Still dreaming of a White Christmas

11th December, 2014

So we have reached that time of year when many of us are frantically scurrying in and out of shops trying to find those last minute gifts, stocking up on festive supplies and taking a punt on whether we can expect a white Christmas.

For many of us snow is synonymous with Christmas; with cards depicting a white carpet scene and songs portraying a ‘white Christmas’. Before the Julian calendar was replaced by its Gregorian counterpart in 1752, white Christmases were a more frequent occurrence. However, with Christmas falling right at the beginning of the winter period and climate change causing warmer temperatures over land and sea, the chance of a white Christmas has been reduced. Instead we tend to experience our heaviest snowfall during January, February and March.

What constitutes a white Christmas?

Many people believe that for it to be declared a white Christmas there needs to be a complete covering of snow at some point between midnight and midday on 25th December. In fact all that is required is for a single flake of snow to fall during the 24 hours of Christmas Day at a specified location. For many years this location was the Met Office building in London, but nowadays this can occur at a number of locations across the country including:

  • Buckingham Palace
  • Aldergrove Airport, Belfast
  • Pittodrie Football Stadium, Aberdeen
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Coronation Street, Manchester
  • Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

When was the last white Christmas?

The last white Christmas in the UK was back in 2010. That year a new record was set with snow on the ground at 83% of stations across the country and snow falling on Christmas Day itself at 19% of stations. 2009 was also a white Christmas; with snow on the ground at 57% of stations and snow falling on Christmas Day itself at 13% of stations.

What is the likelihood of a white Christmas this year?

We will have a better idea if this year will be a white Christmas approximately five days before, but recent climatology suggests there is roughly a 75% chance - a snowflake has fallen on Christmas Day in 38 of the last 52 years.

Whilst there is a good chance we will experience snow falling, the chances of a typical snow covered Christmas scene is much rarer. On only 4 occasions in the last 51 years has there been a widespread covering of snow on the ground - widespread being where 40% of stations in the UK reported snow on the ground at 9am on Christmas Day.

You can find out more about the history of white Christmases in the UK by watching this new videographic compiled by the team at the Met Office.

Woman clearing snow

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