UK: sunny day after the snow

Between Thursday and Friday snow has fallen in many areas, especially in England, with more than 10 cm of snow at the ground in some areas.

This was due to the cold air coming from the north Atlantic and later from the Arctic which has caused a decrease in temperatures during the previous days. Indeed, on Thursday morning (Figure1) low temperatures (the lowest of the winter so far) were observed in the country, with values between -5/-8 °C in many areas both in England and Scotland; the lowest temperatures were observed in the Highlands (-10/-14 °C). Only in Cornwall temperatures were above 0 °C, due to the influence of milder air from mid-Atlantic.

Figure1. Minimum temperatures observed in the UK on the last day of January 2019. (source: Meteociel)

The negative temperatures in the morning have allowed snow to set on the ground, especially in the mainland. Snow has fallen since mid afternoon on Thursday until yesterday evening, though with an increase in temperatures yesterday afternoon which has caused mainly rainfall/sleet at low-levels.

Today, due to the brighter conditions, we can appreciate the satellite imagery (Figure2) showing the snow still at the ground in many areas, from Scotland to S England.

Figure2. Satellite imagery (UK) of today. I have used blue arrows to point out the snow on the ground in Scotland, N Ireland, Wales and England. (Source: Sat24).

The satellite image shows also the cold arctic air on the N Sea (causing showers) and moving southward towards Central Europe. On the west instead, south of Ireland, milder air from mid-Atlantic is moving towards the UK. This will cause an increase in temperatures, especially from Monday, with positive values (both minimum and maximum) mostly everywhere, and causing frequent showers between Monday morning and afternoon, and again between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday.

Thus, if the previous week has shown wintry conditions, with snow in many areas, the next one will see milder temperatures and frequent (rain) showers, due to the change in the type of the air mass (from polar/arctic to tropical maritime).

Central Mediterranean sea: a deep low-pressure system is causing snow, rain and strong winds.

The cold air moved towards central Europe the last few days has reached the Mediterranean region, causing the development of a deep low-pressure system (981 hPa) between Spain and Italy (Figure1). This is causing strong winds especially southwest of Sardinia, with gusts up to 100 km/h.

In addition, since yesterday rainfall is observed along the Italian peninsula (especially in Liguria and S Italy); last night and this morning, with the colder air approaching the Mediterranean region, snow has fallen on the plains in N Italy (especially E Romagna and Piemonte), but snow showers have been observed also in Genova on the coast of Liguria.

Moving south, the snow limit increases (between 300-1000 m a.s.l in central Italy and 1000-1500 m a.s.l in the south).

synoptic chart 24/01/2019
Figure1. Synoptic chart of today. Notice the low-pressure system in the central Mediterranean sea. (source: Met Office).

The satellite imagery of today (Figure2) shows clearly the different weather conditions on the Mediterranean region, with the low-pressure system on the Tyrrhenian sea, the colder air entering the Mediterranean region from France and the low clouds in central Europe (where very cold temperatures are still observed).

Satellite imagery Europe 24/01/2019
Figure2. Satellite imagery of Mediterranean region today. I have added the main weather features (polar air, snow at ground and fog/low clouds). Source (Sat24).

Tomorrow the low-pressure system will move eastward towards Greece, though it will start weakening. Thus, winds won’t be as strong as today and the weather conditions should see brighter skies by evening, with some precipitation still possible in Sicily and SE Italy (with snow on the Appennines above 700-1000 m a.s.l. due to the colder air).

Finally, temperatures will decrease mostly everywhere, with negative values tomorrow morning in N Italy (especially in the area with snow on the ground) and close to 0 °C along the coast in Central Italy. In the south possible +8/+10 °C only in extreme S Italy and Sicily. The maximum values will be between +4/+8 °C in the north, +5/+10 °C in central Italy and between +8/+13 °C in the south.

UK: snow updates

Today the first snow (for many) is falling and in some areas few centimetres are setting on the ground.

Last night a cold front has passed over the UK, bringing showers especially in England. Following the cold front, colder air (polar maritime) has reached the country this morning, causing a decrease in temperatures and brighter conditions. However, due to the unstable nature of the air mass, frequent showers have occurred on W England and Wales from late morning, moving eastward during the afternoon (Figure1).

