire 2.0 1962 2
Lincolnshire 2.4 1962 2
Londonderry 2.2 1947 5
Merionethshire 1.2 1962 3
Mid Lothianshire 0.1 1947 5
Middlesex 3.4 1962 2
Monmouthshire 2.5 1962 2
Montgomeryshire 1.3 1962 3
Moray -0.2 1947 5
Nairnshire 0.0 1947 5
Norfolk 2.5 1962 2
Northamptonshire 2.1 1962 2
Northumberland 0.4 1947 4
Nottinghamshire 2.4 1962 2
Oxfordshire 2.4 1962 2
Peeblesshire -1.2 1947 5
Pembrokeshire 3.2 1962 3
Perthshire -1.2 1947 5
Radnorshire 1.1 1962 2
Renfrewshire 0.8 1947 5
Ross and Cromarty 0.8 1947 5
Roxburghshire -0.4 1947 5
Rutland 1.9 1962 2
Selkirkshire -0.8 1947 5
Shropshire 2.1 1962 2
Somerset 3.0 1962 2
Staffordshire 1.9 1962 2
Stirlingshire 0.1 1947 5
Suffolk 2.5 1962 2
Surrey 2.8 1962 2
Sussex 2.9 1962 2
Sutherland 0.1 1947 5
Tyrone 2.3 1947 5
Warwickshire 2.3 1962 2
West Lothianshire 0.3 1947 5
West Suffolk 2.5 1962 2
Westmorland 0.4 1947 3
Wigtownshire 1.7 1947 3
Wiltshire 2.5 1962 2
Worcestershire 2.7 1962 2
Yorkshire 1.4 1947 3

The full month figures for March 2013 will be available later next week and a summary of the month will be issued soon after.

March – a month of weather contrasts

18 03 2013

Winter seems to have hung on for quite some time this year with low temperatures, frost, ice and snow affecting many areas into late March. This isn’t altogether unusual as we are more likely to see snow at Easter than at Christmas. However, March 2012 was very different with plenty of sunshine and temperatures into the low 20s Celsius. How come?

Well, this time last year the UK was under the influence of high pressure. This gave us clear skies, plenty of sunshine and with a light southerly breeze, temperatures that were well above average. In fact, Scotland set an all time record maximum temperature with 22.8 °C at Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire.

Visible satellite image from March 2012

Visible satellite image from March 2012

This year, with a strong easterly wind bringing cold air from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, we have quite the opposite with eastern parts of the UK in particular seeing snow, ice and temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius lower.

Visibile satellite image from March 2013

Visibile satellite image from March 2013

The direction of the wind therefore plays a major part in what type of weather you and I will see, especially as we have the Atlantic Ocean to our west and continental Europe to our south and east. Different wind directions bring air with different temperature and moisture contents. Meteorologically, they are termed air masses and in March 2012 we saw a Tropical Continental air mass bringing dry and warm air from the Mediterranean. This year we have been affected by a Polar Continental air mass, bringing cold air from the east. The following video explains exactly what we mean by air masses.

With different air masses constantly affecting the UK, the weather is a particularly challenging thing to forecast, especially so in March. This is because in early spring the sun is starting to rise higher in the sky and the amount of daylight hours start to increase. This means we get more heat building up in the lower part of our atmosphere. The result is slightly more energy, which in turn can lead to heavier showers. We can also see more unstable air and more active fronts as a result of greater heating. With more moisture available in the atmosphere, we also tend to see heavier or more prolonged rainfall and if this mixes with cold air, more snowfall. It makes forecasting more complicated because the extra heat and moisture adds another aspect to the weather, which tends amplify the effects of different air masses.

You can find out more about forecasting snow on our website or on the following video:

Spring swing brings colder weather and snow

7 03 2013

Frosty fence

We’ve had some very mild conditions this week with welcome sunshine pushing temperatures into the high teens. However, in a classic spring swing, colder weather is on the way as we head into the weekend.

By Saturday, we will see a return of easterly winds which will bring in much colder air from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Snow is expected across some eastern parts of the country over the weekend. By the start of next week, most of the UK will see daytime highs in low single figures with some frosty and icy nights.

So how unusual is it to see cold weather and snow in March?

The UK’s weather is very much at the mercy of where our winds come from, and throughout spring we can see sudden swings in the weather conditions. If we look back to last year we had very high temperatures at the end of March as the UK was under the influence of high pressure and light south-easterly winds. This year, this week’s south-easterly winds are now giving way to colder easterlies.

What about snow?

Statistics show that snow is more likely in March than around Christmas. As we know, heat from the sun increases as we head towards summer and this can lead to some interesting weather in March. With more heat from the sun the ground warms up more quickly and gives very unstable air, which can lead to a greater number of showers. Warmer air also holds more moisture so showers can give heavier rainfall. If this combines with cold air we can potentially see some heavy snowfall. However, easterly winds tend to be dry and so substantial snow fall is not expected over the next week.

As always, the Met Office will be working with different agencies to keep Britain on the move, and to keep people safe and well during periods of cold weather. The latest forecasts and warnings can be found online, through our mobile apps and through TV and radio broadcasts.


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