Will there be a white Christmas in the UK this year?

Chances of festive snow have increased, but a north-south divide is expected on the big day

Christmas trees covered with snow
The official definition used by the Met Office is for one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December somewhere in the UK
(Image credit: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/AFP/Getty)

Those who dream of waking up on Christmas Day to find a carpet of snow outside their window may be in luck this year – bookmakers have slashed the odds of a white Christmas, as millions are told they could face a snowy 25 December.

A “north-south split” is likely, said The Mirror, with a high chance of snow in Leeds and Belfast, but the south is in for a “grey” rather than white Christmas.

Those who do receive festive snowfall should savour it while they can. Analysis shows that the chances of a white Christmas have “become slimmer as the climate has grown warmer”, said The Guardian.

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Here’s what the forecasters - and bookmakers - are saying about this year’s chances.

How likely is a white Christmas?

Most people imagine a snowy wonderland when they talk about a white Christmas, but the official definition used by the Met Office is “for one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December somewhere in the UK”.

Snowflakes have fallen on Christmas Day in the UK 39 times in the last 53 years, according to the Met’s records.

By the above standards, the last white Christmas was technically 2021, when 6% of the country’s stations recorded snow fall. However, less than 1% reported snow on the ground.

Those hoping for a thicker blanket of snow have been left wanting. The last time the UK celebrated widespread snow was in 2010, when 83% of weather stations recorded snow on the ground, the highest number ever recorded. The year before, 57% of stations reported snow on the ground.

Forecasters say we are generally less likely to see snow in December than in the following three months. On average, snow or sleet falls for less than four days in December, compared with more than five days in January and February and just over four days in March.

“White Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries, even more so before the change of calendar in 1752 which effectively pushed Christmas day back by 12 days,” says the Met Office.

It is now “extremely unusual” to experience a white Christmas like that of 2010.

Air temperatures do not need to drop below zero for snow to fall. In fact, the heaviest snowfalls tend to occur between 0C and 2C, as the slightly warmer air causes snowflakes to melt and stick together forming bigger heavier flakes.

What are the odds for 2022?

According to William Hill, the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh each have the greatest chance of snowfall on 25 December, at odds of 2/1.

Manchester has a 3/1 chance and London has a 10/1 chance while Belfast is at 11/4 and Birmingham at 11/2.

What is the weather forecast for Christmas 2022?

The Met Office said the north can expect to see “wintry conditions”, while in the south it will be a little milder. Christmas Day will “most likely be mild with a risk of rain or showers in places for the south, especially the far south, while any cold air and wintry conditions will most likely be confined to the north of the UK”, Met Office deputy chief meteorologist, Dan Harris, told The Mirror.

The independent weather website Netweather said there is “a chance that it will turn cold enough for some snow on Christmas Day” in the north. While admiting there is “quite a lot of uncertainty from model output for the big day for now”, it said southern England is likely to “stay mild and perhaps wet and windy”.

This year snow came early to much of the UK. Wintry conditions in much of the country last week caused “major disruption on roads and rail networks, with many services cancelled, delayed or revised”, said The Independent.

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.