Some showers, though less intense and organized, have occurred also in N Ireland and W Scotland.

Satellite imagery and synoptic chart UK 22/01/2019
Figure1. Satellite imagery of this mid-afternoon (left) and synoptic chart valid for this afternoon (right). I have added the polar maritime air (blue arrow) and notice the showers in central England due to the trough. Ahead of it, and behind the cold front, bright skies. Finally, along the cold front notice the long narrow band of clouds, which has caused rainfall last night in England. (source: Sat24, Met Office).

The decrease in temperature associated with precipitation has caused snow at low levels or ground levels in many areas across central England and Wales, especially between Bristol and London. Some snow is falling also in N Ireland since mid-afternoon.
Instead, along the coast of England and Wales rainfall is occurring due to milder temperatures (+4/+6 °C).

However, not everywhere snow is setting on the ground. This is due to the slightly positive temperatures (between +1/+3 °C in central England and London area) and to the freezing level set between 400-800 m a.s.l. These conditions represent a ‘limit’ to observe snow at the ground. Thus, some areas have seen only snowflakes, especially if the precipitation is not intense, others are instead experiencing few centimetres of snow (e.g. between Oxford and London).

In addition, the snow we are experiencing is ‘wet’, that is, the temperature in the lower levels of the air column is slightly positive, thus snowflakes tend to melt slightly when falling (in this case around 400-800 m a.s.l where positive temperatures are observed) increasing their liquid content and sticking together forming bigger snowflakes (as seen today in some areas).

Tonight showers are expected on the east of England and English channel, with some snow possible at low levels. Some showers might occur also between N Ireland, N Wales and W Scotland, though with little precipitation. Brighter conditions elsewhere.

The brighter skies will lead to a decrease in temperatures during the night, with frost in many areas (especially where snow is on the ground). Tomorrow morning temperatures will be below 0 °C mostly everywhere in the UK with values between 0/-2 °C (possible -3/-6 °C in the highlands and central/N England); milder along the coast and on W England, with values between (+2/+6 °C).

First day of the week: low temperatures in central and northern Europe.

During the weekend and today temperatures have dropped in central Europe and northern Europe, with ‘freezing’ conditions in some areas.

The minimum temperatures observed this morning (Figure1) are well below 0 °C mostly everywhere in central and northern Europe, with values between -5/-10 °C especially in Germany, Alpine region and Czech republic; in some areas (central Germany and in the Alps) values between -10/-15 °C are observed.

Moving north towards Scandinavia, temperatures are well below -20 °C, with peaks of -30/-35 °C especially between Sweden and Finland.

Cold conditions are also occurring in Russia and E Europe, instead moving towards the Mediterranean region and the Atlantic coast temperatures tend to increase, with values above 0 °C mostly everywhere. The warmest conditions are observed in S Greece, Cyprus and S Spain, with minimum temperatures between 10/15 °C in some areas.

Europe minimum temperatures 21/01/2019
Figure1. Minimum temperatures observed today in Europe. (Source: Meteociel)

The afternoon has seen still very cold temperatures in central/northern Europe, with numerous cities observing maximum temperatures below 0 °C (Figure2), instead moving southward and westward temperatures have been milder, with values above 10 °C especially in Portugal, S Spain and E Mediterranean.

Europe maximum temperatures 21/01/2019
Figure2. Maximum temperatures observed today (source: Meteociel).

The low temperatures observed in central Europe are due to the combination of the cold air, moved southward last week, with a high-pressure system (Figure3) settled on central Europe since this past weekend. Thus, the cold air is ‘trapped’ at surface causing temperature inversion (temperatures in the free atmosphere around 1500 m a.s.l are ‘warmer’ than at surface) and fog/low clouds.

Looking on the Atlantic, a low pressure system is moving towards the UK, leading Polar maritime air to move south-eastward (notice the scattered clouds).

Scandinavia and Russia are reached by very cold air coming from Siberia, which is moving southward towards central Russia (see the cold front, band of clouds, from Sweden to central Russia).

