What’s ‘in store’ this Christmas?

21 12 2015

With Christmas just a few days away, it looks like the current mild weather is affecting our shopping habits during one of the most important shopping periods of the year.

Christmas is a key trading period for suppliers and retailers, and the challenge is to take advantage of the seasonal uplift by making sure the goods we want are available on the shelves.

Recent press coverage has reported that Christmas shoppers are benefitting from the deepest high street discounts since 2008 after mild weather and a disappointing Black Friday left shops with stock to clear. Good news for the savvy shopper looking for a bargain, not so great for retailers who need to respond to these challenging conditions.

While we might normally expect sales of hats and scarves, sledges and de-icers to be at a peak in December, the reality this year is that they are unlikely to be top of anyone’s shopping list. In fact, the statistics halfway through this month showed that for Wales, southwest England and southeast England it has been the mildest start to December using data back to 1960. Provisional figures mid month show that the UK average maximum daily temperature is 3.2C above what would normally be expected at this point in December. Daily maximum temperatures in the mid-teens Celsius have been recorded, when values would normally be hovering around 6-7C.

Fashion stores have been particularly affected with lower demand for coats and knitwear, while a mild autumn and start to the winter has also impacted food retailers and sales of seasonal soups, winter vegetables and hot drinks.

Predicting demand accurately is a significant challenge for the retail industry. We recently carried out some research among executives and managers in retailers and suppliers and the findings highlighted how much of a challenge demand planning is and what a difference getting it right can make.


Results from ‘Understanding the role of weather in the supply chain’

Suppliers confirmed that improving demand planning accuracy is their number one priority and retailers highlighted better on-shelf availability as a goal. Across both groups, the top factor external to their business that drives consumer demand is seasonal holidays and events.

So Christmas puts extra pressure on retailers and suppliers at a time when weather (the fourth external factor they highlighted as affecting consumer demand) can make things even tougher. With the weather forecast for the next few days bringing more mild, wet and windy conditions, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll be buying our winter woollies just yet. You can find out more about how we help retailers and suppliers with tailored weather forecast services here.

Check out our forecast pages to see what weather you can expect in the lead up to Christmas, to see if you’ll need to wear that Christmas jumper and whether you’ll see any snow on the big day.

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.

Wind and rainfall data 27 December 2013

27 12 2013

As forecast, a deep area of low pressure developed over the Atlantic Ocean in the early hours of Friday morning bringing with it a further spell of wet and very windy weather across the UK as it tracked northeastwards, crossing northwest Scotland.

Below you can see the highest gusts of wind and rainfall totals recorded at Met Office observing sites from midnight to 2.30pm on 27 December.

Maximum gust speeds:

Site Area Elevation (m) Max gust speed (mph)
Aberdaron Gwynedd 95 102
Capel Curig Gwynedd 216 87
Mumbles Head West Glamorgan 43 85
St Bees Head Cumbria 124 85
Inverbervie Kincardineshire 134 81
Valley Gwynedd 10 81
Lake Vyrnwy Powys 360 78
Mona Anglesey 60 78
Needles Old Battery Isle of Wight 80 78
Dundrennan Kirkcudbrightshire 113 77
Pembry Sands Dyfed 3 76

Rainfall totals:

Site Area Rainfall (mm)
Tulloch Bridge Inverness-shire 38
Tyndrum Perthshire 37.8
Charterhouse Roxburghshire 37.8
Kiedler Castle Northumberland 33.2
Achnagart Ross and Cromarty 32.8
Redesdale Camp Northumberland 28.6
Cluanie Inn Ross and Cromarty 26.2
Eskdalemuir Dumfriesshire 24.2
Dalwhinnie Inverness-shire 24.2
Newton Rigg Cumbria 22
Banagher, Caugh Hill Londonderry 19.4

Winds will slowly ease from tonight and we are expecting a brighter and less windy interlude over the course of Saturday and for most of Sunday with overnight frosts and sunny spells and a wintry mix of showers.

Another active atlantic frontal system is expected to swing eastwards across the country on Sunday night and Monday morning. A combination of strobng winds and moist air has the   potential to give locally significant amounts of rain which could cause the risk of further flooding.  The wind and rain are expected to clear eastward on Monday morning.

