15 Dec 2014

Will we have to dream about a white Christmas?

There’s no doubt that many of us dream at the prospect of having snow on Christmas day to add to the festive mood, but the reality is that it doesn’t happen often – especially in southern parts of the UK.

Before I look ahead at the chance of snow over the festive period this year, I thought I’d take a look back at how often we’ve had a white Christmas in the past.

But first, let me define what a white Christmas actually is. Most people tend to think that snow lying on the ground on Christmas day would count.


However, for the purpose of those placing and taking bets, it is defined as a single flake of snow (including mixed with rain) to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December. This observation also has to be made officially by a trained weather observer.

White Christmases past

Looking back at capital cities in the UK during the last 53 years (since 1960), a white Christmas has occurred on the following occasions;

Cardiff – 4 (in 1990, 1993, 2001 and 2004)

London – 6 (in 1964, 1968, 1970, 1976, 1996, 1999)

Belfast – 11 (in 1962, 1964, 1966, 1980, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2004)

Edinburgh – 11 (in 1926, 1963, 1968, 1980, 1986, 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2010)

The last white Christmas was in 2010, when snow fell at 19 per cent of weather stations. Even more remarkable, was that 83 per cent of weather stations had snow lying on the ground – the highest ever recorded.

robin_snow_g_wpDecember 2010 was a cold and snowy for much of the UK, with some parts of Scotland and north east England having more than 50cm of snow lying on the ground early in the month.

Nowhere experienced a white Christmas in 2011, as it was very mild everywhere, with temperatures as high as 15C in eastern Scotland. Christmas 2012 had a distinct lack of the white stuff too.

Christmas day 2013 was windy rather than white, with gales across much of the country – a trend that persisted through the whole winter.

Where, statistically, is most likely to have a white Christmas?

Statistically, snow is more likely to fall 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.

The map below from the Met Office shows that during December, snow is more likely to fall the further north and the higher up you go. This ties in well with Belfast and Edinburgh being the capital cities with the greatest number of white Christmases since 1960.


What about this Christmas?

The weather in the run-up to Christmas day is going to stay unsettled across the UK, with areas of low pressure passing to the north of Scotland.

This means that the weather will be windy during the next week, with bands of rain followed by sunshine and showers.

Whilst still subject to change, the latest trend for Christmas day itself suggests unsettled weather, with a brisk wind and outbreaks of rain.

However, colder air will follow on the back side of the area of low pressure, with the best chance of any sleet or snow on Christmas day over the higher hills and mountains of Scotland.

Elsewhere, it doesn’t look like it’ll be cold enough, with temperatures likely to be around 5-10C.

Don’t forget, you can get the latest forecast on the Channel 4 Weather website. I’ll also be posting regular updates on Twitter – @liamdutton

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