20 Nov 2013

Express snow warnings a load of hot air

For the past week, I’ve been talking about the fact that colder weather was going to arrive across the UK, with some snow – although with most places seeing nothing at all.

Sure enough, we’re midway through the week and despite numerous headlines in some tabloid newspapers, there’s been no chaos, temperatures haven’t fallen to -15C and most of us haven’t seen any snow.

It can be somewhat frustrating to see such stories published that cause people to worry about the severity of forthcoming weather, when there really is no need at all.

To illustrate my point, I thought I’d look at an article published by the Daily Express on Saturday 16 November and compare what they said would happen to what has actually happened.



The article published last Saturday wrote with regards to snowfall: “Forecasters predict that much of the UK will see the first snowfalls of winter by Thursday.”

At this point, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t make clear which forecasters are being referred to in this quote.

As far as I am aware, credible weather forecasting services have never predicted that much of the UK will see snowfall, just relatively few areas and mainly over the hills and mountains.

Below, is a high-resolution Nasa satellite picture taken on Tuesday at around 1pm. It has had a filter applied to it that picks out snow cover on the land in bright red.


As you can see, the only places to have snow lying on the ground are northern Scotland, along with the hills and mountains of Northern Ireland, south west Scotland, north west England and Wales. Elsewhere, there is none.

This hasn’t changed as of 1pm Wednesday, with the only official weather station I can find with snow on the ground being Aviemore in the Highlands – indicative that lying snow is largely confined to hills and mountains.

Even looking ahead to the next 24 hours, the only places expected to have snow on the ground are likely to be hills and mountains above 200 metres – mainly in the north.

Minimum temperatures

With regards to minimum temperatures, the article published last Saturday wrote: “Experts warn the mercury will plummet as low as -15C (5F) overnight in remote northern areas while lows of -11C are likely elsewhere.”

frosty_tree_g_wpAs of last night, the lowest temperature I could find so far this week anywhere in the UK was -6.5C at Benson in Oxfordshire – nowhere near -11C, let alone -15C.

Even looking ahead to temperatures for the next few nights, the lowest will be somewhere around -8C for the Highlands in Scotland. Most of us will experience night time temperatures of -4C to +3C.

On both measures of snowfall and minimum temperatures, the predictions in the article have been incorrect by a considerable margin.

What appears to be the case here is that the most extreme possible outcomes for the remotest places have been extrapolated to give the impression that most of us will experience them – which has clearly not been the case.

It is, after all, November – a time of year when it turns colder and the first snow of the season is to be expected. So, let’s save the hard-hitting wintry weather headlines until when winter really hits us hard.

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

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