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.

Warm start to November

16 11 2015

Early provisional figures* (1-15 November) show the first half of November has been very mild with maximum daily temperatures 3.8C above average for the UK

Central England Temperature data set shows the start to the month has been the second warmest since this record began in 1772.

Local temperature records have been broken at various stations with only November 1938 seeing a warmer start to the month.

There has been an absence of frosts in almost all areas, largely because a humid south-westerly airflow means the weather has been cloudy and there have been very few clear nights.


MeanTemp 1-15 November 2015

MeanTemp 1-15 November 2015

The increased cloud means most areas have seen very little in the way of sun, with levels well below normal across southern and central England and also south-west Scotland. At this time in the month we would expect to see 50% of the monthly average however very few places have had as much as this and the UK as a whole has seen just 32% and Wales has seen less than half the sunshine we would expect mid month.   In the case of southern England it has also been remarkably dull, with some stations having only had 10 hours or less of bright sunshine in 15 days.

For many the start of the month has been wet, with the UK as a whole having had 75% of the whole months average rainfall (we would expect to see 50% at this time of the month). Parts of southern & central Scotland, the Lake District, Pennines and Snowdonia are among the areas already well above their whole-month average. However it was not a wet picture across the whole country, north-east Scotland and most of southern & eastern England have had slightly less rain than would be expected by this point in the month.

EARLY mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
1-15 Nov 2015 Act Anom  Act Anom  Act Anom 
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 10.0 3.8 18.1 32 90.5 75
England 11.2 4.3 17.5 27 59.8 68
Wales 10.7 3.9 20.3 36 128.5 79
Scotland 8.0 3.0 18.4 40 132.5 80
N Ireland 9.6 3.1 18.3 34 83.1 74


For the rest of November indications are that after an unsettled week the weather will turn colder with temperatures dropping nearer to the expected average for Novemeber if not a little below.  However milder conditions look likely to return for a time at the end of the month with rain and strong winds for much of the UK.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall & sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.

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

Strongest winds overnight 14 – 15 January 2015

15 01 2015

As expected, a powerful low pressure system affected the UK yesterday evening and overnight bringing gales and heavy rain to many areas.

The low pressure system will continue to affect the UK today, bringing sunny spells and blustery, heavy showers with the chance of thunderstorms and snow over high ground. Severe gales are again expected around western and northwestern coasts, with the strongest winds likely over Northern Ireland and southwest Scotland, extending to northern Scotland later. You can see detail on this on our forecast and warnings pages.

Below are some of the strongest gust speeds recorded at Met Office observing sites between 7pm yesterday and 7am today.

Strongest gusts 7 pm 14 January 2015 – 7 am 15 January 2015
Date / time Site Max Gusts (mph)
15/01/2015 00:00 CAPEL CURIG GWYNEDD 96
15/01/2015 00:00 ABERDARON GWYNEDD 83
15/01/2015 02:00 BERRY HEAD DEVON 77
15/01/2015 02:00 AVONMOUTH AVON 76
15/01/2015 03:00 ISLE OF PORTLAND DORSET 75
14/01/2015 23:00 CULDROSE CORNWALL 73
15/01/2015 04:00 TIREE ARGYLL 73
15/01/2015 01:00 LOFTUS CLEVELAND 70
15/01/2015 04:00 SOLENT HAMPSHIRE 69
15/01/2015 01:00 LAKE VYRNWY POWYS 69
14/01/2015 23:00 NORTH WYKE DEVON 68
14/01/2015 23:00 SENNYBRIDGE POWYS 68
15/01/2015 06:00 ISLAY: PORT ELLEN ARGYLL 68
15/01/2015 00:00 PEMBREY SANDS DYFED 68
14/01/2015 21:00 DRUMALBIN LANARKSHIRE 67

Below are some of the highest rainfall totals recorded at Met Office observing sites between 7pm yesterday and 7am today.

Highest rainfall 7pm 14 January to 7am 15 January 2015
Site Rain (mm)

You can share the weather you have experienced through the ‘Weather Impacts’ section of WOW

The stormy weather we have seen over the last couple of weeks is now coming to an end and conditions over the weekend and into next week look calmer but colder with frosts at night and wintry mix of showers.