During this period of unsettled weather, people are advised to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and National Severe Weather Warnings and find out what to do in severe weather so they can plan ahead for the weather in store and make the most of the festive season. We would also encourage you to stay up to date with the latest news on flooding by checking the Environment Agency’s website for the latest flood alerts and warnings.


Was it a white Christmas?

26 12 2013

Using technology such as radar, webcams and ground based sensors combined with the expert opinion of experienced forecasters, the Met Office is able to declare that no snow was reported by our Met Office Observers on Christmas Day 2013.

Although a few of our automated weather stations recorded sleet or snow over some hills, Christmas this year was green for most of Britain rather than white.

Wind and rainfall data 23 to 24 December 2013 – Updated 1130

24 12 2013

As forecast it was a stormy night across the southern half of the UK. Below you can see the highest gusts of wind and rainfal totals recorded at Met Office observing sites from 6pm 23 December and 7am 24 December.

Maximum gust speeds:

Site Area Elevation (m) Max gust speed (mph)
Needles Old Battery ISLE OF WIGHT 80 92
Berry Head DEVON 58 84
Langdon Bay KENT 117 76
Gorleston NORFOLK 4 75
Manston KENT 49 75
Mumbles Head WEST GLAMORGAN 43 75
South Uist Range WESTERN ISLES 4 75
Plymouth Mountbatten DEVON 50 74
Solent HAMPSHIRE 9 74
Aberdaron GWYNEDD 95 73
North Wyke DEVON 177 73

Rainfall totals:

Site Area Rainfall (mm)
Kenley Airfield GREATER LONDON 53.6
Charlwood SURREY 41
Wych Cross EAST SUSSEX 38.6
Alice Holt Lodge HAMPSHIRE 33.8
Goudhurst KENT 32.2
Middle Wallop HAMPSHIRE 31.6
Frittenden KENT 30.8
Cluanie Inn ROSS & CROMARTY 30.8
Liscombe SOMERSET 30.4
Hurn DORSET 29.8
Larkhill WILTSHIRE 29.2

The Met Office at Boscombe Down, Salisbury Plain, recorded 66.7mm of rain in the 24 hours 9am 23 December to 9am 24 December. This is provisionally a new all time daily record in any month for the station – records going back to January 1931. The previous record was 62.3mm on 16 August 1977.

Today we can expect severe gales across western and northern Scotland, with damaging gusts in places, especially around the coasts.

For Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we are expecting a colder and less windy interlude with overnight frosts and sunny spells and a wintry mix of showers, so there is a chance that some places, especially the higher ground of the west and north, may see a White Christmas. For most of us though Christmas is likely to be green not white.

Another Atlantic depression is expected to bring a further spell of wet and stormy weather to the UK on Friday.

During this period of unsettled weather, people are advised to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and National Severe Weather Warnings and find out what to do in severe weather so they can plan ahead for the weather in store and make the most of the festive season.

Was it a white Christmas?

26 12 2012

Using technology such as radar, webcams and ground based sensors combined with the expert opinion of experienced forecasters, the Met Office is able to declare whether or not (YES or NO) snow fell at the following locations on Christmas Day 2012:

London (Buckingham Palace)       NO 
Belfast (Aldergrove Airport)    NO
Liverpool (Albert Dock)        NO           
Brize Norton                    NO
Aberdeen (Pittodrie – Aberdeen FC)  NO           
Hurn                            NO
Glasgow Cathedral         NO           
Marham                          NO
Edinburgh (Castle)   NO           
Albemarle                       NO
Exeter Met Office         NO           
Filton                          NO
Manchester (Coronation Street) NO           
Andrewsfield                    NO
Leeds (Elland Road)   NO                
Waddington                   NO
Birmingham (Bullring)        NO           
Watnall                         NO
Cardiff (Millennium Stadium)        NO                   
Church Fenton                   NO

Top ten: Snowiest Christmas days

18 12 2012

Snow at Christmas is recorded in two ways – the number of stations that reported snow falling, and the number of stations that recorded snow on the ground at 9 am. The two charts show the snowiest Christmases for both measures since 1959.
The snowiest Christmas in terms of snow on the ground was in 2010, when 83% of stations recorded snow.

