The Met Office has issued its official forecast for Christmas and it looks like the UK is unlikely to see a white Christmas this year.
The national forecaster is predicting a mild week in the run up to Christmas, with a risk of some rain showers in southern parts of the UK.
The outlook is a stark contrast to the recent bout of freezing weather that has gripped the country over the past week. Heavy snow fell in many parts of the UK and sub-zero temperatures were recorded in much of the country, dropping below minus 15C in some areas.
The coldest temperature since 11 February 2021 was recorded in Braemar in Scotland last Tuesday (6 December), at minus 17.3C, and the freezing conditions left many homes without power. More than 5,000 homes on Shetland lost electricity after a major incident was declared on the islands following heavy snow downed power lines.
But the “extreme” cold weather has now started to subside with temperatures becoming much milder, meaning the chances of a white Christmas now look pretty slim.
What is the forecast for Christmas week?
The Met Office is forecasting a mild week ahead that will be bright, breezy and dry for much of the UK, with some scattered rain showers in parts.
Temperatures are expected to be colder in the north from mid-week, with conditions remaining mild in the south, but the forecaster acknowledged that the outlook for Christmas Day is still uncertain at this point.
Met Office Deputy Chief Meteorologist Dan Harris said “a range of outcomes are still possible” and there will be more confidence in the forecast for Christmas weekend later in the week, but for now, snow doesn’t appear to be on the cards.
Mr Harris said: “From mid-week we expect to see a north / south split develop with colder weather arriving in the north, while the south hangs onto the mild conditions. There are, however, large uncertainties concerning where the boundary between these two air masses will eventually end up, especially as we head into the Christmas weekend.
“Uncertainty in the weather forecast details is not unusual at 6-7 days out, and the current weather patterns are heightening those uncertainties. Confidence in the forecast is unlikely to increase until mid-week at the earliest and a range of outcomes are still possible.
“However, what we can say is that Christmas Day will most likely be mild with a risk of rain or showers in places for the south, especially the far south, while any cold air and wintry conditions will most likely be confined to the north of the UK.”
As for the outlook after Christmas, the Met Office said there is potential for a more settled spell to bring overnight frosts and morning fog towards New Year, before a probable trend towards more changeable and milder conditions.
When was the last white Christmas?
Technically the last white Christmas in the UK was in 2021 when 6% of weather stations recorded snow falling, the Met Office said, although less than 1% of stations reported any snow lying on the ground.
Before that, 2020 was also a white Christmas when 6% of stations recorded snow falling, with 4% reporting snow lying on the ground. Previously 2017 saw 11% of weather stations recording snow falling but none reported any snow lying on the ground and this was also the case in 2016.
The last widespread white Christmas in the UK was in 2010 when 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.
The Met Office can accurately forecast if snow is likely on any given Christmas Day up to five days beforehand, but only around half of the years since 1960 have seen at least 5% of the network record snow falling on 25 December.
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 total since 1960, in 1981, 1995, 2009 and 2010.