Finally, in the Mediterranean region settled conditions occur on the Iberian peninsula (positioned on the warmer side of the anticylone); in Italy a weak low-pressure system is causing overcast conditions and rainfall especially along the peninsula and finally, in the E Mediterranean, showers are occurring mainly in Turkey.

Satellite imagery of Europe 21/01/2019

Figure3. Satellite image of today. I have coloured in blue the Polar maritime air, in purple the Polar continental and in yellow the high pressure. Notice the fog/low clouds in central Europe. (source: Sat24).

The next days will see colder air towards the UK and W Europe, with showers and snow at low levels especially between tomorrow and Thursday, with the high-pressure moving eastward towards Russia.

The cold air will move towards the central Mediterranean region, causing the development of a deep low pressure system between Spain and Italy which will bring rain, strong winds and snow (at low-medium levels) along the Italian peninsula and in N Spain; some snow should fall also in the Po valley and Alpine region.

Later in the week, the low pressure system will move towards Greece and the Balkans causing unsettled weather.

In Central and N Europe instead, the weather will be nice (but still cold), with some snow showers especially mainly between central Sweden and Finland.

In conclusion, it will be a very interesting week, because of the presence of different air masses on the continent and possibility of snow at low levels in numerous areas.

Europe: a beautiful satellite image of today, with very different weather conditions

If we look at the satellite imagery of today (Figure1) we can see different weather conditions across the continent.

Between the UK and Scandinavia we can see the cold air coming from the Arctic, visible for the scattered cumulus clouds on the N Sea caused by instability (ocean surface is warmer than the air mass, thus the warm air lifts up in the atmosphere and condenses forming clouds and precipitation); these are causing scattered showers (mainly snow) in Scotland and E England, as well as a decrease in temperatures in the UK, Norway and N France.

On the west (in N Atlantic) a deep low-pressure system (989 hPa) is moving towards Ireland, though it will weaken before reaching the coast (between tomorrow and Saturday), so no severe event is expected.

On the southern part of this cyclone, less clouds and calm conditions are due to a high-pressure west of Spain, which is leading to a warm air advection from mid-Atlantic towards the Iberian peninsula (maximum values of +14/+17 °C today between Portugal and S Spain).

Instead, from E Spain to the Baltic region, a long and narrow tail of clouds stands for a cold front moving southeastward (causing rainfall and snow between France, N Italy and the Alpine region ); this is simply the front of the arctic air mass which is ‘pushing’ towards central-southern Europe.

Moving eastward, we can see how between S Italy, the Balkans and Turkey the weather conditions are ‘calm’, with clear skies (notice the snow at the ground between Greece, Serbia and Romania). Here, a high-pressure is causing settled (and relatively) mild conditions (maximum temperatures between +12/+15 °C in S Greece and Turkish coast).

On the northern side of the anticyclone, we can see another band of clouds (between Ukraine and Russia) which is related to a warm front moving eastward and causing snow at ground level (due to the negative temperatures at surface).

The warm front in E Europe and the cold front in central Europe are related to a deep low-pressure system (976 hPa) positioned between the Baltic sea and S Finland. This is causing intense snowfall in the area and quite strong winds on the Baltic sea, and it is leading to very cold air from NE Russia towards central Scandinavia, where temperatures close or below -30 °C are observed.

Figure1. Satellite imagery of today. I have added the different type of air masses and weather systems. Tropical maritime air (yellow), high pressure (orange), Polar Maritime air (purple), Arctic air (blue) and Polar continental air (dark blue). (Source: Sat24).

Thus, today has been fascinating on a meteorological point of view, and also the next days will be interesting due to the fast change in the weather conditions over Europe.

UK (but not only): Beast from the east? Attention to the ‘fake’ news.

In the last few days numerous news stories have reported the possibility of a very cold spell in the UK (usually called ‘the Beast from the East’) with snow and very low temperatures which should occur from this weekend.

However, up to now, the ensemble models are not seeing any of these dramatic freezing events (not only in the UK , but also in Europe), but only cold spells which can occur during every winter. In fact, in order to be as cold as last year (when, between February and March, for more than 10 days very low temperatures and snow where observed both in southern and central Europe), the air mass should come straight from Siberia/NE Russia where the coldest temperatures are observed (usually between -30 °C/-50 °C). Thus, the type of air should be Polar Continental (that is coming from the polar region, originating on land), which is the coldest in Europe and can cause snow and low temperatures also in the Mediterranean Region (e.g. in February 2018 between 10-15 cm of snow fell in Rome).

