Winter 2011/12 Forecasts

Time for the annual round-up of various forecasts for the coming winter in Britain. Let's see if anyone does better than they did last year!

My own thoughts are that we will see some cold and perhaps snowy weather, most likely in December and January, but that for most people it will be nowhere near as harsh as last winter. We could see more milder, stormier, conditions at times as well. In other words, a normal mix of normal weather. Though like last year I also suspect we'll see an early spring set in in February. And that's based mostly on gut feeling. Sod's Law further suggests that after so much money spent by authorities preparing in case of a repeat of last December (remember than much of last January and February were mild and largely frost free - it was not a cold winter) it will be a mild and wet winter. With complaints about why more wasn't spent on flood defences .....

So to the forecasts:

The one which has recieved most publicity so far has been that produced by a guy called James Madden - of whom I know nothing about. He runs a website called Exacta Weather. This was published on 2nd September:

As we head towards winter, I expect to see the first signs of some moderate to heavy snowfalls as early as October or November in certain parts of the UK. In terms of the meteorological winter, I expect December, January, and February to experience below average temperatures, with the heaviest snowfalls occurring within the time frame of November to January across many parts of the UK.

The most important factor within our weather forecasting calculations is solar activity and other major natural factors that it influences. Radiant energy from the sun is the primary influence on both the earth's ocean and atmosphere.

Low solar activity and ocean behaviour alter atmospheric circulation and block jet stream patterns that create enhanced moisture in terms of snowfall. The UK and Ireland is hit by prolonged periods of extreme cold and snow from the Arctic regions, as cold easterlies or north-easterlies develop. Huge swirly low pressure systems also offer the potential for widespread disruption from heavy snowfall across many parts of the UK including the South, as they clash with the predominant cold air over the UK.

Coupled with other in depth factors such as recent volcanic activity and changes to the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic drift that we consider, this does not bode well for the severity of the UK and Northern European winter of 2011-12. Frequent and prolonged cold spells with heavy dumps of snow from blizzard like conditions is likely across many parts of the UK. The areas we expect to be worse hit throughout include the vast majority of Scotland and the Scottish Highlands, Northern England, and Northern Ireland. We have particular concerns as to the huge implications that this may pose to the infrastructure of the UK and Ireland transportation systems/economy.

With an update on the 24th September:
"I expect the most frequent and heavy snowfalls to occur across many parts of the UK during NOVEMBER, DECEMBER, and JANUARY" at present. I initially expect frequent and significant snowfalls across many northern regions and Scotland throughout this winter. Any earlier snowfall is likely to be more confined to northern and western parts of the UK, although large scale low pressure systems also offer the potential for significant snowfalls to many parts of the UK.

I also expect NOVEMBER, DECEMBER, JANUARY, and FEBRUARY to feature largely below-average temperatures across many parts of the UK, it is likely that temperature and snowfall records will be broken within this defined time frame. I initially expect temperatures to really struggle across many northern regions, including Scotland (Western Scotland in particular), Ireland (Northern Ireland in particular), North West England, and parts of Wales.

Piers Corbyn is, as usual these days, keeping completely schtum as regards his forecast - although no doubt you can buy it off him should you wish. All we know is that whatever happens he'll claim he predicted it months in advance and that the Met Office couldn't even get it right from a a few days out. Expect severe cold and snow in Svalbard then. And a storm in the Baltic.

Over at PWS, our old friend Jonathon Powell has been quoted a few times regarding imminent ice ages and the like by the Daily Express (the world's least accurate newspaper ever). However, on his site his actual forecast looks a bit milder:
Winter 2011-12: Occasional Wintry Weather, Often Dry in South
December – often cold, chance of snow in places

The start of winter is expected to present some contrasts for much of the British Isles. There are signals for some wet and unsettled weather over many western and a number of areas to the north. There is also strong evidence during the month for some chilly but mainly settled weather, with possibly severe overnight frost, along with persistent fog in low-lying localities. It is furthermore likely that a definite wintry episode will become established, with the potential for snow especially over areas of the North and East. Within this general circulation, some parts of northern and north-eastern Britain retain the best chance of experiencing a White Christmas. Temperatures will overall be on or slightly below average for the North, on or slightly above average for the South. Precipitation is likely to approach the long-term December norm, though some southern areas in particular may reflect notably drier than average values.

January – some cold, dry South developing

The first month of 2012 looks like being characterised by a sometimes mild North, and developing dry, at times colder conditions in the South. As a result many northern regions will often experience breezy, cloudier and wet weather but also some chillier, showery interludes - some of which will be wintry in nature. The prospect of prolonged wintry activity looks however unlikely, although occasional colder cells embedded within the overall flow will provide the North, especially upland districts, with temporary snow cover. Strong winds may also be a feature for these regions. Drier conditions, with some sunshine but overnight occasionally severe frost will be more frequent in the South. Some southern and eastern areas will witness cloud or fog formation, at times persistent, giving an overall cold feel. January’s temperatures will approach the norm or exceed it in some northern and western parts. Southern and eastern areas may be drier than the average.

