Winter continues to bite

  • Figure 1: Snow cover across Europe and Asia on the 20 March 2013. Source NOAA.

    Figure 2: Snow cover across Europe and Asia on the same day last year. Note there was much less snow across central and eastern Europe this time last year. Source: NOAA.

    Figure 3: Temperature Anomaly map for midday GMT on Saturday 23 March 2013. The deep purple shading across eastern Europe shows areas that will see temperatures more than 15C lower than the long term average. Much of the UK will be 5-10C lower than average on Saturday.

  • Winter continues to bite
    21.03.2013 16:43


    Yesterday marked the spring equinox, the point at which days become longer than nights across the Northern Hemisphere. However, winter continues to bight across much of northern Europe with temperatures well below average for the time of year and further widespread snowfalls expected.

    The weather pattern across Europe has often been in a blocked state over the past few months, with high pressure building across Scandinavia and Greenland. This has prevented Atlantic low pressure systems from taking their usual track to the north of the UK, which usually brings mild and fairly wet weather to north-west Europe. Instead, low pressure systems have been diverted further south, allowing cold easterly winds to affect much of northern and central Europe. Much of Germany, Scandinavia and eastern Europe have seen temperatures firmly remain below zero for many days this month. For example, the daytime high temperature in the capital of Poland, Warsaw for tomorrow (Friday) is expected to be -5ºC, well below the long term average high for mid March of 6ºC. In fact on Saturday, temperatures will be even lower, with thermometers struggling to rise higher than -7ºC. By night, temperatures will plummet down to minus double digits across much of Poland and Germany this weekend.

    Combined with the low temperatures, several significant snowfalls are expected across the continent. A deep area of low pressure currently across southern Italy and the Balkans will deepen and quickly track north-eastwards towards Romania and the Ukraine. Along its southern flank heavy rainfall can be expected, but as strong easterly winds drag bitterly cold air into its northern edge, heavy snowfalls and blizzards are likely across much of northern Ukraine and southern Belarus during the day tomorrow before tracking into western Russia overnight into Saturday. By midnight on Saturday night, as much as a meter of fresh snowfall is possible in these areas, adding to the already deep snowfields which still exist in these areas. The strong easterly wind is expected to lead to deep drifting of the lying snow and blizzard conditions. Significant disruption to transport and power systems looks very likely.

    Closer to home, more heavy snowfall is expected to affect much of the UK through the next 72 hours. A deep area of low pressure anchored to the south-west of the UK will sweep a series of fronts across the country, and these meet the colder air, snow will become increasingly likely. The first batch of snow is expected to come in later tonight as a band of heavy rain currently across south-west England and Wales begins to track north-eastwards. Areas from the Midlands northwards look likely to see the worst of the snow. Up to 7-12cm of snow is possible across the north Midlands, north-west England, Northern Ireland and south-west Scotland by the end of the day tomorrow. However, on the higher ground of north Wales, the Peninnes and the Southern Uplands more than 20cm of snow is possible and with a strong south-easterly wind, blizzards and deep drifting of the snow is expected. The snow may ease of for a time on Friday afternoon before re-intensifying again overnight. Much of the country away from south-west England looks likely to see some snow on Friday night, with Wales and the Midlands expected to see the heaviest falls.

    It is expected to stay cold into next week with winds continuing to be from an east or north-easterly direction. However, it should be largely dry for many, with any snow largely confined to eastern coastal counties of England and Scotland.

    By: Chris Burton