This week instead, even if colder air will move towards the UK and Central Europe, it will mostly come from the Arctic (Figure1). Thus, it will bring snow showers (especially in Scotland and N. England between tomorrow night and Thursday), but no severe event is expected.

Figure1. Synoptic chart for Thursday afternoon. I have added (blue arrow) the direction of the air mass (from the Arctic) and the areas where snow showers are likely in the UK (blue stars). Finally, notice the 528 dam line over Scotland and E. England which shows how snow can be possible at low levels. (Source: Met Office).

It will be a normal cold spell (as usually occurs in January), with snow at low levels and frost (the latter especially in the mainland between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning).

Temperatures will be only few degrees below 0°C during the night on Thursday (-2/-4 °C in some areas), and above 0 °C during the day mostly everywhere (0/+4 °C).

In addition, already from Friday afternoon, the arctic air will be replaced by a ‘milder’ polar maritime air mass from the N Atlantic, which will cause an increase in temperatures (especially in Wales, N Ireland and W England), with values above 0 °C mostly everywhere; snow will be replaced by rain except in Scotland (mainly Highlands) and N England (Pennines).

Finally, for the next week, air from N Atlantic is still expected, with cold (and wet) conditions at times, but without causing freezing temperatures and deep snow as shouted recently. It will be simply winter.

First two weeks of the year: Was it actually colder in S. Europe than in the north?

The first two weeks of January have seen very cold air coming from Russia towards Central-Eastern Europe, with lot of snow especially in S. Germany, Austria (more than 2 metres in the Alpine region) and the Balkans. Also in Greece and S. italy snow has fallen, at sea levels at times.

In northwestern Europe instead, and especially between France, the UK and the N. Atlantic, a strong high-pressure ridge has caused settled conditions for several consecutive days, causing also very warm air towards these areas and Scandinavia.

I have analysed and plotted the daily average temperatures in 17 countries (cities) and compared the results. This analysis is simply focused on considering the main cities, thus it is not a detailed analysis for each country.

The results (Figure1) show that in S. Europe (especially between Italy and the Balkans) the daily average temperatures have been lower than in central-northern Europe.


Figure1. Daily average temperatures observed during the first two weeks of January in Europe. Notice the cities are grouped according to the geographical region.

We can see how Rome and Istanbul observed similar or lower temperatures than London, Paris and Amsterdam (to cite a few). In addition, it is impressive to see that Reykjavik has observed a very similar mean temperature to the cities in southern Europe.

Also the Balkans have observed temperatures lower than in northern Europe, with Bucharest colder than Stockholm and observing temperatures very similar to Helsinki.

However, not all southern Europe has observed low temperatures; the Iberian pensinsula has seen warmer conditions (though with temperatures close to their climatological average), with Lisbon the warmest capital so far. This is due to the frequent flow of warm air coming from the Tropics caused by the high-pressure ridge set (since December) between W Europe and the Atlantic.

In E. Europe (Warsaw, Moscow) the lowest temperatures have been observed (which is also in accordance to their climate); these areas where directly influenced by the polar continental air coming from E/NE Russia throughout the whole period.

If we look at the daily temperature anomaly (Figure2) computed respect to the climatological average (1981-2010), we can see how Reykjavik has observed the highest values (almost +5 °C; the daily mean average temperature in January for the Icelandic city is 0 °C).

Overall, all the area from France to Scandinavia and Iceland has seen warmer temperatures, instead E Europe and S/SE Europe have experienced a colder weather.

Figure2. Daily temperature anomaly (with respect to the 1981-2010 average) in Europe during the first two weeks of this year. Negative anomalies (in blue) and positive (in red). The higher is the anomaly (in terms of absolute values) the bigger is the ‘circle’.

In conclusion, we can say that the new year has brought cold weather in the southern and eastern part of the continent (with snow in numerous and unusual areas); instead, the western and nothern areas (especially the countries along the N Atlantic coast) are still experiencing mild conditions (as occurred also in December).