Published on 18 Mar 2013

Spring versus winter – the battle continues

Yesterday, I was passing through suburban west London on the train and one thing really stood out as I looked across the landscape. The trees are still bare. Not a blossom in sight.

I can’t remember the last time that trees lacked foliage so late into March – especially in London where the urban warmth normally spurs the buds to life even when a slight spring chill lingers in the air.

I took to Twitter to ask people across the UK whether they were experiencing the same lack of plant growth. Alas, responses were laden with struggling daffodils and shoots that were only just managing to get above ground.

Despite a very brief burst of warmth around ten days ago, much of March has seen a continuation of wintry weather.

Further snowfalls have blanketed the normally green landscape, hard frosts have frozen the ground solid and there’s been wind chill more akin to mid-January.

As I explained in my blog last week, the jet stream is unusually far south at the moment – over Iberia and northern Africa when it should be across Scotland and Scandinavia.

The result of this has been cold air sitting persistently over much of western Europe, keeping us firmly within winter’s icy grip.

What can be expected this week?

This week, the UK is going to be the battle ground between winter and spring, with milder air sitting to the south west and colder air lurking to the north east.

During the next five days, the colder air is going to have the upper hand, with the coldest weather across Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern parts of England.

In these areas, further heavy snow is likely at times – especially for eastern Scotland and north east England (mainly north of the Humber), where 5-10cm could fall at low levels and 10-20cm over the hills and mountains.

Adding to this will be the effect of a brisk and raw easterly wind, drifting the snow around giving poor visibility.

For the rest of England, along with Wales, whilst chilly, it won’t be as cold as further north. However, heavier showers could still be wintry at times with a covering of snow possible – mainly overnight when it’s colder.

When will it get warmer?

There are signs that next week will see the jet stream move further northwards – closer to where it should be at this time of year.

As a result, it would bring warmer air in off the Atlantic and push winter across the North Sea into Scandinavia, with temperatures closer to average at 8-12C.

This would mean that rain would be more likely than snow and night frosts become less likely.

However, the caveat is that winter will still lurk relatively near by with the chance that it could pounce back at any time.

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

Tweets by @liamdutton

6 reader comments

  1. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    Some are now saying cold again from next Sunday-Thursday (after a couple of milder days in west Wales, Ireland and the south west on Friday and Saturday – but also likely blizzards from Staffs and Derby northwards on those days).

    Looks like it could be the coldest UK March since 1970.

  2. James says:

    Could you please explain why we are experiencing an unususual dominance of easterly wind in 2013? It should be 70% westerlies. But it feels closer to 85% easterlies. Is this weird? And why is it happening? Thanks!

    1. Liam Dutton says:

      Hi James,

      I discussed why the cold weather was lingering on Friday evening’s programme. Here’s a link to the video.

  3. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    In the absence of any other responses so far, I’d suggest that easterly winds are more frequent in Spring than in other seasons for the UK, and that Marches like this one are not unprecedented (though we have just had a run of six mild Marches).

    This is without doubt the coldest March since 1970, which recorded a mean of 2.9 C. It could even turn out as cold as 1970, given the harsh weather from Friday to Monday (good job it isn’t Easter this weekend).

  4. Jocelyn Ireson-Paine says:

    We’ve been told that the recent wet and cold summers have been because the jet stream was in the wrong place. Now it seems that spring is cold for the same reason. It’s the fourth year that we’ve had snow in winter (in Oxford), and this year, we’re still getting snow late into March. One forecaster said that we’re getting the weather that Iceland would normally have. Is this Icelandification of our climate becoming permanent?

    1. Liam Dutton says:

      Hi Jocelyn,

      The jet stream is driven by temperature contrasts between the poles and equator, steered from west to east by the spinning of the earth (coriolis effect). As temperature contrasts change through the year as we move from season to season, its average position shifts generally northwards in summer and southwards in winter.

      However, as well as this natural variability, there are other climatic factors that can influence its position – El Nino etc. There are also reasonable theories to suggest that a warming Arctic affects the jet stream, causing it to weaken and wave around more, getting stuck in the same place for a long time – giving more extremes.

      The above aside, there is still a lot that’s not fully understood, with lots of research being done.

      Hope this answers your question.
      Liam

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