There’s certainly been a chill in the air recently, and the change in temperature has left many people wondering will it snow in the UK this winter?
The evenings are getting darker and we’re getting closer and closer to the shortest day of the year (opens in new tab). It won’t be long before it’s time for the clocks to go back (opens in new tab) and we all settle into our winter routines, huddled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate – or something a little stronger.
And just like people have been asking when does autumn start (opens in new tab) as temperatures drop and the leaves fall from the trees, the question everyone wants to know the answer to is will it snow in the UK this winter?
Will it snow in the UK in 2022?
At the moment, there are reports that snow is expected in the UK following Hurricane Fiona. Though, as is usual with snowfall in the UK, the regions that will see the most snow will be those on higher ground.
This is because of a northerly airflow that will bring windchills of -3°C as the nation braces for the “coldest spell of the season so far”. The cold plunge is blamed on a deep low-pressure system spiralling towards Britain from Iceland, and the ex-Hurricane bolstering high pressure in the Atlantic.
Maybe time for one of these?#WeatherReady pic.twitter.com/5LnBME3CgySeptember 22, 2022
British Weather Services meteorologist Jim Dale (opens in new tab) told Express.co.uk (opens in new tab), “The cold weather will set in at the end of the weekend and looks like it isn’t going anywhere quickly. It is looking cold through next week and possibly into next weekend, with the risk of fresh snowfall over the mountains.
“However, even further south, the cold is going to be very noticeable, and there could even be the risk of the odd frost. It is fair to say the seasons are about to make a dramatic transition to something much colder.”
The Met Office (opens in new tab) explains that for snow to fall, the air needs to be cold enough and there needs to be a supply of moisture. To get cold air in the UK, there needs to be winds from the north or east, but the most common wind direction in the UK is south-westerly – making snow a rare occurrence in most areas.
If there is an easterly wind, it either needs to meet a rain-bearing weather front and turn it into snow, or for the cold air to pick up enough moisture from its short journey across the North Sea, to form showers.
When is it going to snow in the UK this winter?
According to Express.co.uk, the first proper snow of the season will fall on Sunday 2 October.
Weathertrending meteorologist John Hammond (opens in new tab) explained: “As Hurricane Fiona surges out of the tropics, this weekend it looks like sending its bundle of remnant warmth as far north as Greenland. The downstream effect will be to squeeze a lobe of cold air out of the Arctic and across the UK.”
However, the Met Office hasn’t yet forecast any snow, just rain and lower temperatures. The service explains that snow forecasting in the UK is difficult, because as it’s so cold high up in the atmosphere, most precipitation either starts off as snow or supercooled raindrops. As it falls to earth, it moves through warmer air most of the time and melts into rain.
They add that weather fronts mark the boundary between cold air and warm air, so when a weather system moves in, there will be warm air and moisture wrapped up in it. While we need the moisture for snow to form, the warm air makes it very tricky to forecast. This is because as the warm air bumps into the cold air, the air mixes together and makes the cold air slightly warmer, and the warm air slightly colder, and so then rain becomes more likely.
Therefore, there’s a fine line between who sees snow and who sees rain – sometimes a fraction of a degree is the difference between rain and snow.
Where will it snow in the UK this winter?
The first area of the UK expected to see snowfall is The Highlands in Scotland. Meteorologist Aidan McGivern (opens in new tab) has said “it will be the coldest spell of the season so far.”
In 2021, it was Scotland that saw much of the heavy snowfall and was hit by Storms Arwen and Barra, though northern England was also frequently forecast to have snow last year. The Midlands also had snowfall in late November, with the Leicester City football team’s training ground one of the locations lightly blanketed.
Southern England didn’t get nearly as much snow, and people who live in the region were more likely to see frost, bitterly cold temperatures and rain, rather than flurries. Similarly, whilst there were occasional predictions of snow over the hills and mountains of Wales, the country didn’t experience much snowfall pre-Christmas.
Will it snow in London 2022?
No snow is currently forecast to fall in London, and though it did snow in the capital in the lead up to Christmas 2021, it was only a few flurries.
This isn’t surprising in the early days of autumn and winter, as World Atlas (opens in new tab) says data from the Met Office has shown that the central parts of London actually experience less than 10 days of snow or sleet each year, and that for these few days, the snow rarely settles.
The outskirts of London as well as areas with higher altitudes tend to get more snow, as the urban centre of the capital often has a higher temperature. This causes snow to melt more quickly and makes it unlikely that snowflakes will settle.
The exception to this, of course, was the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018, which saw the entire UK experience 10 days of heavy snow in late February.
A snow covered Kensington Gardens in 2018 #photography #Snow #London pic.twitter.com/snaDy0mrDNDecember 6, 2020
How much snow does the UK usually get?
According to the Met Office (opens in new tab), the UK gets on average 23.7 days of snowfall or sleet a year. The majority of this snow falls on higher ground where temperatures are lower.
In Scotland, the figure is much higher, with snow or sleet falling on 38.1 days out of the year on average. The Cairngorms in Scotland are statistically the snowiest place in the UK, with 76.2 days of snow or sleet falling per year on average.
In contrast, Cornwall is the least likely to get snow, with an average of only 7.4 days of snow or sleet falling a year.
However, because most of this snow does not settle, the number of days the UK sees snow on the ground is much lower. On average, there are 15.6 days a year where snow is on the ground in the UK, compared to 26.2 days in Scotland.
How cold are the temperatures predicted to get in the UK?
Long-range weather forecasts show that temperatures will soon become much colder, dropping to single figures in some parts of the UK in the first week of October.
The Met Office has warned against an incoming cold front, with cold air from the north causing the mercury to plummet to 9°C in Scotland and 12°C in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The agency’s current long range forecast – which covers Tuesday 4 to Friday 28 October – predicts “strong winds probable in the north and northwest, with a risk of gales,” though temperatures are expected to remain average for the season.
Data from the Met Offices UK climate averages (opens in new tab) shows that from the period of 1991 to 2020 the average minimum temperature in the UK in October is 6.42°C and the average maximum temperature is 13.08°C.
As winter begins to draw in, the average minimum temperature in December is 1.42°C, while the average maximum temperature is 7.02°C, falling slightly in January to a minimum of 1.21°C and a maximum of 6.66°C.
Average temperatures in the UK in December by region:
- England – Minimum 1.87°C, maximum 7.6°C
- Scotland – Minimum 0.37°C, maximum 5.82°C
- Wales – Minimum 2.16°C, maximum 7.58°C
- Northern Ireland – 1.91°C, maximum 7.53°C
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