UK snow: Will the beast from the East return? How much snow will we get?

It's going to get colder - but will we see snow? Credit: David Whiteley

The rumours have been floating around now for a number of weeks regarding snow due to hit the UK, just like 2018.

The famous "Beast from the East", which we all remember with freezing temperatures, huge snow drifts and days with disruptive snowfall that caused turmoil across the country.

Temperatures plummeted to −14.2C in Faversham, Kent with 57 cm (22 in) of snow reported in Gloucestershire.

The 2018 Beast from the East partly occurred due to the onset of a meteorological phenomenon known as Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW).

A few weeks ago on February 16th, high up in the atmosphere another Sudden Stratospheric Warming event took place.

Now it's important to note, these events do happen regularly and some are more extreme than others.

What is Sudden Stratospheric Warming in a nutshell?

This event takes place high in the atmosphere above our everyday weather in the stratosphere, around 30 km (20 miles) above the earths surface. Strong winds circulate around the pole from west to east.

Winds circulating around the north pole at 30km in the stratosphere. As a SSW event takes place these impact our jet steam Credit: Met Office

Sometimes, these winds slow down and in severe cases they can even reverse. Imagine stirring a cup of tea quickly, a small vortex develops. As the water slows down it falls back into the centre. High in the atmosphere something similar happens, but with the air.

As the air falls to the surface it warms up due to pressure changes - hence the name. This falling air can disrupt the jet stream - the system that provides the UK and western Europe with mild southwesterlies in winter.

The result is a blocked weather pattern - a large area of high pressure.

Now depending where this locates, it determines the wind direction we see in the UK and consequently the weather type.

Next week brings a change

For the past few weeks it's been exceptionally dry across the UK, in fact February has been the driest for 30 years.

This is largely due to the fact we've had high pressure dominating our weather - a blocked pattern.

This has stopped Atlantic Storm systems providing rain bearing clouds to move in, hence the weather has been very similar day on day.

As we move through the weekend, the high pressure system is set to move to southern Iceland, allowing cold northerly winds originating from the Arctic to flood southwards.

By Tuesday next week the whole of the UK will experience a cold wave with the return of overnight frost.

For sleet and snow, we need two things, cold air and moisture. The cold air will be in place, now we need the moisture and this is where it gets tricky.

From Sunday evening, as the cold air moves in, sleet and snow showers will begin to pepper the northern isles and north Scotland, before pushing southwards through Monday and into Tuesday.

Next week the high pressure system moves towards southern Iceland, allowing cold northerly air to flood southwards. Credit: ITV Weather

By Tuesday, hail, sleet and snow showers will be mostly confined to northern and eastern areas of England, with some affecting Northern Ireland, Wales and Southwest England too, elsewhere should stay mostly dry.

Remember, with showers they are hit and miss and so not all will see them, but where they do line up some accumulations are possible.

There is scope for more persistent snow on Monday afternoon into Tuesday and gale force northerly winds as a polar low drives in more moisture from the North Sea, although the jury is still out on this.

The Met Office is likely to issue weather warnings for these wintry hazards, you can find these here.

From Wednesday and Thursday next week there is a shift to something milder but this has consequences.

Some computer models are suggesting a band of rain will move in from the southwest. As this bumps into the cold air, it could bring a more persistent area of snow on its leading edge across the country.

Below is just one suggestion from the European computer model and we are talking about something at least a week away, so it has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Low pressure on Thursday is likely to move in from the Atlantic potentially bringing more disruptive snow Credit: - A product from MetDesk

At time of writing, there is a 20% chance of some more disruptive snow occurring next week, although there's still a lot of uncertainty regarding this.

So, in summary, there will be a cold spell with some snow showers at first and the potential for something more noteworthy on Wednesday/Thursday, but it doesn't currently seem like a bitter cold easterly flow will set up.

Plus, as we move through March, the sun starts to gain more and more strength everyday and so the colder snowy weather should become less likely.