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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

Big snows in UK: Snowmageddon London-style

By Jason Samenow
Snow covered planes stand at London Gatwick airport, Horley, England, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010. Gatwick airport is closed due to continuing severe weather gripping Britain. (AP Photo/Sang Tan) (Sang Tan - AP)

While winter is finally beginning to assert itself in the Eastern U.S., bitter cold, wind, and snow have been plaguing the United Kingdom (UK) and western Europe for weeks. Snow in the last 24 hours has closed London's Gatwick airport through at least tomorrow morning. Roads and trains have also been disrupted.

The UK Met Office reports today:

Further significant snow has fallen across much of central and eastern Britain, the snow feeding well inland on the strong easterly wind. Official reports indicate more than 10 cm now in parts of southeast England, locally more, with between 20 and 30, locally 45 cm in parts of North Lincolnshire.

In London, a heavy snow warning is in effect through Thursday morning (local time).

The UK Met Office forecasts:

Snow will become more persistent and at times heavier in the southeast of Greater London from Wednesday evening through to Thursday morning with a further 2 to 5 cm, locally 10 cm, slowly building up during the period.

The UK Met Office's chief meteorologist Ewen McCallum explains the unusual pattern supporting such cold and snow (h/t Capital Climate):

...during November (like last winter) we have seen a large area of high pressure develop in the Atlantic, causing a 'block' to the westerly winds that tend to keep us that little bit milder. As a result this has allowed very cold Arctic air to move south across mainland Europe.
At this time of year, the long nights over the landmass of Europe cool down rapidly and so the air has remained bitterly cold. However, this air has had to cross a relatively warm North Sea to get to the UK and has therefore picked up heat and moisture. Because the air is so cold, this has resulted in snow showers forming and with the wind coming from the east, it is coastal areas along the North Sea that have seen the heaviest snow.

McCallum stated that the UK's November snows have been "the heaviest and most widespread in the UK since 1993 and the deepest November snow since 1965" . He further noted that he sees "no abrupt end" to the wintry pattern.

See beautiful pictures of snow in Britain from the UK Telegraph's reader gallery.

By Jason Samenow  | December 1, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  International Weather, Latest  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Welcome winter! Temps tank behind storm
Next: PM Update: Cold settles in, here to stay


So you think the rapid temperature fall this morning of anywhere from 10-20 degrees was especially sharp?

Consider this: On January 10, 1911 an intense cold front passing through Rapid City, SD dropped temperatures 47 degrees in just 15 minutes (55 to 8). After a gradual recovery over the next two days, a second frontal passage through Rapid City caused temperatures to plummet from 49 to -13 (52 deg) in just two hours.

Later in 1911 an amazingly sharp cold frontal passage across the central plains had temperatures fall 50 degrees in one hour at several locations.

The record (I believe) for a 24 hour change in temperature occurred on January 23, 1916. A massive cold front passed through Browning, MT resulting in a drastic 100 degree drop from 44 to -56 one day!.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | December 1, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: sigmagrrl | December 1, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

This is totally unfair! I spent the entire last winter in London being jealous of DC... Now I'm in DC and all the snow has shifted to London. Aaargh!!!

Posted by: josh28 | December 1, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I heard it got so cold so fast in Browning, MT that a huge flock of ducks got frozen into a lake. The ducks flew away, and took the lake with them.

Posted by: Langway4Eva | December 1, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Never seen it drop 50 degrees in one hour here, but there have been overnight temperature drops of 50 degrees (or a bit more), esp. in March, e.g., 86-36 in the late 1960s and from 61 to about 9 in 1970.

The London snow is sooo titillating.

Getting back to DC, I'm wondering what the CY record is for the fewest no. of 32 days or colder and whether that record is (hopefully not) doable? But... I'm not wanting to harrass Ian, who has done yoeman's work providing statistic information this year.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | December 1, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

The Chinook also causes rapid temperature rises east of the Rocky Mountains.

Much of Europe suddenly got cold right around or before Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | December 1, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Whoa, I just checked Dublin and it's snowing there which is very unusual. But it appears much of northwestern Europe is or will be getting snow and it's been bitter in Norway for the past week.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | December 1, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Even as late as Sunday afternoon, the MET Office was not anticipating a significant snowfall in London: "As we move through the week, there's a chance of snow showers and flurries in London," a Met Office spokeswoman said"

It was not until the following day that a warning for heavy snow encompassed London

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | December 1, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

In the premonition department, I traveled to Europe last winter in January when their weather had been similar to what they're getting now. After my EuroGeddan, I returned to DC for more of the same, only worse. I wonder if the pattern now setting up for Europe will cause a repeat performance in the Mid-Atlantic?

Posted by: dhb2 | December 1, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

From your lips to God's ears!!

Posted by: scienceteacher3 | December 1, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see a post with an international weather story ;)

The current winter outbreak across Europe is remarkable because of how early it started and the fact that last winter (2009-10) was also much colder than average. The continent is better known for the monotonous weather and mild winters that bless such high latitudes (thanks, in part, to the North Atlantic Drift). However, the possibility of an increased number of Arctic cold snaps was mentioned on this blog and in the NY Times article a few weeks ago:(

Anyway, lows in the low 20s in London and Paris is pretty exceptional. Last year I was in Paris the same weekend the snowpocalypse hit DC in December. Sadly, Paris only had an inch or two of the white stuff, which the locals considered extremely rare for a city that rarely gets accumulating snow. Who knows, maybe it won't be so rare in the coming decades.

Posted by: meteorolinguist | December 1, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Uh could someone give of inches for the metric-challened

Posted by: minerdude | December 1, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Amen, scienceteacher3!

Posted by: Rcmorgan | December 1, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse


1 in = 2.54 cm, or let's just say 2 1/2 cm per inch
So 10 cm is about 4 in, 20 cm about 8, and 30 cm is roughly a foot.

Now we just need to convert everyone over to ÂșC :)

Posted by: meteorolinguist | December 1, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

@meteorolinguist Yes, this seems just like last year in Europe - only earlier. I recall last year reading about a connection between the Arctic outbreaks - (that started first in Europe) then spread to N. America and East Asia. I'd be surprised to find that this year's outbreaks are confined to Europe. I will look at your link, and await the verdict of the Capital Weather Gang!

Posted by: dhb2 | December 1, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

While we're talking about snow, Lake effect snow season has officially begun in Upstate NY. 2 feet of snow is possible and it looks like there could be some thundersnow in it as well.

Posted by: Brian-CapitalWeatherGang | December 1, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | December 1, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse


Your post is most revealing because if you go to the NASA graphic of the solar sunspot cycle you will note that the sudden cold front in 1911 ocurred during a solar minimum:

After a period of three solar cycles that were less than spectacular I might add with peak sunspot numbers around 100.

It's the sun folks that determines whether we bake or we freeze.

And the last three years of solar inactivity are beginning to reflect upon the weather, er, climate.

Posted by: norcalguy1011 | December 2, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

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