Winter 2023/2024: what do the seasonal forecasts say?

Winter 2023/2024: what do the seasonal forecasts say?

Since the onset of winter on December 1st, what can we expect for the rest of the cold season? Will January and February be cold and wet? Or mild and dry?

Remember! Snowfall returned significantly across several counties at the start of December, leading to farmland blanketed in snow, road blockages, and challenging access to villages... In some places, more than 20 cm of snow fell in the first few days of the meteorological winter. Cumbria was particularly hard hit.

However, commencing winter with snow doesn't assure a full season of cold and snow throughout. MetOffice weather experts suggest that while the conclusion of winter may remain slightly colder than December, it's anticipated to be drier. This scenario is predicted by the seasonal forecasts for a large part of Northern Europe.

El Nino plays a role

When this natural phenomenon occurs, climatological data indicates that winters in the UK generally lean toward being colder. However, it's essential to note: that this refers to a probability or possibility, not a certainty. The correlation between the observation of El Niño and a consistently colder end to winter isn't robust enough to predict with certainty what will follow after our winter. The jet stream (violent winds at high altitudes blowing from west to east in the northern hemisphere) may also play a role in whether or not winter conditions return to our farms.

According to the latest weather models, there's a chance of snow returning to Scotland around Christmas, potentially resulting in a few centimetres of ground cover.

Legend: Forecasted snow spreading across the country by December 23rd ©

What is El Nino?

The El Niño phenomenon manifests in the South Pacific Ocean, marked by unusually high water temperatures. Typically, in this region, the prevailing winds known as Trade Winds move from East to West. Consequently, the water temperature tends to be higher along the American coast and in Peru. When El Nino returns, the opposite happens, as this planisphere shows, representing the El Nino phenomenon in 1997.

Caption: El Nino phenomenon in the southern Pacific Ocean © NOAA

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