In the big freeze - but for how long?

Monday 21 January 2013, 16:05

Paul Hudson Paul Hudson

Amounts of snow across some parts of our region are the deepest since December 2010, with 21 cms being reported at Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale at midday, and a notable 18 cms in the middle of Sheffield at Weston park.

Waddington in Lincolnshire is reporting 14 cms of snow.

There are some big contrasts though, with only 2cms reported at Church Fenton in the Vale of York.

The snow, on Friday and last night, was forecast well in advance and first signalled at the beginning of last week.

But contrary to what was expected by most computer models at that time, the weather front last night did not bring a change to milder conditions, with very cold continental air now with us for the rest of the week.

Further snowfall is likely on the North York moors tonight, but for many it should become dry, with the main hazard being that of widespread ice.

Patchy rain, sleet and snow in coastal areas tomorrow will push inland to affect some areas, but further snowfall amounts will be small.

A change to milder weather will come at the weekend, with rain, preceded by some snow; the last week of January looks much milder with rain at times.

The thaw, when it comes could be rapid and with the ground already saturated from last year's excessive rainfall, flooding is likely to be a concern.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I really struggle to find any credibility in weather computer models, when the various weather forecasts are so patently wrong (After the first dump of snow... Red alert for South Wales, it was the South East that was supposed to get the next lot of snow, and the NorthWest was apparently going to be clear). We've had more snow in Liverpool today than we did on Friday. I'm not complaining about that though - I quite like the snow.

    Is it time we went back to the vague stick-on sun, clouds and snowflakes for weather reporting, rather than simulated 3-D weather previews. Perhaps, to the viewer, that would represent a truer picture of the unpredicatability of forecasting. The ever more-complex models (and expensive computing power required to produce them) just seem to provide a false/inaccurate sense of certainty.

    Despite that, I'll still watch the forecasts, just so I can tut about how off-the-mark they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I'm struggling to accept this "big freeze" statement. The last two winters have been MUCH colder. Have we forgotten the temperatures of two years ago? By comparison surely this winter has been MUCH milder so far?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    "A change to milder weather will come at the weekend, with rain, preceded by some snow; the last week of January looks much milder with rain at times. "

    However, it will be interesting to see how Piers Corbyn's comment "another Sudden Stratospheric Warming and quite likley even heavier snow in UK, Ireland and Europe at end Jan/start Feb still stands" pans out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Children just aren't going to know what snow is!

    More seriously, these situations always cling on a few days longer than the models expect due to how deep the cold penetrates into the ground and buildings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Yes quite a different prospect offered by the MO-BBC compared to both Weatheraction and Exacta Weather and it will be very interesting to see what happens at the weekend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Strange, my MO local web weather forecast, for the NE Coast of England, is showing much lower temperatures on Friday.
    The wonderful BBC extended forecast is showing a high temp. between -1c and +9c on Saturday and 1c and +11c on Sunday, during the day, and a low of between -4c and +7c on Saturday and the same on Sunday, during the night. So on that basis, there still seems to be a lot of uncertainty. It's possible that the high might be lower than the low!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Yes--the MO are good at covering a variety of options.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I see that the Norwegian MO are, for the West-Central Grsmpians, going for low double figure frosts on Thursday -Friday this week, followed by much milder conditions coming in on Saturday and continue to warm up into the middle of the following week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Piers Corbyn's accuracy for January is very much open to question. I have a copy of his forecast. He forecast very well the heavy snow in the last few days, in a period he quotes 17-21 Jan. No arguments with that one.
    But he got it badly wrong during first 2 weeks of January, forecasting cold and wintry showers when in fact temperatures were for a time in double figures totally missing the mild spell. And he also is forecasting the rest of January into early Feb will stay cold or very cold. Paul's blog is suggesting a thaw from the weekend (which could be wrong because it hasn't happened yet).
    It seems to me that weather action has forecast cold and snow risk for vitually the whole of January, so its very easy for him to claim success if snow does arrive in one period, conveniently forgetting the other bits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    We are now 3 days into this forecast so judge for yourself if it was correct. Doesn't seem to mention the snow we had in the Southwest.

    Met Office UK Outlook for Saturday 19 Jan 2013 to Monday 28 Jan 2013:

    "Some uncertainty in the details of the forecast, however through the weekend there should be a good deal of dry and bright weather, but with the risk of snow showers in the east and southeast. More unsettled in the west with spells of rain and snow, which may spread further east on Sunday. Cold or very cold with widespread frost, and the risk of ice. Probably turning more unsettled thereafter, with spells of rain, heavy at times in the west and southwest, and some hill snow, which could fall to lower levels at times in the north and east. Best of drier weather in eastern areas. Frost overnight, and most areas staying cold or rather cold, although perhaps occasionally near normal in the west and southwest."

