Why is it so cold and snowy?

Ewen McCallum, Met Office Chief Meteorologist explains some of the reasons for the notable for the intense and prolonged cold weather we have been experincing.

“Normally our winds come from the west keeping our winters relatively mild. However this year (like last winter) we have seen a large area of high pressure develop in the Atlantic, causing a ‘block’ to the westerly winds that tend to keep us that little bit milder.  As a result this has allowed very cold arctic air to move south across mainland Europe.

At this time of year with the long nights the landmass of Europe is cooling down rapidly and so the air has remained bitterly cold.  However this air has had to cross a relatively warm North Sea to get to the UK and has therefore picked up heat and moisture. Because the air is so cold this has resulted in snow showers forming and with the wind coming from the East it is coastal areas along the North Sea that have seen the heaviest snow. Also by the localised nature of showers the amount of lying snow has varied greatly from place to place.

It is very unusual for a period of easterly winds to bring such heavy and prolonged snowfall. One reason why we have seen such large amounts of snow is that the pressure is much lower than normal allowing the air to rise and form deeper clouds and producing heavier showers.

Looking at the Met Office outlook there appears to be no sign of an end to this cold and snowy weather in the next two weeks, but as soon as our forecasters see a change we will let you know.”

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