The United Kingdom is expected to be hit by some snowy weather over the next few days with temperatures plunging below freezing.
However, data from the Met Office reveals that snow is a fairly rare occurrence in the south of England in January, with snow or sleet falling on an average of 2.5 days in Middlesex between 1981 and 2010.
This measure of snowfall doesn’t require snow to settle on the ground, meaning that days where there is a covering of white powder on the streets of London are even fewer and further between.
And, judging from the map below, snow in January is getting less common in the south of England. Between 1961 and 1990 there were between four and six days with snow or sleet in and around London, half the 2.5 days between 1981 and 2010.
In contrast, there were 9.3 days of snow or sleet on average in Northern Scotland and 9.4 days in Inverness in the month of January between 1981 and 2010.
Some areas of the Highlands could still expect to see more than two weeks’ worth of snow days in January, but, in the main, snowfall has become less reliable throughout the UK over the past fifty years.
Is heavy snow a thing of the past?
While it does seem that the presence of snow in most of the UK is getting less common as time goes by, this doesn’t mean that there won’t still be the occasional period of very heavy snowfall.
Winter 2010 saw a particularly thick coverage of the white stuff with more than 50cm of snow lying on the ground in some parts of the UK on the morning of December 2.
Even some areas in the south of the country saw huge amounts of snowfall that day, with between 20 and 30cm of snow on the ground in parts of Surrey and Sussex.
This was a comparatively rare event and you’d have to go back to the famous winter of 1985/86 to find something of similar proportions.
February 1986 was the coldest on record with Balmoral, in Scotland, getting snow on 111 days over the winter period, the most since Met Office records began.
Perhaps the freakiest period of snow the UK has had came in June of 1975 when, despite it being summer, there were flurries of snow across the country leading to the cancellation of several cricket matches.