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Gadgetfiend - At least Mr Corbyn has had some success unlike some other websites. I agree he is often too quick to jump on the cold cold cold bandwagon but other people/websites are obsessed with the total opposite. Forcasting as far ahead as he does is always going to have varying degrees of success but surely it is better to over rather than under prepare for cold, possibly disruptive weather! It is winter afterall. As for this weekend onwards, Paul's blog got it wrong in december's "beast from the east" post so it is also possible that the thaw may not materialise either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    #10. - oldgifford wrote:
    "We are now 3 days into this forecast so judge for yourself if it was correct. Doesn't seem to mention the snow we had in the Southwest."

    Or in the North East!

    Personally I think these UK summary forecasts are too vague in their locations and timing. It isn't entirely clear which parts of the country are being referred to or exactly when they apply either.
    I don't see how such a forecast can be evaluated.
    We certainly didn't have any "dry and bright weather" in the North East.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    HadCRUT3 & 4 anomaly figures for December:

    Global = 0.233c, compared with 0.482c for November (-0.249c)
    N.H. = 0.177c, compared with 0.591c for November (-0.414c)
    S.H. = 0.289c, compared with 0.372c for November (-0.083c)

    Global = 0.269c, compared with 0.518c for November (-0.249c)
    N.H. = 0.230c, compared with 0.639c for November (-0.409c)
    S.H. = 0.309c, compared with 0.400c for November (-0.091c)

    The annual data files shows 2012 as 0.394c for HadCRUT3 and 0.434c for HadCRUT4, but I am not sure if these have been updated with the latest monthly figures. The simple average of the monthly figures work out at 0.403c for HadCRUT3 and 0.436c for HadCRUT4.

    The HadCRUT figures are broadly in line with NASA/GISS and NCDC/NOAA.

    The CRU versions of the data files don't seem to have been upated yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Good luck tonight in Birmingham Paul. Hope it doesn't get snowed off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    13. QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    "HadCRUT3 & 4 anomaly figures for December:"

    Thanks QV, not had chance to look, but with HadSST3 at 0.347c down from 0.409c I think there has to be a quite a change in CRUTEM.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    #15. - greensand wrote:
    "Thanks QV, not had chance to look, but with HadSST3 at 0.347c down from 0.409c I think there has to be a quite a change in CRUTEM."

    Crutem3 is down from 0.817c to 0.341c globally and from 0.895c to 0.022c in the N.H. I think mainly due to cold temperatures over Russia. I haven't had a chance to check how this ranks in historical terms, but that seems like a very big fall.
    I know it isn't unprecedented but the fall in global temperatures must be pretty unusual, equivalent to about 1/3 of global warming since pre-industrial times.
    The question which arises in my mind, is where has the heat gone?
    It hasn't gone into the ocean surface, and I don't think it could have gone into the deeper oceans.
    I know that the Sudden Stratospheric Warming has recently been blamed for colder temperatures in the U.K. but I haven't heard it mentioned in relation to global or N.H. temperatures.
    I wonder how SSW relates to global atmospheric temperatures at a lower level, and how much the stratosphere would have to warm in order to account for a 0.25c fall in global surface temperatures.
    Or has the missing heat merely moved to somewhere that we are not currently measuring it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Im really enjoying this mediterranean climate with hotter drier summers and milder winters with snow a thing of the past

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    16. QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    “Crutem3 is down from 0.817c to 0.341c globally and from 0.895c to 0.022c in the N.H.”

    Yup there is also a similar change in CRUTEM4, down from 0.854c to 0.233c. Land surface datasets do tend to jump around a lot, but this is a little bit unexpected.

    Re your point about the NH and Russia is this supported with CRUTEM4 reporting a lower anomaly than its predecessor CRUTEM3? I seem to recall that the change was needed to include more stations in Russia and Canada?

    Not had a look at the NH for CRUTEM4 should be interesting.

    Also SSWs yet still very much an enigma to me, keeping a watching brief.

    Must have a look at CRUTEM4 - NH

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    CRUTEM4 NH down from 0.916c to 0.028c, so slightly higher than CT3. So pop goes the inclusion of new Russlie thermos as a reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Message 2
    December 2012 recorded average temperatures for the UK overall. The January 2013 temperature will probably be around 1 Celsius below normal.


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I worked as a forecaster with the Met Office for nearly 15 years locally and at the international unit, after graduating with first class honours in Geophysics and Planetary physics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1992. I then joined the BBC in October 2007, where I divide my time between forecasting and reporting on stories about climate change and its implications for people's everyday lives.

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