With recent climate data suggesting that conditions are likely to become too warm for snow to settle on the ground in years to come, our dreams of a white Christmas might become just that: dreams.
It’s been another abnormally hot year for the UK. On the last day of July, warning signs emerged of the scorching August to come: the UK experienced the third-hottest day on record, with temperatures reaching 37.8°C at Heathrow. Record-breaking highs were then reached in August, with temperatures exceeding 34°C for six consecutive days, and five “tropical nights” where temperatures didn’t drop below 20°C.
These same anomalies are affecting UK winters, too. BBC’s panorama documentary on the UK’s “Wild Weather” this year ends with the warning that, during the heated decades to come, “snow will be less likely to settle; so sledging, snowmen, and snowball fights could become a thing of the past for much of Britain".
"We're saying by the end of the century much of the lying snow will have disappeared entirely except over the highest ground." Explains Lizzie Kendon, senior member of the Met Office.
Unprecedented rates of global warming are directly linked to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, which will provoke global temperature increases of 4°C if emissions continue to accelerate. In this case, UK winters will rarely (if ever) be colder than 0°C, meaning snow and ice will become a thing of the past. For context, the average coldest day in the UK over the past three decades was -4.3°C.
The UK government has set out plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by the end of the decade. Even if this ambitious goal is realised, however, global temperatures are still estimated to rise by 2°C, and the UK's average coldest days will be unlikely to drop below freezing, prohibiting snowfall.
There may very well be white winters in the time before the UK’s average lowest temperature passes that 0°C mark. Predictions currently suggest that the 2040s will be the cutoff point for southern England, and that by the 2060s only high ground and northern Scotland will see snow. Even in the meantime, however, our winters will keep getting warmer, meaning fewer snowball fights, sledging, and of course, ever-declining possibilities of our white Christmas dreams.
Featured image: Filip Bunkens on Unsplash