It is that time of the year again, woohoo (sorry I do love winter) where winter is nearly open us, OK yes there is the small matter of Autumn to get out of the way first but…. one thing I do want to say before we go into more detail is that I do expect a colder than average winter and I also expect more snow events compared to previous winters.
I do however have to disagree with some of the headlines doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment, headlines such as ‘Coldest winter in 30 years’ and ‘The beast from the east is coming back’.
My techniques at reading long range data and climatological data have proved pretty accurate in the past but to make such claims on specific events such as a beast from the east would be silly. You simply cannot predict such a setup at this range, unless you have a crystal ball (no I don’t have one guys).
Last year was a very disappointing winter for cold and snow weather fans, numerous times we where close to unlocking some very cold weather, however we always ended up on the wrong side of any blocking and as a result most of the cold air went to the east of us whilst we stayed in no man’s land, so to speak.
What I expect this winter is to see a return to increased northern blocking with frequent colder spells, not necessarily always snowier but colder at the surface and settled with higher pressure bringing those widespread overnight frost/ice risks and also those crisp bright winter days. The general rule of thumb in winter for the UK is to get colder conditions locked in at the surface first then further down the line look for snow..
Now in order to tap into very cold air from the east, in the form of a beast from the east, you need significant blocking and heights building to the northeast (Scandinavia for example) with very cold pooling across Siberia and Scandinavia ridging towards the UK. You need them heights to the northeast of us to hold strong otherwise the flow topples and becomes cut off. Another term that seems to be used rather frequently these days is SSW which stands for sudden stratospheric warming and in previous winters it has been linked to colder weather across the UK, but not always.
A sudden stratospheric warming event is when the wind direction in the Stratosphere above the Arctic becomes completely reversed in direction, but often just a slightly warmer than usual Stratosphere can result in the Polar Vortex at the surface being weaker, and allowing the colder air to flood Southwards across the Northern Hemisphere. Generally speaking a major SSW event can split the PV (Polar Vortex) completely resulting in very cold unstable air from the Arctic flooding south into the United Kingdom.
So this winter look out for Northern blocking and SSW (sudden stratospheric warming) events, but what I can tell you now is that there is no point in believing the headlines as you cannot simply forecast a beast from the east at this range as it takes something very rare and special in order to get one. I cannot see any signals, at the moment, that suggests it will be the coldest UK winter in 30 years either.
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