Untangling the global drivers of UK winter weather

25 11 2014

As we head towards the start of winter, which starts for meteorologists on 1 December, there’s always a great deal of media and public speculation about what weather we might have in store.

To answer that question, we need to look beyond the UK. The worlds’ weather is interconnected, and there are certain large scale global drivers which we know have influences on UK weather at this time of year – so what are these doing at the moment?

El Niño, which sees unusually warm sea surface temperatures across the tropical Pacific and can increase the risk of cold winter conditions in the UK, has been much discussed after initial signs of development earlier this year.

Its progress has been slow, however, and while there remains a good chance of a weak event by the end of the year it is also possible that El Niño conditions will remain neutral. In any case, this factor is not expected to be strong enough to exert much influence on weather patterns in Europe during the next three months.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) describes differences in the usual pressure patterns over the North Atlantic – with positive and negative phases.

A positive phase is thought more likely than a negative one on average over the next three months. This is characterised by enhancement of the westerly winds across the Atlantic which, during winter, brings above-average temperatures and rainfall to Western Europe.

As we head later into winter, confidence about the heightened likelihood of positive NAO reduces – suggesting chances of drier and colder conditions return closer to normal.

The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) sees high level (stratospheric) winds over the equator change from westerly to easterly phases – and it’s currently in the latter of the two.

In winter months this can lead to a greater incidence of high pressure blocking patterns over the northern hemisphere, which would increase the probability of colder and drier weather across Europe. Essentially this is providing an opposite signal to the NAO.

There are other factors to consider too. For example, Arctic sea ice extent is slightly below average but as yet it is not clear whether this might have an impact on weather patterns in the UK.

No single one of these drivers will determine the UK’s winter on its own – instead they all interact together to govern the weather trends we can expect over the coming months.

Disentangling these different influences remains a challenging area of science which the Met Office is improving all the time, but detailed and highly certain UK outlooks are not possible over these timescales.

The Met Office’s long-range outlooks give probabilities based on scenarios of being considerably wetter or drier, colder or milder than usual.

Currently the outlook for December 2014 to February 2015 suggests that milder and wetter than average winter conditions are slightly more likely than other outcomes. However, compared to day-to-day weather forecasts, the probabilities are much more finely balanced – for example, the outlook gives a 1 in 4 chance of the mildest scenario and a 1 in 10 chance of the coldest scenario. These numbers suggest it would be a mistake to interpret the outlook for a very mild outcome as ‘highly likely’; likewise very cold conditions cannot be ruled out.

The outlook gives similar probabilities for precipitation (rain, hail, sleet and snow), with the chances of the wettest scenario being 1 in 4 and the chances of the driest around 1 in 10.

These three month outlooks cover a whole three month period, taking into account both day and night, as well as the whole of the UK. This means that even in the event of, say, an overall mild winter we could still see spells of cold or very cold weather.

With this in mind, what exactly we’ll see for the winter ahead remains uncertain. In terms of strong winds, heavy rainfall, cold snaps or even snow, while longer-range outlooks can give us general tendencies, the details can only be predicted by our day-to-day weather forecasts.

The Met Office’s accuracy over all timescales is world-leading, however, so you can trust that we’ll keep everyone up-to-date with all the latest information on the weather whatever the winter has in store.

Cold snap expected

3 12 2013

The UK is going to see a very short, sharp, cold snap.  From Wednesday night (4th Dec) into Thursday morning (5th Dec) Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland will see some strong winds, while Scotland will see some wintry showers and snow.  However temperatures will return to normal as we head through the weekend, and be more in line with what should be expected for December.

A rapidly deepening Atlantic depression is expected to move in an easterly direction to the north of Scotland bringing westerly gales, with gusts of 60 to 70 mph extending southwards across northern and some central parts of the UK on Wednesday night and Thursday.  Northern Scotland could see gusts of 80mph, and potentially 90mph for a time.

Because of this the Met Office has issued a Yellow Severe Weather Warning for strong winds. The public should be aware of possible disruption to travel, especially across Scotland, parts of Northern Ireland and Northern England.

The winds are expected to veer northerly and bring the colder arctic air southwards across northern areas before easing into Friday. The winds could exacerbate high tides and may increase the risk of coastal flooding in the Northern and Western Isles and along the East Coast of England.