Year Percentage of stations reporting snow lying
1 2010 83%
2 2009 57%
3 1981 52%
4 1995 40%
5 2004 34%
6 1999 30%
7 1964 22%
8 1993 21%
9 1970 20%
10 1968 14%

The year when the highest number of stations reported snow falling was 2004, when 61% of stations reported snowfall.

Year Percentage of stations reporting snowfall
1 2004 61%
2 1970 57%
3 1993 51%
4 1995 49%
5 1964 47%
6 1968 43%
7 1999 42%
8 2001 40%
9 2000 35%
10 1966 31%

Visit our website to see the full history of snow at Christmas or find out how much snow we get in the UK each year.

How do we measure snow?

6 11 2012

Here at the Met Office, we’re already being asked if it’s going to be a White Christmas and there’s always a lot of interest in snow.

It’s too early to give forecasts that far ahead, forecasting snow is – after all – a challenge which requires detailed information. While forecasting snow is one challenge, measuring it when it’s on the ground poses another.

There are several reasons for this. First of all snow is subject to the vagaries of the wind and can be blown into deep drifts, leaving bald patches of earth nearby.

Snow also melts, refreezes, and new snow can fall on top. This makes it difficult to discern how much snow has fallen at different times or on different days.

Another tricky aspect of measuring snow is that it often falls on high ground, away from where the majority of the UK population live – and also away from our observation sites.

Snow often falls on high ground but is less common closer to sea-level.

So what do we do to measure this problematic precipitation? In days gone by a manual observer (ie a human being) would go out with a ruler and measure snow on a flat surface.

But this is time consuming, limits observations (as there were relatively few manual observers) and, apparently, became a tricky operation when snow got particularly deep!

So modern technology has given us automated snow sensors which measure snow depth with a laser signal. A piece of artificial turf is the preferred surface below the laser, as it doesn’t grow and therefore doesn’t complicate readings as grass might.

It’s not all that simple though, as even artificial turf can expand and contract according to temperature, as can the soil below it (which can push the artificial turf up or down). Moles can also cause the same problem! To tackle this, our network is under continual review and calibration to make it as accurate as possible.

These fairly technical pieces of kit can’t be placed everywhere, and until last year there were less than 50 spread out across the UK.

Snow depth sensor

This year we have extended our network with 21 new snow sensors, bringing the total up to 68 – you can see the full network on the map below.

Map showing snow sensor network in 2012

This means we can get snow readings from a wider range of locations, which can help our forecasting and is useful for building records and statistics about UK climate.

It’s worth pointing out that while these additions to our observation network are a valuable step forward, the snow sensor network is still relatively sparse in comparison to our UK land weather observation network, which has 463 stations.

Fortunately this is supplemented by observations supplied to the Weather Observations Website (WOW), where anyone can give an up to date measurement of snow or even upload a picture of how much snow they have.

The very nature of our weather here in the UK means that it’s not possible to give precise information for every location in the country, but our network is being continually improved to provide the most detailed, accurate and up-to-date information available.

You can read more about snow and snow forecasts on our dedicated snow pages.

Infographic: How often has it been a white Christmas

20 12 2011

It may not look like it will snow at Christmas this year, but we’ve taken a look back at how often we’ve seen snow fall or snow on the ground on Christmas Day over the past 50 years.

For more information on snow at Christmas, take a look at our white Christmas page.

Met Office in the Media: 15 December 2010

15 12 2010

Following widespread coverage around the likelihood of a White Christmas this year, The Independent, with the Met Office, takes a look at why it is still just too early to say for sure whether we will see the ‘White Stuff’ on Christmas Day. ‘Trillions of sums, but we can’t predict a white Christmas‘ focuses on the millions of calculations and the vast amount of information we use to forecast the weather 10 days ahead.

Many news outlets continue to focus on the return of cold weather across the UK with The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian and the Daily Express.

The Met Office have also appeared on the BBC News Channel, BBC Scotland and across the BBC local radio stations, ensuring the public are aware of the impending severe weather.


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