2 Mar 2016

Winter arrives in March and it’ll stay cold

Just a few days after the Met Office confirmed that England and Wales have had their warmest winter on record, temperatures have dropped and snow has started falling.

The British weather has never been one to strictly conform to what the date says on the calendar, but wintry weather arriving with jazz hands on the third day of meteorological spring is somewhat ironic.

Cold air plunging southwards across the UK, with an area of low pressure in the mix, has provided a covering of snow – mainly over the hills in northern areas, but locally down to sea level as well.

Glen Coe valley

West Yorkshire has had a tricky morning rush hour, with delays reported on the roads, as vehicles struggled in snow and ice.

However, for most places, the snow has been no more than a backdrop for some pretty weather pictures, rather than causing any notable problems.

Northern Ireland has also seen some snow, with the hills and mountains covered in a blanket of white, standing out against the green fields below.

Cold for rest of March

As I mentioned in my blog last week, it looks as though the cold weather is set to last for the rest of March, with temperatures more likely to be below average than above average.

The jet stream is likely to spend much of the time to the south of the UK, allowing cold air to sit across us jetstream_south_WZ_wpfor extended periods of time.

Inevitably, this means that there is a chance of seeing some snow during the next few weeks, although it is very tricky to forecast snow in March.

This is because the sun becomes increasingly stronger, having a greater ability to melt snow that lies on the ground.

Also, the nights are becoming shorter, so the length of time available for cooling to take place at night decreases.

Stratospheric warming event

One factor that is likely to increase the chance of cold weather persisting into early April is a stratospheric warming event that is taking place very high in the atmosphere.

High-altitude winds at 50km are likely to change dramatically, which will have the potential to impact upon the jet stream – slowing it down and making it wave around more.

When this slowing down of the jet stream takes place, big blocking areas of high pressure are more likely to form. If these sit in the right place, they can bring cold weather for longer periods of time.

However, it is worth emphasising that no two stratospheric warming events are the same – especially when it comes to the influence it has on the weather that we experience at the surface.

Good winter forecast from Met Office

One other thing worth highlighting is that the seasonal winter forecast from the Met Office this year has been good.

Great Britain, Scotland, Altnaharra, Loch, hoarfrost, snow and treeIt suggested that the beginning of winter was likely to be mild, wet and windy, with a chance of storms, before a switching to a better chance of colder, more settled spells later in the winter.

This good forecast was contrary to the hyperbolic “coldest winter in years” headlines that a tabloid newspaper has been pushing throughout this winter – in what seems to have become an annual tradition.

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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