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UK Severe Winter WX Dec 09 - Jan 10

Well this hit home with me. I thought I would post about it seeing as it is such an historical event. Apologies in advance if this is the wrong place for this post - but I looked around and this kind of post seems to be allowed in this section.

Great Britain is currently in the clutches of one of it's most severe and long-lasting winter weather events of all time. I have been receiving regular updates from my family who live in the Highlands of Scotland since the beginning of December on the weather situation. Most areas received their first snowfall of the season on December 1st last year, and after that the temperatures plummeted to -10oC. There have been brief periods of above-or-around freezing temperatures since then, but mostly their daily highs have been in the -8oC to -3oC range, and their overnight lows have been in the pipe-burting categories. In my small hometown alone, my father's pipes froze and he had no water, a local attorney's office had water pouring out of their front entryway, people's shower drains have stopped discharging because they are frozen up, and the roof of one of the local pubs caved in from water damage. This is unprecendented.

What is so interesting (or worrying, if you live there or have family there) is that with each successive snowfall, the pattern has gone on to colder lows and more frigid temperatures. They had an initial snowfall of about 2", then it froze hard, then another fall of 6" and rock hard freezing temps. About a week later another fall of around 6" around Christmas basically shut everything down - and since then they have been below freezing ever since almost. Since then they have had regular dustings and modest snowfalls to this day.

Now, admittedly if you look briefly at Scotland's latitude on a global scale, you may not be all that surprised or shocked by the weather news. However - the UK's climate is historically very temperate, with the Gulf Stream seeping on to the west coast of the country and keeping things relatively mild for the location. There are even some ornamental gardens on Scotland's west coast that have managed to foster palm trees (although they do look rather odd amidst the glaciated landscape)!

Yesterday saw the lowest temperatures so far. The lowest temp recorded was at Altnaharra, in the extreme north of Scotland. They recorded a low of -22oC (-8.1oF). Now, with the elongated period of severe winter weather, local authorities are beginning to run low on supplies such as road salt/grit - and there have been some rumours of supplies of natural gas dipping to record low levels also. They are only gritting major roads and are beginning to stop clearing secondary routes. I have never known the country to take such drastic measures.

Another interesting point of view from one who lives in the U.S. now is the source of the UK's cold snaps. Their pattern basically works the reverse from ours - as the U.S. sees the vast majority of it's cold air filter down from Canada and the north-northwest. Britain's primary source of cP and A airmasses is from the Russian continent - which means that they must have an easterly source of air for them to get this cold.

The attached photograph gives an illustration of the scale of the event. From coast to coast, east to west, Land's End to John-O-Groats, good ol' Blighty is under a full-on snow assault!!

I am wondering if any of ST's UK members have any observations or stories they'd like to share??



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Well, ! I live in yorkshire, and the lowest min so far has been -17C. The past week has typically seen -2C max and -8C mins. At the moment there is 10" of snow on the ground, with up to 12" more predicted in the next 48 hours. There has been a moderate, or high risk over Yorkshire almost every day for a month now. There are drifts up to 3ft deep near my house - but I am in an elevated position (approximately 1000ft). In the city it's not too bad, as the roads are regularly gritted there.

As you mentioned - grit is running very low and the government is now rationing it nationwide. Only major roads are getting gritted, which means to get anywhere involves driving on roads which are covered in sheet ice. The ice on my driveway (under several inches of snow) is about 2" thick, and as the snow freezes and compacts the ice is getting thicker daily. There have been several water mains burst near me, and at one point over 2000 people were left without water. For some reason I escaped this and my friends had to use my house for baths! I have given up driving now - just trying to get to the major roads involves sliding sideways and hoping for the best. My trash has not been collected for three weeks, as the roads are too dangerous for the collection vehicles, so all over my city there are huge piles of rubbish piling up on street corners.

I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime, although my neighbours say we had a couple of similar winters in the 1960's up this way. Whilst the depth of the snow probably doesn't sound that extreme - especially compared with what many places in the US have to deal with annually - this really is extreme for the UK. Our infrastructure is not set up to deal with these conditions, especially over such an extended period of time. I can add though that I work within the natural Gas market, and although the demand is at record high, and there have been supply problems from Norway, there is no real emergency at the moment, and I am not particularly concerned that we are going to 'run out' as the popular press would like us to believe. The situation seems - for once - to be being handled well, and I think we should be ok. This weather pattern is expected to continue for at least another week. If it continues much longer then gas supply may become problematic - especially as a lot of Europe is now also being hit by the Big Freeze. Many other parts of Europe will drop to 10C below average this week - adding pressure the gas supply network.
Well I live in Yorkshire as well, but I live in a city, Hull to be exact, but even for Hull the load of snow we have gotten / getting / going to get is not normal. We normally get about 1 inch, once or twice every year. Last Friday after the latest dump of snow I measured 5 inches on my decking, which might not sound like much, but is quite a lot for this city. People are still complaining that schools are having snow days for 'no reason', even though my school on Thursday we had no electricity all afternoon and still stayed that afternoon, and it was fixed on Friday.

I don't normally post here, I normally just lurk. From what Ive heard off BBC / Sky weather, instead of getting the normal weather from the gulf stream, it is coming from the East, around Russia, which is why we have been frozen since December.

If I can find any photos that Ive took since the first lot of snow, I might post them up.
Hi Karen

Quick Update from T'other end of Country namely Sunny Essex. Just to give you some stats on this Spell to put in in Context.

The first 10 days of January was the Coldest since 1894 :eek:
The CET Temperature was in negative value and even here in the Warmest part of the country my weather station came in at -0.5c for the 1st 10 days.
Some parts of Surrey & Hampshire (London's Home Counties) had 1 foot of level Snow on 5th January, and on the 9th January Deal in Kent had 5 Foot drifts. We escaped with about 15cm Maximum and the Forecasted Sunday Snowstorm last week picked up too much Moisture across the European Continant and fizzled out and did not drop the expected 25cm of Fresh Snow.

December 17th & 18th gave us around 17cm of Snow and quite a bit of Thundersnow from Sea Effect Showers (North Sea) which was 10c at the time. The Uk Meto Issued a Red Alert Warning for this (SPC Equivalent is a High Risk) Have attached that Image plus one from a very Snowy Uk!

It has warmed up a bit since but worrying signs on the GFS & ECMWF Of a New Onslaught from the North East and East starting around the 25-27th January, this winter certainly is not over yet.


Paul Sherman


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