When does it start getting cold?
The cold weather is something many of us look forward to as summer draws to a close. We get fed up with the always-warm, always-humid weather and once again become excited about cosy evenings, roaring fires, warming hot chocolates, movie nights with snuggly blankets and winter comfort food. Cold homes become warmed by our heating systems and the summer duvet gets swapped for a bigger, thicker one. Temperatures begin to drop from September onwards, but when does the real cold weather hit?
When will it start getting cold?
Temperatures in the UK initially begin to drop around October to an average daily maximum of 12 degrees (compared to 16 in September). However, the lowest temperatures can usually be seen in December, January and February. The maximum temperature for these three months is around six degrees.*
You can see more information on the weather patterns in the UK in the table below. This information is based on a 30-year average, from 1981 to 2010 and is in degrees celsius.
This means that temperatures start to drop in October but December is when the cold weather really begins to set in for the winter. January and February also remain chilly until temperatures begin to rise to an average of eight degrees in March. For this reason, it’s a good idea to prepare your home and ensure your boiler is ready for winter, to keep your house warm through the coming winter.
The date that winter officially starts can change depending on whether you’re tracking astronomical or meteorological winter.
Astronomical winter usually begins near the end of December, around the 21st or 22nd, and ends around the 20th March. In this instance, winter is based on the tilt of the Earth’s axis in relation to its orbit around the sun.
Meteorological winter, however, is more of a man-made date, in which winter falls on the same day every year. Our seasons are divided into three equal months, forming spring, summer, autumn and winter. Winter officially falls on the 1st December and ends on the last day of February (either the 28th or 29th on a leap year). This time of year is the coldest in the UK.
How cold does it need to be to snow?
Snow is an elusive type of precipitation in the UK, unlike the rain, which we’re used to seeing regularly. The reason we rarely get snow is because there are specific weather conditions that must be met in order for snow to both fall and stick.
First, ground temperature needs to be between zero and two degrees celsius for optimal snowfall,, dismissing one of the most common myths that it needs to be very cold in order to snow. There also needs to be enough moisture in the air for the ice crystals to form.
Snow is simply moisture droplets that form ice crystals when the atmospheric temperature is right. Multiple crystals join together to form one snowflake, which is why their shape is so unique, and become heavy enough to fall out of the cloud and to the ground. In cool temperatures, the snow will fall to the ground and stick. However, when the ground temperature is above two degrees, the snow melts to form sleet. When the temperature is above five degrees, it forms rain.
Can it be too cold to snow?
The earth’s environment means that it can never be too cold to snow. This is because, even when our planet hits -50 degrees, there is still enough moisture in the air for snow to form and fall.
When will the cold weather end?
Based on the table above, temperatures begin to warm up after February, to an average of 8.88 degrees in March and 11.48 degrees in April. This usually means that the cold weather officially ends in March, warming up for spring and summer in the UK.
*This information is based on a 30-year average, taken from 1981 to 2010 and provided by the Met Office.