Met Office says snowy winters could vanish for most of the UK

Snowy winters could become a thing of the past as climate change affects the UK, according to analysis by the Met Office.

The prediction is part one of a series of projections about how UK’s climate could change, shared with the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ programme.

According to the Met Office, by the 2040s most of southern England could no longer see sub-zero days.

By the 2060s only high ground and northern Scotland are still likely to experience such cold days.

The projections are based on global emissions accelerating.

“We’re saying by the end of the century much of the lying snow will have disappeared entirely except over the highest ground,” said Dr Lizzie Kendon, a senior Met Office scientist.

Don’t put away your sledges and shovels just yet, though. If the world reduces emissions significantly the changes will be less dramatic, the Met Office said.

The average coldest day in the UK over the past three decades was -4.3 Celsius. If emissions continue to accelerate, leading to a global temperature rise of 4C, then the average coldest day in the UK would remain above 0 Celsius across most of the country throughout winter.

Even if global emissions are reduced dramatically and world temperatures rise by 2C, the average coldest day in the UK is likely be 0 Celsius.

The Met Office said these temperatures are subject to variation and some years may see days colder than the average.

Its projections explore how the UK’s climate might change.

“The overarching picture is warmer, wetter winters; hotter, drier summers,” Dr Kendon commented. “But within that, we get this shift towards more extreme events, so more frequent and intense extremes, so heavier rainfall when it occurs.”

Most of the country has already seen average temperatures rise by one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and we should expect more of the same, according to the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre.

That may not sound like much, but even these small changes in our climate can have a huge impact on the weather and on many plants and animals, according to scientists.

The Met Office says there could be significant temperature rises in the decades ahead for both winter and summer.

It says the biggest increases will be in the already warmer southern parts of the UK. At the same time extreme weather is expected to become more frequent and more intense.

Heatwaves are likely to become more common and last longer, with record temperatures being exceeded regularly.

Indeed, the  average hottest day could reach a sweltering 40C the data suggests.

I should be noted that not every summer will be hotter than the last, according to the Met Office, but the long-term trend is steadily upwards, particularly if emissions remain unabated.

That high-emissions scenario shows peak summer temperatures could rise by between 3.7 C and 6.8 C by the 2070s, compared with the period 1981 to 2000.

If the world succeeds in reducing emissions, these temperature rises will be considerably smaller.