February – generally milder

There are indications that February over the British Isles may initially offer some of the most unsettled weather of the entire season. Contained within this fairly disturbed pattern there are hints for occasional episodes of colder, polar maritime air moving across northern parts of Britain and Ireland in particular; this will bring sleet and snow, most especially to upland areas. There is however no strong signal for any widespread period of sustained cold. Spells of rain coupled with strong to gale force winds will also feature during February. The month will also feature some drier and pleasantly sunny passages, these most likely as the month progresses and across southern regions and the South-West in particular. Temperatures overall for the month are likely to be on or above the norm, perhaps notably so for parts of the South; rainfall also looks set to reflect on or above average values.

Looks like a good summary of the sort of typical winter weather we get in Britain then. This forecast was dated 18th Oct - it may well change.

Stewart Rampling at Net-wx has not yet released his thoughts and so far Brian Gaze has only intimated (16th Oct) that:
At the moment things look finely balanced, and although I would be surprised if the winter turns out to be very mild and snowless, the chances of average or milder than average temperatures are higher than they have been for the last few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if this winter was the mildest since 2007/08, but despite this, it’s too early to discount the possibility of another cold one. If sustained cold is to come this year I suspect we’ll see a different pattern to recent winters, with more blocking over Scandinavia later in January and February. TheWeatherOutlook winter forecast will be issued in late November. On the basis of this discussion, don’t conclude it will be predicting a mild winter because how the weather evolves during the next six weeks is a very important consideration for me.
Still, somewhat different to James Madden's thoughts!

Further forecasts and relevant updates will be added in due course. But in the meantime, the most accurate news story I've read regarding the forthcoming winter can be found in the Daily Mash!

Update 21st Oct:

Accuweather have no issued a winter forecast for Europe which can be summarised in these charts:

So basically, for Britain, a little warmer than average with normal levels of precipitation. Which is a little different to the others I've seen so far.

Update 25th Oct

Another US outfit, WSI, have this to say on the coming winter:
There are numerous indications that the cold will not be as extreme as it was during the last two winters,” said WSI Chief Meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford. “The current state of the Northern Hemispheric oceans is almost identical to that observed in October 2008, which was only a moderately cold winter. Further, we have finally emerged from the unusually long lull in solar activity that likely contributed to the extreme nature of recent winters. Lastly, the multi-year tendency towards North Atlantic atmospheric blocking has already waned a bit in 2011, relative to the previous three years. This indicates that the atmosphere is likely regressing back to the mean a bit from the recent and persistent anomalous state. So, while we do expect another cold winter across UK and Western Europe, we think that the winter will be much closer to 2008-09 than 2010-11. Further, we think that the worst of the cold across Western Europe will be in December and January, and that the back-half of winter could be significantly milderSummarising that for the UK, Nov, Dec and Jan will all be 'colder than normal'.
Summarising that for the UK, Nov, Dec & Jan will all be 'colder than normal'.

Update - 28th October

We now have a slightly more detailed forecast for the Uk from Accuweather's Alan Reppert:

Good news for residents of the United Kingdom worried about the coming winter weather. "This year's winter is not going to be nearly as cold or snowy as last year," Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert said.

Still, it's time to pull out your scarves and winter coats.

Reppert is forecasting that the coldest air of the season will blow into the U.K. in November and early December. By mid-December, Londoners will get a break from the cold that they experienced last year. In December 2010, London temperatures were 4.2 degrees C (7.5 degrees F) below normal. This year, temperatures will hover around normal, around 5.6 degrees C (42 degrees F).

In addition to the early bitter cold, higher elevations in England and Scotland will have above-normal snowfall in the beginning of the season. Unlike last year, there won't be snowfall in southern parts of Wales and England. In London, Reppert expects that precipitation totals will be close to normal. On average, the city gets around 140 mm (5.5 inches) of precipitation during winter.

Later in the season, a persistent high pressure will build over the region. High pressure systems typically push in dry and warmer air that brings in good weather. Temperatures will be above average. The end of winter will be dry. Not much snow will fall on the islands in January and February, even in the mountains.

Update: 1st December

Brian Gaze has now released his winter forecast on TWO, and summarises it as follows:

The TWO winter forecast covering December, January and February is now online and points towards a close to average winter, with a weak bias towards slightly colder than normal conditions. Precipitations levels are expected to be close to average over muc of the country, although perhaps drier further east. The forecast suggests some snow is again likely in most of the county, but probably not as extensive or persistent as during winter 2009/10. Wintry conditions are likely to develop at times during December, especially in the north, but the coldest spell of the winter is forecast to occur between mid-January and mid-February, with milder weather tending to become more dominant across most of the country later on. The winter forecast will remain online throughout the season so you'll be able to see how things are progressing. There’ll be an update on TWO Buzz on Thursday morning giving more insights into the winter forecast. An important point to make is that between 1992 and 2007 many winters were anomalously mild, not close to the long term average.

I think he may well prove fairly accurate on that one.

Funally, Stewart Rampling's Net-Wx winter video forecasts can be viewed here.

Key Points:
  • A Winter of two halves
  • Start of Winter mildest
  • End of Winter coldest
  • Rainfall close to average


  1. Accu = Bartlett = what I'd *guess*.

    Indeed Accu = dry = *maybe* something exceptional next summer...


  2. Does look that way and I guess we're 'due' a Bartlett winter. Though I'm not sure it'll be this year.


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