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White Christmas ‘more likely than normal’ after chilly December

BBC Weather: Mercury to plummet 'just below freezing'

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Almost a year has passed where the mercury has peaked to higher than average – but that long-standing record for 2022 may be incomplete as December eeks in with below-freezing temperatures. Snow and icy conditions look set to grace much of the north, Scotland and Wales in the coming days, mostly across high ground. While there is no certainty over snowfall being present anywhere across the country on Christmas Day, there are some indicators that have been factored in – allowing one forecaster to look at the very real chances with just under one month to go. Jim Dale, senior meteorologist at British Weather Services, spoke to about how December is looking and the potential for the latter part of the month.

Will December see a return of the Beast from the East?

Mr Dale had last week spoken about the potential for a Beast from the East rearing its head in the coming days, with cold Siberian wind pushing in from the east, causing widespread frost and sub-zero conditions.

With little rain in the forecast, this could present the perfect opportunity for snow, especially at the start of December when nearly all forecasters point towards the first wintry weather becoming evermore present. 

The Met Office so far has insisted this frontal system will affect only higher ground and mountain tops. Despite raised eyebrows over Mr Dale’s extreme weather conditions, he still stands by the fact that indicators point towards a cold period on the horizon.

If this prediction comes to light and the extent of a dramatic weather system becomes clearer, it will be the first time the Beast from the East has struck in more than a decade. The last time this sort of weather was present in the UK was back in 2018 – but this was in February. Before that, the beast brought widespread snow to many regions in December and January 2010/2011.

The Met Office tweeted last night: “It’s turning colder this week and easterly winds look likely to continue next week with temperatures staying below average  Although it’s too early to give specific details, a “Beast from the East” is not expected, but some snow is possible in places.”

Mr Dale told how this pattern may continue through December and added: “There is greater confidence in freeze and snow as we move through December. It makes a white Christmas that much more likely than normal, that’s for sure. Blocking high pressure equals cold and potentially freezing on the run-up.

“But we are not in December as yet. However, if it turns out to be cold, more than freezing, then it will break an 11-month run of higher than average monthly temperatures.” Speaking about how predictions for a white Christmas will become more certain, Mr Dale gave some dates of when these forecasts may become more detailed, and precise.

He added: “It’s a progressive thing. Good clues will be even as early as December 10 but the final nuances as to who might see a flake on the day are on the final seven days. However, lying snow (which is more inclined to be what people hope for) will be anytime from 15th.”

The Met Office does not specifically give snow in its long range forecast for the end of December, but it does allude to chilly conditions across the festive period. 

Its outlook from December 13 to 27 says: “Confidence remains low for this period. More settled conditions are expected, with the potential for higher pressure over the UK, leading to drier weather. Whilst temperatures may average out close to normal overall, colder conditions are possible at times, with a risk of overnight frost and fog higher than normal.”

Weather maps, however, only go up to Wednesday, December 14 but they do show a colder interlude moving in from late December 1 onwards. This blue outline, which shows colder temperatures barely shifts throughout the first fortnight of the month. This remains the same for much of eastern and northern Europe.

If the maps are anything to go by, they do show a cold blast heading across the north from the end of play on December 14, which could indicate a north-south divide when it comes to conditions. This is something often seen in the summer, with the south-east being the hottest and the north retaining milder conditions. 

While the chances of a white Christmas are not entirely gone, the Met Office has explained why snow on the big day is usually less than likely. It said: “For most parts of the United Kingdom, Christmas is only at the beginning of the period when it’s likely to snow.

“We are more likely to see snow between January and March than in December, with snow or sleet falling an average 3.9 days in December, compared to 5.3 days in January, 5.6 days in February and 4.2 days in March.

“White Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries, even more so before the change of calendar in 1752 which effectively brought Christmas Day back by 12 days. Climate change has also brought higher average temperatures over land and sea and this generally reduced the chances of a white Christmas.”

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