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Winter remains AWOL

Will it make an appearance?


14/01/2020

The first half of winter

Winter 2019-20 has been mild so far. According to the Met Office the provisional UK mean temperature for December was 5.1C, which is 1.3C above the 1981-2010 long-term average. That is a very significant anomaly. The first half of January has shown an even bigger deviation from the norm. The Central England Temperature (CET) to the 13th is 7.3C which is a massive 3.8C above the 30 year average.

If things don't change soon this winter could end up as one of the ten mildest on record. Is there any sign of change?

Drier period but will it be cold?

During the next 10 days it looks as though high pressure will have more influence on the UK's weather. Temperatures will depend on a number of factors. These include:

1) how far northwards the high pressure builds

2) how much cloud is under it

3) how mild or cold the upper level air mass is 

At the moment computer model solutions are showing different possible outcomes. Some favour rather a cold and frosty period. Others are going for milder and at times spring-like days with little in the way of nighttime frosts due to cloud cover.  

Snow scene in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

On balance it seems as though a couple of frosty nights are likely this weekend. However, cloudier and milder conditions probably return next week. If that happens there remains a possibility that January could be the mildest on record in the UK. The current January CET record is 7.5C which was set in 1916. 



Change in February?

The postage stamp chart shows GEFS pressure forecasts for Thursday 30th January. Each stamp represents the output  from one run in the ensemble and shows the North Atlantic region. The UK is close to the centre. Most of the runs have blue and purple shading to the north with yellow and orange shading to the south. That indicates a positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) pattern. In turn it suggests the likelihood of predominantly mild weather. 

This could change in early February but the pattern looks well established. It suggests that the highest chance of a significant shift taking place would be during the middle and second half of the month. So it could well be that the best chance of snow, apart from high ground in the north, will come during the last two or three weeks of the meteorological winter.

GEFS 06z pressure and 500hPa postage stamp

Wintry start to spring?

The mild weather this winter has not been confined to the UK. Most of the cold air has been bottled up in the Arctic due to a very flat jet stream profile. As we head into the early part of the meteorological spring the polar vortex weakens and the chance of cold upper level air moving down to mid latitude locations such as the UK tends to increase. Parts of the Arctic have been particularly cold this winter so there may be a higher than normal chance of cold snaps in the UK this spring.  

Summary

Winter has been very mild so far. A change is likely in the short term with high pressure bringing a drier and more settled period. Initially that could lead to chillier conditions but it may turn milder quite quickly. A predominantly mild pattern is expected to be in place during the early part of February. Later in the month and during the early part of the March the chance of cold and snow could increase.

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