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Winter so far has brought a mixed bag of weather but there has been more snow than in recent years. Despite temperatures finishing below the average in some parts of the north in December and January, most of the UK has not been cold. The Central England Temperature (CET) finished close to average in December and above average in January. Will February bring the coldest weather of winter 2017/18?
The early part of February has brought cold weather and parts of the UK have seen snow. The TWO monthly forecast headline is for colder than average conditions with a risk of snow. That was issued on 1st February so have things changed since then?
Computer models have continued to show temperatures are more likely to be below average than above average during the next few weeks. However the signal for cold weather during the middle third of the month is weaker than it was a few days ago. In the longer term there is the possibility that a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) could have an impact on our weather. SSWs can lead to cold spells in mid-latitude locations such as the UK.
The London GEFS graph below shows forecast 850hPa temperatures and precipitation for the next 16 days. In the short term there is good agreement between the individual runs for 850hPa temperatures to remain low with values between -5C and -10C. After February 11th the runs start to diverge notably and the range of possible outcomes increases. Nonetheless the forecast mean remains below the 30 year average value for most of the period, in this case suggesting that below average temperatures are more likely than above average ones. The amount of precipitation shown on the lower half of the plot points towards an increasing chance of rain and snow. At this stage it looks like most of the snow during the middle third of the month will be over higher ground in the northern half of the UK. The graph doesn't cover the last third of the month which is when the SSW may start to have an impact.
The TWO monthly forecast is for a colder than average month and the latest computer model data continues to offer some support for that. There is also a higher than average risk of snow over the month as a whole. In recent years cold Februaries have been unusual so forecast confidence is quite low. During the last third of the month an SSW could amplify the cold theme but that is very uncertain.
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