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Will it be a white Christmas in 2021? UK Met Office snow forecast for Xmas - and when was last one

With temperatures dropping and 25 December just around the corner, could we be in for a white Christmas this year?

With less than a week to go, the countdown to Christmas is officially on - and nothing is quite as synonymous with Christmas as freshly fallen snow.

The UK has already experienced snow a couple of times already this year, does that mean that we could be in for a white Christmas?

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This is what you need to know.

What has the Met Office forecast said?

According to the Met Office, there is a “chance of snow in some northern parts of the UK”, so we could be in for a white Christmas after all.

The weather service says: “Northerly winds strengthen across Scotland on Christmas Eve, helping drive the intersection between cold and milder air further south.

“These strong winds will make it feel cold with the chance of blizzards over high ground in northern Scotland. In the south, mild air remains in place, with cloud and further spells of rain from the west.”

The “key uncertainty” for Christmas Day is in regards to where the boundary between cold and milder air will meet which will determine where the greater chance of snow are.

A snowy scene in Hampstead Heath on 24 January 24 2021 (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Deputy Chief meteorologist Helen Caughey said: “After a relatively benign start to the week, the forecast turns more unsettled and finely balanced as we approach Christmas. With colder air meeting milder air over the UK, the specific details of the forecast for Christmas day are still a little uncertain.

“Milder air moves northeast over much of the country by the middle of the week, with spells of rain for most at times, which will turn to snow over higher ground in northern Scotland initially.

“The boundary between the milder and colder air is then forecast to sink south later on Christmas Eve and through Christmas Day, introducing colder, clearer conditions for some.

“However exactly where this boundary gets to is hard to pin down at the moment, and is key as to where can expect any snow over Christmas, so keep up to date with the forecast for the latest information as we move through the week”.

When was the last time the UK had a white Christmas?

While you might think that a white Christmas refers to simply having snow present on Christmas day, the official Met Office definition requires snow to be observed falling for it to count.

Experiencing snow lying on the ground on Christmas day is actually quite rare - the Met Office states that “there has only been a widespread covering of snow on the ground (where more than 40% of stations in the UK reported snow on the ground at 9am) four times -  in 1981, 1995, 2009 and 2010”.

The last white Christmas the UK experienced was in 2020, however it wasn’t particularly widespread as only “6% of weather stations recording snow falling” and just “4% of stations reported any snow lying on the ground”.

The last widespread white Christmas we had was in 2010 - this was unusual as not only was there snow on the ground at 83% of stations, the highest amount ever recorded, but snow or sleet also fell at 19% of stations.

A white Christmas is actually rarer than you think (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Prior to that, 13% of stations recorded snow or sleet falling on Christmas in 2009, and 57% reported snow lying on the ground. In 2017 and 2015, weather stations recorded snow falling but none reported any snow lying on the ground.

There was no record of any snow falling at any weather station in the UK in 2018 or 2019.

The deepest snow that the UK has had on Christmas day was recorded way back in 1981 when Kindrogan, in Perthshire, recorded 47 cm.

What are the odds of a white Christmas?

While the Met Office does not predict snow this Christmas, these are the odds that we will get a white Christmas according to betting site Paddy Power:

Scottish capital Edinburgh covered in snow at the end of November (Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)
  • Aberdeen 3/10
  • Edinburgh 4/11
  • Glasgow 1/2
  • Birmingham 5/6
  • Newcastle 4/6
  • Belfast 6/4
  • London 17/10
  • Cork 17/10
  • Leeds 4/7
  • Dublin 17/10
  • Liverpool 17/10
  • Cardiff 17/10
  • Bristol 17/10

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