23 December 2009
From around mid-December, cold air from eastern Europe dominated the UK weather. This was to be the start of a cold spell which would continue up to the start of the Christmas period.
Widespread frost, ice and snow affected some areas.
By the weekend of 19/20 December the cold air had spread across much of the North Atlantic, effectively surrounding the UK.
By Tuesday night less-cold conditions began to move into parts of south-west England. However, the wintry problems were far from over as rain fell onto frozen road surfaces leading to ice on many routes in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.
Fig 1. Cold east to north-easterly winds had become established across the UK and a weather system brought the first significant snowfall of the cold spell to eastern areas of England.
Many places had a few centimetres of snow and the table below lists the top- five snow depths for the period.
|Location||Depth (cm)||Location||Depth (cm)|
|0900, Friday 18 December||0900, Monday 21 December|
|Copley, Durham||16||Aviemore, Highland||20|
|Wattisham, Suffolk||12||Copley, Durham||17|
|Buntingford, Hertfordshire||12||Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross||15|
|Cambridge Botanic Garden||11||Alston, Cumbria||13|
|Bank Newton, North Yorks/Alston, Cumbria||9||Lough Fea, Londonderry/Marham||11|
|0900, Saturday 19 December||0900, Tuesday 22 December|
|Cottesmore, Rutland||13||Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross||17|
|Wittering, Cambs/Copley, Durham||12||Aviemore/Spadeadam, Cumbria||16|
|Cambridge Botanic Garden||11||Newton Rigg, Cumbria||15|
|Westgate, Durham/Marham||10||High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire||12|
|0900, Sunday 20 December|
|Cambridge Botanic Garden||10|
As the snow and ice arrived just as schools broke up for Christmas and many people started travelling for the Christmas period, travel was disrupted.
Sadly a number of people also died.
"The Met Office had predicted when the snow was coming."
AA president Edmund King
The start of the cold spell was well forecast via our website and media broadcasts. An advisory, issued on Tuesday 15 December, gave the first warning of snow in eastern areas of England, expected to fall on Thursday and Friday of that week.
An early warning on the Wednesday, followed by a flash warning on the Thursday evening, was issued for London and parts of south-east England.
On Thursday 17 December we issued an advisory for heavy snow across Northern Ireland, western areas of Scotland, North Wales, and north-west England forecast for Sunday 20 December.
By Friday, the advisory for Northern Ireland was updated to an early warning of snow for the area on Sunday.
On the afternoon of Monday 21 December we issued flash warnings for heavy snow across southern areas of England during the evening and night.
In addition, numerous flash warnings were issued during the period to warn of icy roads and other less heavy falls of snow. The Met Office Public Weather Service Advisors remain in regular contact with the emergency services and emergency planners to ensure that everyone has been fully briefed on the situation.
The Press Office has been advising the UK and international media on the weather conditions and updated forecasts.
Last updated: 25 April 2016