A Yellow warning for snow is also in place. It runs from 6am Thursday to 12 noon on Friday, covering the northern half of Scotland, snow showers are expected to be most frequent across the Northern Isles, the North Highlands and northern Aberdeenshire.  Low laying areas could see 2 – 5cms of snow and higher altitudes 10 – 20cms. In addition the strong winds could lead to some drifting of snow and possibly blizzard conditions on higher ground.  Icy conditions may also develop on some roads across Scotland on Thursday night and Friday morning.

This winter storm is not expected to be as powerful as those in January 2012 and December 2011

This is expected to be a short-lived cold snap, with temperatures quickly recovering to near normal over the weekend.

Our video explains what to do during a Yellow warning for wind. You can also download a weather warnings widget for your website.

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.

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.

It’s cold but why is there no frost?

25 02 2013

There’s no denying that we have seen some cold weather this winter with plenty of frost, ice and in many cases, snow. However, the last week has been cold – arguably perhaps feeling colder than any other time this winter – but we haven’t seen any evidence of this on the ground in the way of frost. So how is this possible?

For a classic frosty night we need a few ingredients: low temperatures, clear skies, calm winds and moisture. A clear, calm night gives excellent radiation conditions – by this we mean that the heat absorbed by the Earth’s surface during the day escapes readily back into space and allows temperatures to fall. If the temperature falls to the dew point (the temperature to which air must cool for it to become saturated with water vapour) moisture will condense and form droplets on the ground’s surface. When temperatures fall below freezing the droplets freeze and we get frost.

So what about the last few days? They have been cold but there hasn’t really been any prolonged or hard frost. How come? Well, much of Scotland and Northern Ireland has had the required ingredients and been frosty, but the rest of the UK has only had low temperatures. Much of England and Wales have seen a fair amount of cloud and some brisk winds.

25th Feb 2013 crop

Surface pressure chart from 25 February 2013

Cloud acts as a blanket and although temperatures have fallen during the night-time, cloud cover has stopped them falling well below freezing and therefore made it difficult for a thick frost to form. The wind is also important as it mixes the lower part of our atmosphere. Rather than having cold air pooling in one place and causing low temperatures, the wind can bring less cold air from another location or even bring it down from the upper atmosphere. This also helps to keep temperatures from falling too low. However, easterly winds this week have certainly made it feel very cold indeed!

25 Feb vis pic

Visible satellite image from 25 February 2013

Lastly, the air near the surface has been relatively dry. This is important because it means the temperature of the air must fall very low in order to reach its dew point. The cloud and wind has stopped this from happening easily and therefore reduced the risk of frost.

Cold weather, then, brings lots of different tastes of winter, especially to the UK, and we have seen nearly all of them this season. More information on all types of weather can be found here.

Cold weather across UK

22 02 2013

The start of this week was relatively mild and sunny but we have seen a change to colder and cloudier weather during the course of the week.


High pressure became established to the north-east of the UK and this dragged in colder air from Scandinavia. It took some time for the cold air to filter across the whole of the UK but over the last couple of days daytime temperatures struggled to rise to 3 °C in some places. Brisk winds across England and Wales made it feel much colder, and we saw a few snow showers across eastern parts of the country.

Will Lang, Met Office Chief Forecaster, said: “This is a different taste of winter to the snow and ice we have seen of late. These largely dry, settled and cold conditions may not be as disruptive to travel but they do present concerns surrounding the health and well being of the elderly and vulnerable.”

The Met Office issued a level 3 Cold Weather Alert in light of the widespread and prolonged cold conditions. These alerts give advance warning of adverse weather conditions, which enable people to take extra precautions to keep safe and well.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Severe cold weather can be dangerous, especially for the very young or very old or those with chronic disease. You can find advice on how to reduce your risk or that of somebody you know on the NHS Choices website, ringing NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or contacting your local GP or pharmacist.

“The NHS is well prepared for the winter and we are providing an extra £330 million to the NHS and social care services to help cope with the added pressure that the winter brings.”

With high pressure remaining in place, cold and largely settled weather looks set to remain across the UK until the end of February at least, and you can find the latest information from our forecasts and warnings, our mobile apps and through broadcasts on TV and radio.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,851 other followers

%d bloggers like this: