Predictions for snow in the UK are almost always a threat, and we all know that icy roads and poor conditions caused by extreme winter weather can quickly create disruption up and down the country. Snowfall is a challenge for both residential and commercial sites, especially where local authorities have restrained budgets for handling public roads, so there are plenty of reasons to prepare.
In the wintertime, risks increase, and footfall accessing your property and main roads can experience some form of disruption. Poor weather has caused many businesses to close when they’re underprepared for snow or ice. What’s more challenging is how unpredictably the weather can act in the winter, making preparation so critical if you want to keep your business in continuous operation.
For commercial sites, weather predictions help facilities and premises managers to make better decisions and be prepared. But how are these predictions made?
To understand how experts forecast long range weather predictions for the UK, means to first understand the broader global climate. t There are many different elements influencing the temperature, including sunlight and the ocean’s currents.
In this blog post we break down the latest winter predictions and what is expected to control winter weather forecast predictions for 2021-2022.
You can also learn why the UK Gritting weather forecasting system is industry leading and second to none.
With many historical trends set to continue, climate change has made it difficult at times to identify what the future holds. Despite this, long-term forecasting can still predict what might happen in 2021 – 2022 in different regions of the UK.
Here’s what’s likely to happen.
The key question here is – is it going to snow at the end of 2021 or at the start of 2022?
Last winter was characterised by heavy and frequent rainfall, causing flooding in certain territories. According to the Met Office, 2020 was a “year of extremes”, including record-setting rainfall throughout the winter. The occasional cold interlude caused disruptions in what has been a largely mild winter in 2020/21.
It seems unlikely that the UK will return to a severely cold winter, where the 2009/10 winter was one of the coldest recorded winters in the past 30 years. Climate projections can be a little troubled by the broader context of global warming, but the likelihood is that the UK will continue to experience mild winters.
Whilst far up north in the Scottish Highlands, residents might have noticed snow-capped mountains, the likelihood of snow across the UK is slim. Yet, the UK has been known to be unpredictable and uncertain, with snowfall often predicted only a few days before it happens, such as when the Met Office forecasted a cold snap in March 2021.
According to the Met Office, 2020-2021 was amongst the wettest winters on record, where February was the wettest it has ever been. This is likely to be part of a wider trend, with increasing rainfall expected to remain consistent throughout the winter months.
Seasonal models are public data that include meteorological information which are regarded as the most accurate weather predictions. The UK Met Office is one of the most highly respected, along with the European ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast), which has a great reputation for long term forecasting.
Data is only demonstrative of how weather patterns might look between 40-60% of the time and so are not absolutes.
The ENSO is still in i’s La Nina (the cold phase), albeit weaker than its peak, and that will influence global weather through the strong, high-pressure system over the North Pacific ocean.
Throughout the end of the last century, we saw a lengthy run of much milder temperatures across the winter season, which ended in 2008. Between then and 2013 we saw much colder periods, notably December 2010 which recorded the UKs first sub-zero temperature since 1986. After a severe weather alert during an extremely cold March 2013, winter has been mainly mild.
Except for the small fly in the ointment! In February 2018, the UK was hit by the now famous ‘Beast from the East’ which cost the UK economy an estimated £1BN per day. Yellow and Amber weather warnings from the Met Office were in place over the south of the country and later including the whole of the North West too. The freezing temperatures and blizzards caused chaos to roads, rail and air for several days with central England temperatures around -5°C and 70mph bitter winds of -15°C.
Let’s take a brief look at average winter temperatures in the UK over the past decade:
The truth is, the weather here and across every continent and country in the world is a part of a hugely complex system, which is chaotic and unpredictable. From Russia, Canada and North America, right down to New Zealand and Australia, there are a few major players in what makes the weather.
El Nino Southern Oscillation or ‘ENSO’ is a region of ocean in the tropical pacific which is divided up into regions and alternates between cold and warm phases. The cold ENSO phase is called ‘La Nina’ and the warm phase ‘El Nino’. The easterly winds (known as trade winds) travel the circumference of the earth and mix the oceans’ surface, altering currents. When ENSO changes phases and emerges up and out of the ocean, the resulting pressure patterns on the atmosphere trigger changes in the weather too. These phases are determined by changes in a specific region in the tropical pacific (usually region 3 or 4), which directly impacts the tropical weather and circulation, which goes on to affect global weather. ENSO is currently in the peak of La Nina – the cold phase until January 2021, which is thought to begin weakening in Spring 2021.
La Ninas jet stream is a powerful flow of air that travels around the entire hemisphere of earth from west to east. As it goes, it affects pressure systems, which determines surface weather. The strongest jet stream happens to extend all the way over the UK. This low pressure system that follows the La Nina jet stream in the North Atlantic has resulted in stormy but mild winter conditions both in Britain and onward to Scandinavian countries.
An oscillation is where two things move back and forth at a regular rhythm, so when talking about weather patterns, it is in regard to pressure patterns.
The North Atlantic Oscillation or ‘NAO’ refers to pressure patterns over the North Atlantic, during which block areas of high pressure, pushing colder arctic air down over the UK and some of northern Europe.
The Quasi-biennial oscillation or ‘QBO’ index are the variations of winds that blow miles above the equator in the stratosphere, laterally around the earth, changing direction every year to 14 months. When these winds blow east the phase is negative, when they blow west, it’s positive. The relationship to weather is that, when the QBO is in a negative phase, there’s a greater chance that winter will be colder.
At the moment, the QBO is blowing westward, meaning it’s positive. What’s odd is that they changed direction after just 7 months, as opposed to the usual 14. This change suggests winter will be milder.
Solar activity and the earth’s weather is only a suggested link and as yet not proven. It is thought by some that the position of a solar cycle can increase the chance of a cold winter in Western Europe. Currently, there’s a solar minimum cycle which means improved winter forecast.
So, snow winter predictions aren’t looking likely as yet, but having a winter maintenance contract in place means to insure against extreme winter weather and make sure you have a go to if you do end up needing services like snow clearance or gritting.
Our contractors are able to carry out the following winter gritting services:
With GCGRP you can enjoy a regular update on everything that’s happening and what’s coming. Our bespoke live reporting and scheduling system is an invaluable tool for your facilities manager or property manager, helping them stay completely in control, no matter what the weather brings. Our gritting services are nationwide, covering all over north and south England alike.
Below is a sample of the site we grit and snow clear in Greater London.