Steve Connor: Atlantic winds normally save us. Not this time

Share
Related Topics

Britain's famously changeable maritime weather is dominated by the mainly westerly winds that come from the North Atlantic, whose water acts as a moderating influence over the extremes of summer heat and winter cold.

However, a large area of high pressure has developed over the Atlantic which acts as a "block" against these relatively mild westerlies. As a result, bitterly cold Arctic air has moved south over much of north-western Europe.

Mainland Europe at this time of the year gets very cold at night because land loses heat so much more quickly than the sea. North-easterly winds have brought this cold air mass over Britain, but in doing so it has to cross the relatively warmer North Sea, picking up moisture in the process and then dumping it as snow showers over Scotland and eastern England.

Ewen McCallum, chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said that the localised nature of these snow showers means that some areas, for example just north of London, have remained relatively free of deep snow, while other areas to the south of the capital have been badly hit.

Some areas in the Scottish borders have seen up to 44cm (17in) of snow, while at Kielder Castle in Northumberland, locals have had to cope with 40cm. Temperatures too have plummeted, with Altnaharra in Scotland falling as low as minus 21.1C

"Because the air is so cold, this has resulted in snow showers and with the wind coming from the east, it is coastal areas along the North Sea that have seen the heaviest snow. The localised nature of showers means that the amount of lying snow has varied greatly from place to place," Mr McCallum said.

"It is very unusual for a period of easterly winds to bring such heavy and prolonged snowfall. In fact for November, the amounts this year have been the most widespread in the UK since 1993, and the deepest November snow since 1965," he said.

"One reason why we have seen such large amounts of snow is that the [atmospheric] pressure is much lower than normal, allowing the air to rise and form deeper clouds, therefore producing heavier showers," he added.

Although the winter weather appears to have come earlier this year, scientists believe that the phenomenon is still within the range of natural variability and says little about the longer global influence of climate change.

Last year, while Britain experienced one of its coldest winters on record, western Canada had a relatively mild winter. At the same time, the southern hemisphere had its warmest year on record – underlying the regional variability of the weather.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Day In a Page

 

Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace

Gabriel Sassoon
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride