Christmas Weather: Not always a welcome gift!

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  • Fog close to the runway at Heathrow. Persistent dense fog just before Christmas in December 2006 saw many flights cancelled. Photo by Steve Parsons/PA News

    Monday's forecast chart, showing a mild south-westerly air flow. The fronts in the north will bring prolonged heavy rain to parts of western Scotland and maybe Cumbria too. Image by MeteoGroup.

    Christmas Eve's forecast chart, showing an expected change to colder north-westerly winds. Chance of a few snow showers over the hills and mountains of Scotland on Christmas Day itself. Image by MeteoGroup.

  • Christmas Weather: Not always a welcome gift!
    18.12.2014 17:10

    In recent years, the UK’s weather just prior to Christmas has been full of contrast, but often quite severe and disruptive. 2010 saw the coldest December in over 100 years. Severe frost and frequent bands of snow swept across much of the UK after December 17th. This included several episodes of heavy snow over the southern half of England and Wales, on 18th, 20th and 22nd December, which closed Heathrow airport on several days. The timing of the severe weather could not have been worse, as thousands of people were attempting to travel across the UK or abroad in time for Christmas Day.

    2009 actually saw similarly cold and snowy conditions, especially across central and northern areas, where temperatures remained below zero for many days at a time. There were different problems just before Christmas in 2006, when after a wet spell, a huge area of high pressure developed over the country. The damp ground, clear skies and light winds allowed dense banks of freezing fog to form. Inland parts of southern England were worst affected, with some parts of the Thames Valley seeing visibility limited below 50 metres for 4 days! Once again, Heathrow airport fell victim to the weather, with many flights cancelled or disrupted.  

    Last Christmas, saw the weather in a volatile mood, with little sign of any ‘traditional’ Christmas card scenes across the country. Instead, the mistletoe growing high in the tree tops occasionally came crashing to earth (along with the tree branch supporting it!). A succession of big winter storms tracked over the UK, bringing copious rainfall and severe gales. River levels rose rapidly, initiating widespread flooding before the end of the year. Indeed, the deepest low pressure area to pass over the UK since 1993 moved through on 23rd and 24th December, with 80mph gusts across south-east England and also parts of Scotland. 

    The outlook for this Christmas? A real mixture! Turning colder from the north this Friday and Saturday, with snow showers over the mountains of Scotland and strong winds in the north. Mostly fine in the south. Mild again from Sunday, but with heavy and prolonged rain developing over western Scotland. As we approach the big day itself, it is most likely to turn colder from the north. A few snow showers are possible over the high ground in the north-west, but many of us are likely to have a fairly fine, if rather cold day. 

    By: Matthew Dobson