All bets off for white or green Christmas

Weather models are now in range of predicting the weather on Christmas Day and the all important question of ‘Will it be a white one?’

High pressure centred over the near continent leaves the UK in a feed of very mild air from the Azores

The operational output from the GFS model today answers that question with a resounding ‘no’. A huge anticyclone centred over the continent puts the UK in a very mild SWly feed, the air source from the Azores. You would expect temperatures in London to top around 12C after an overnight low of around 5C.

The Daily Star this morning was even more bullish with it’s splash proclaiming that punters had poured money into Yuletide being exceptionally mild, predicting 15C which would give last year’s record warm period a run for its money. But they have based this forecast on one operational outcome on one model!

Anyone who follows weather forecasts knows that there’s always huge uncertainty in outcomes beyond five days. So putting faith in this forecast 16 days before the event could be dismissed as plain stupid. A closer look at the ensembles – model solutions that pick out trends of several operational runs – suggest that there is very wide spread in outcomes for the weather for Christmas Day: either very cold or very mild! And the GFS system is also hampered by lack of vertical resolution in the stratosphere.

Punters are apparently piling money into it Xmas day being 15C – but ensemble forecasts at this range show outcomes from very mild to very cold.

Taking a broader view of what happens in real life over the last few years there always seems to be a pivotal moment around December 17th. The odds always have to favour the mild weather for us though.

Earlier this month in my November review I found that there was a 55% chance of a cold spell at the end of December. My guess at this range is that the run up to Christmas will see us under the influence of high pressure centred over the near continent – a ‘phantom’ cold spell that is cold at the surface but, at 850mb (5,000ft), well above freezing. Christmas day in London will start frosty with the temperature topping out at 5C or 6C. Any proper cold spell with snow will not bite until 29th.

That’s my guess. My advice to anyone who fancies a flutter is to hold on to your money until the 17th. Or place a bet on both.

* The definition of a white Christmas used most widely – notably by the bookies – is for a single snowflake, even if it lands in the midst of heavy rain, to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December at a specified location recognised by the Met Office.

** On average, snow or sleet falls in the UK 5 days in December, compared with 7.6 days in January, 6.8 days in February and 6 days in March. White Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries, even more so before the change of calendar in 1752, which effectively brought Christmas back by 12 days. Climate change has also brought higher average temperatures over land and sea and this generally reduces the chances of a white Christmas.



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