The jury is out as to whether we will get a white Christmas this year! In the UK, white Christmases were more common from the 1550s to the 1850s, during the Little Ice Age; the last frost fair on the River Thames, however, was in the winter of 1813–14.
Did you know that shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 also slightly reduced the chance of a white Christmas? The change effectively moved Christmas earlier in the winter.
Before 2006, for betting purposes, a Met Office employee was required to record if any snow fell on the London Weather Centre over the 24 hours of Christmas Day; after 2006 computers were used.
An “official” white Christmas is defined by the Met Office as “one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December somewhere in the UK”, but formerly the snow had to be observed at the Met Office building in London.By the newer measure, over half of all years have white Christmases, with snow being observed 38 times. A more “traditional” idea of snow-covered ground is less common, however, with only 4 occasions reporting snow on the ground at 9am at more than 40% of weather stations. Although most places in the UK do tend to see some snow in the winter, it generally falls in January and February. However white Christmases do occur, on average every 6 years.
Christmas 2009 was a white Christmas in some parts of Britain, with thick lying snow which easterly winds had brought over the previous week. Travel over much of Britain was badly affected by ice and snow on roads, and was made more slippery by partial daytime thaw followed by overnight refreezing. It was the first white Christmas anywhere in the United Kingdom since 2004. There was another white Christmas in 2010, it was also the coldest Christmas Day ever recorded.
In the past, the Met Office used a single location to define a white Christmas – which was the Met Office building in London – but decided to change the definition.
With the increase in betting on where will see a white Christmas, the number of locations have increased and can now include sites such as Buckingham Palace, Belfast (Aldergrove Airport), Aberdeen (Pittodrie – Aberdeen FC), Edinburgh (Castle), Coronation Street in Manchester and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The Met Office analyse data from their observing stations around the UK to provide a complete picture of where snow has fallen or was lying on Christmas Day.
According to the weather forecasters, the last widespread white Christmas in the UK was in 2010. This was an extremely unusual one, as not only was there snow on the ground at 83% of stations (the highest amount ever recorded) but snow or sleet also fell at 19% of stations.
2015 was also “technically a white Christmas” in the UK with 10% of weather stations recording snow falling. However, no-one reported any snow lying on the ground.
Here’s hoping we get one for 2019!