9 Jan 2017

Ten facts about this week’s cold weather

You’ve probably heard that cold weather and some snow is on the way later this week. So I thought I would give you the low-down on what to expect.

1. When is it coming?

The cold weather will arrive across Scotland and Northern Ireland later on Wednesday, before spreading southwards across the rest of the UK during Thursday.

2. Where is it coming from?

The Arctic air bringing the colder weather later this week will originate from Canada, which at this time of year is extremely cold. However, it will travel over the relatively warm Atlantic Ocean before reaching the UK. So whilst the air will be cold, it won’t be anywhere near as cold as it was when it left Canada’s shores.

Where Arctic air is coming from
The path Arctic air will take to reach the UK this week: NOAA

3. How cold will it be?

By Thursday and Friday daytime, temperatures will reach highs of 3-7C across England and Wales, with 0-5C across Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, it will feel much colder than this due to the wind chill from the brisk wind. At night, temperatures will fall to around -1C in towns and cities, to around -5C in rural areas – locally lower over the Scottish Highlands.

4. Will there be any snow?

Yes, there is going to be some snow, as the Arctic air will have picked up moisture from the Atlantic Ocean on its way here from Canada.

5. Where is snow most likely?

Snow is most likely across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, north west England, south west England and North Sea coasts of eastern England from Norfolk northwards. Elsewhere, there could be some wintry showers, but the risk of anything notable is significantly lower.

6. How much snow will there be?

At the moment, it looks like 2-5cm of snow is possible anywhere in the Met Office yellow warning areas (map below) – even down to sea level. Over the hills, mountains and moors in the yellow areas, 10-20cm is possible above around 200 metres. There’ll also be strong winds at times in northern areas, which could give temporary blizzards and significantly reduced visibility.

Met office snow warning map
Yellow snow warning for Thursday into Friday: Met Office

7. Is this weather unusual for this time of year?

It’s January. It’s winter. It’s not unusual for it to be cold with some snow at this time of year.

8. Is it the same cold weather that’s been affecting eastern Europe?

No, it isn’t the same cold weather that has been affecting central and eastern Europe. The dangerously cold air there originated from Siberia and as it only travelled over land, rather than a relatively warmer ocean, it remained extremely cold – even as it moved over south east Europe.

9. How long will the cold weather last?

At the moment, it looks like the cold weather will last until early next week. Thereafter, the detail becomes very uncertain. Some weather computer models keep the cold weather with us for longer, others bring mild air off the Atlantic.

Snowy field under a blue sky

10. Will it be as bad as some newspaper headlines are making out?

There have already been a few newspaper stories saying that the forthcoming cold is going to be record breaking, as well as making links to the dangerous cold across central and eastern Europe. As usual, some of these stories are hyperbolic, overly simplistic and don’t portray a reasonable representation of what to expect.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on the weather charts in the coming days and updating you on the latest information as I get it on Facebook and Twitter – @liamdutton

In the meantime, you can get the latest five-day forecast for your location on the Channel 4 Weather website.

Tweets by @liamdutton