Could It Snow In Inverness, Glasgow, Manchester? (Includes HD Video!)

Written by on October 23, 2012 in United Kingdom & Ireland with 2 Comments

Snow showers in Glasgow (Courtesy of Rory Garriock

While we have endured gloomy, grey and laden skies but nothing that could be considered cold or October-like unless your in the NW Highlands where it’s been frosty, I’ll tell ya where it has been cold and growing colder and colder by the day.. Greenland… The cold has been building over Greenland thanks to a deep trough and strong ‘cold high’. In turn these negative heights here have supported positives over both Europe and North America. This morning’s temperature dropped to around -50C or -57F at Summit Camp, situated in the heart of the Greenland icecap.

Why is that significant to us?

Well a major pattern shift is about to occur with an entire reajustment in the upper level pattern, a repositioning of the ridge-trough setup throughout the hemisphere. The repositioning of a high over Scandinavia WESTWARDS towards Greenland will draw the warmth covering Europe towards Greenland and in doing do, this forces warmth into the very region where cold has become downright brutal. The trough by 72 hours will be replaced by a ridge but as a consequence, the air over Greenjland gets replaced with the development of two major troughs either side of the Greenland blocking high, it’s position means that a push of EARLY SEASON ARCTIC AIR is set to plunge into Scandinavia and Western Europe presenting many, including ourselves here in the UK with an early taste of winter.

Here’s what this setup looks like in graphic format.

A warm front trundling it’s way north over the UK in the last 48 hours will get forced back south in the form of a cold front late Thursday into Friday. That shift will significantly warm Greenland, perhaps back to nearer 0F while that bubble of warm air will split the vortex of frigid air and force it down over Scandinavia and the UK as well as the Low Countries and Northern France during Friday and Saturday.

Expect highs Thursday night to tumble away with potential rain, wind and maybe backside snow as the front sweeps south over Scotland and Northern Ireland. During the day Friday, highs throughout the Highlands may struggle to get above 3-4C but factor in a stiff northerly and wind chills will be in the -4 to -10C range.

As for the Central Belt, don’t expect much warmer than 5C but bare in mind that’s a HIGH so most of the day may be 3 or 4C at best after starting out near freezing. Timing of the front is everything and if it’s late, then expect the warmest part of the day during early Friday with falling temperatures through the day. Once the cold hits, factor in a 10-20 mph wind out of N, NE and it’s going to feel very cold out there. 5C may not seen that bad but remember that 5C in a mild air mass is chilly but 5C in a cold, dry air mass feels very different and with a wind it can feel biting. Keep in mind that it’s OCTOBER, still early.

Will the atmosphere be cold enough to support snow to sea level?

As it stands at the moment, I believe that snow could begin to fly even across the Central Belt Friday but the best chance would be Friday night once the air mass is established and temperatures naturally fall after dark. The big question though is how much moisture is available. It may be cold enough but no precipitation. Arctic air masses are more often than not moisture starved.

Here are the 5,000ft temps off the ECMWF and GFS, plenty cold for snow showers to develop at least after initial rain showers.


AccuWeather Pro


AccuWeather Pro

If you live in Glasgow or Edinburgh or points in between, you could well see it snow sometime Friday or Saturday. Will it accummulate? There hasn’t been much in the way of winter-like cold yet so the ground remains fairly warm. However, get a decent snow shower and grassy surfaces and your car may get a dusting with perhaps a coating on pavements and roadways. The higher terrain north and south of the lowlands and of course the Highlands and Southern Uplands may get a covering.

Could it snow south of the border?

Again, a lot will ride not so much of the actual air mass or north wind but how much moisture is available. I recon that by Saturday while the coldest day is upon Scotland where highs even in Glasgow and Edinburgh may struggle to only 4C after a cold and icy overnight, snow showers are possible all the way to Manchester with sleet possible all the way to Birmingham and London. Highs Saturday may struggle to reach 6C in London and factoring windchill it could like like 0C. What a turnaround!

Will this cold last?

The answer looks to be no once we reach Tuesday of next week, however it doesn’t by any means look particularly warm. Unsettled with a return to nearer normal temperatures look to be about right at the moment but I have a feeling we may see another plunge from the arctic sooner than we might think given the positively NEGATIVE NAO that we appear to be entering. This of course favours blocking towards Greenland and troughiness and frequent shots of cold into the NWE of Europe..

Here’s the ECMWF upper chart looking out at next week.

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  1. gareth says:

    very interesting Mark possibly an early indication to our winter ahead especially with the blocking in October

  2. Michael says:

    Great analysis, Mark. It looks very promising by the end of the week and certainly not bad for Denmark, as well. I hope for wintry showers with sleet and snow down over Zealand when the cold arctic air passes over the still warm waters of the ocean of Kattegat. That’s a classic setup in the early winter that often results in lots of snow from the North coast of Zealand and down towards Copenhagen and Roskilde when the wind is in a northerly direction. I don’t expect any lengthy snowcover as the temperature is still too high, but that would also be too much to ask for in October. I just look forward to the first shot of cold, arctic air this season. I hope you will have a blast of a cold shot in Scotland, too, Mark. I know you are a cold lover like me:)

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