19 Dec 2011

Christmas 2011 – green or white?

Over the past week I’ve had a flurry of tweets asking about the chance of a white Christmas, so I thought it would be nice to see what’s in store, as well as looking at how common they actually are.

Despite snowy scenes being commonplace on the front of Christmas cards and featuring heavily in festive shop window displays, widespread snow is relatively uncommon in the UK during December.

Statistically, snow is more likely to fall in between January and March than December. Sleet or snow falls on average for just five days in December, in comparison to 7.6 days in January, 6.8 days in February and six days in March.

Last year was a notable exception though, when the UK had an early start to winter, with much of the UK having significant snow in the run-up to Christmas.

On Christmas Day 2010, 83 per cent of weather stations in the UK had snow lying on the ground – the highest amount ever recorded. Sleet or snow also fell at 19 per cent of weather stations.

Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response – snow cover across UK on 25th December 2010.

So what, technically, is a white Christmas? Well, many would say it’s when the ground is covered in snow on 25 December.

However the most widely used definition is for a single snowflake, including mixed with rain (sleet), to be seen falling on Christmas day at a specified location. This is the definition used by bookmakers for the purpose of taking bets.

The big question probably on your lips at this point is: what’s going to happen this Christmas?

Well, this year is looking like a green one rather than a white one. South westerly winds are going to bathe the UK in mild air, with temperatures for many places around 9-12C.

There’ll be a little cloud and rain for western Scotland, north west England and possibly the west coast of Wales. Otherwise it’ll be largely dry with bright or sunny spells.

For those travelling over the busy Christmas period, this will no doubt be welcome news – especially after the snow and ice that blanketed the UK this time last year.

Stay up to date with the weather over the festive period at channel4.com/weather and you can always follow me on Twitter for regular weather chatter – @liamdutton

Data: Met Office

Tweets by @liamdutton