90 years ago parts of England were getting buried in snow

You might be disappointed that you haven’t had a White Christmas, but in 1927 parts of England saw some very disruptive weather with rain turning to snow later in the day, resulting in huge accumulations and causing disruption.

In the weeks before Christmas, Arctic conditions had dominated over the whole of England with a predominantly north-easterly flow. The maximum temperature recorded at St James Park in London on the  19th was -1.1 oC and in Oxford just -2.6 oC with temperatures getting down to between -5°C and -8°C at night.

A large area of low pressure developed over the Atlantic south of Greenland and then rapidly moved towards the UK and tracked over Cornwall and north west France on Christmas Day and Boxing Day as shown in the synoptic charts. This system brought a strong polar wind from the north east and the boundary between this system and the high pressure to the north fuelled the blizzard. Christmas Day itself saw fairly typical December temperatures with heavy rain, 41.7 mm was recorded at Hampstead.

By 6pm this rain started to turn to snow for central and southern England with the heaviest snow falling at the boundary between the colder air to the north and milder air over France to the south. The snow continued through the night and for some areas through much of Boxing Day, temperatures fell away and large snow accumulations built up, particularly over higher ground.

Average snow depth exceeded 1 foot on higher ground such as Dartmoor over a very large area. A strong north-easterly wind resulted in huge snow drifts, with 20 foot depths reported on Salisbury Plain. Hundreds of sheep were buried in the snow on Dartmoor, with most of them were dug out over subsequent days and survived.

Villages were cut off for days, some until the New Year. There are stories that in Kent food and other necessities were distributed by skiers and in Hampshire food parcels were dropped by aeroplane. For inland areas of southern England it became one of our most significant snow events on record. It was most severe on Dartmoor where Princetown was inaccessible for a week.

The meteorological set up was actually startlingly similar to the conditions that bought heavy snow to Wales and central England on 10 December this year. A battle ground was formed where warm air from the south bumped into cold air to the north that had been in place for several days. The limited technology in 1927 made it very hard for forecasters to predict this severe weather, in contrast with the technology that the Met Office now uses which helped meteorologists forecast the snow on 10 December nearly six days ahead and issue warnings well in advance of any impacts.

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One Response to 90 years ago parts of England were getting buried in snow

  1. xmetman says:

    I get the distinct déjà vu feeling when I read this post…
    If you want some images to give you an idea of what the conditions were like in Christmas 1927, you might like to take a look at this site: http://www.bigginhill-history.co.uk/1927snow.htm
    Happy blogging to all at the Press Office!

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