15 Nov 2013

Which places are most likely to see #uksnow next week?

As I mentioned in my blog a few days ago, next week will see the first decent cold blast of the season, with Arctic air plunging over us.

There’ll be a notable drop in temperature with snow in places, but it’ll be nothing unusual for the second half of November.

This is in stark contrast to the stories that have appeared in the Daily Express newspaper in recent days, claiming that: “Britain faces months of freezing winds and heavy snow.”


Unfortunately, such headlines are a regular occurrence and not credible, given that long-range weather computer models are nowhere near good enough to back up such claims.

However, some parts of the UK will see snow next week, with coastal areas and hills having the greatest chance – for the following reasons.

Coastal parts of the UK

At this time of year, the waters around the UK are still relatively warm. As the cold Arctic air travels over this warmer water, it is heated from below, causing the air to become unstable.

This results in parcels of relatively warm, moist air shooting quickly up into the sky, which eventually cools and condenses, forming cumulonimbus clouds over the sea.

These cumulonimbus clouds then give heavy showers which, due to the presence of cold air, fall as sleet, snow and hail – sometimes with thunder.

The wind then blows these showers from over the sea on to wind-facing coastal areas, travelling as far as 30-40 miles inland. They then tend to fade away having lost the supply of moisture and warmth from the sea.

Hills and mountains

hilltop_snow_g_wpAs it generally gets colder with height, snow will always be more likely to fall and accumulate over hills and mountains next week.

Elevation has much more of an influence on the likelihood of snow falling than you probably think. A 20 per cent chance of snow at sea level becomes a 50 per cent chance at 150 metres up and an even greater 70 per cent chance at 300 metres.

Hills and mountains also have the effect of forcing air upwards even further than would be the case over low ground, which squeezes more moisture out of the clouds – making the showers heavier and more frequent.

Troughs – the wild card

However, despite the most likely places to see snow having already been mentioned, there is a chance of something called troughs forming.

These are more organised bands or rain, sleet or snow, which are driven by slight falls in pressure and are a wild card in these situations.

When troughs occur, they can bring snow to places that, given the weather set-up, wouldn’t normally expect to see snowfall – including inland areas right down to sea-level.

So, while coastal areas and hills and mountains look most likely to see snowfall next week, I’ll be keeping an eye out for troughs which may provide a few surprises.

In the meantime, you can stay up to date on the Channel 4 Weather website. I’ll also be posting regular updates on Twitter – @liamdutton

Tweets by @liamdutton

7 reader comments

  1. Ffyona says:

    I’m feeling positive about my chances of seeing snow next week, I live 15 miles from the SW coast at 1,427ft above sea level! First snow last year was December 4th so this will be a much earlier start.

  2. alana says:

    i trying to look to see if it will snow in the south can anyone tell me if it will xx

  3. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    Is this the Snowmail blog?

  4. Mel Rawnsley says:

    Interesting you should say ”coastal areas” more likely to see snow. I live on the edge of Morecambe Bay, but last Winter, when surrounding inland areas North, South and East of us saw substantial snowfall, we had barely half a cm. Snow hardly happened. Agree with you about Daily Express. It’s a standing joke in our house. Why do they insist on quoting ”quack” forecasters?

  5. Andrew Dundas says:

    “These are more organised bands or rain, sleet or snow …”

    Organised by whom?

    Would that organiser please organise something warmer?

  6. Andrea says:

    Last year we had snow on October 26th – and we are 20 miles from the NE coast, but we aren’t even 100m above sea level. So a much later start here, thank goodness. Not looking forward to dealing with icy pavements – and cheesed off with scare stories! It’s winter, it’s meant to be cold…

  7. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    Unless there is a ‘south wind snowstorm’ Morecambe is rarely snowy, due to shelter from the east and the north and also the marine influence. I noticed that in the winter of 78-79 when I was living there as a student, some days there was light snowfall at Lancaster University and in Lancaster too – but none in Morecambe.
    The weather pattern this autumn has somewhat resembled 1987 – when after heavy rain and gales in October there was a long chilly spell in late Nov and early Dec but followed by a mild winter.

    Wednesday’s low will be passing further to the north east than originally suggested by the Met Office. Thus I don’t expect any widespread snow. Perhaps it is keeping away until the leaves have fallen?

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