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The big freeze — Nov-Dec 2010

Snow in an Exeter street in December 2010

Since late November we've seen a prolonged spell of severe wintry weather.

During this time, government organisations, businesses and the public have relied on the Met Office to provide accurate forecasts and weather warnings so they can plan for what's ahead. 

Some feedback we have received

In a public survey back in November following a heavy snow warning, 80% of people surveyed said they were aware of the warning and 95% of those found the warning useful.

Earlier this month, following the severe snow in Scotland's central belt, a member of the public writing on The Scotsman's website said: "The snow WAS forecast on (the Met Office) website yesterday afternoon for midnight 3am 6am etc. They are not always right but they were with this one."

At the same time a Scottish council said: "The service that you have provided to us, continuously for the past 10 days has been excellent, effective, and very accurate, and we are very satisfied with it."

Earlier this week (w/e 24 December) the Daily Telegraph's leader column said: "The weekend's heavy snowfall was forecast with something approaching pinpoint accuracy by the Met Office."

Finally an airline sent a message recently to say: "The info has been good and the forecasting, actually, has been quite impressive!"

Big freeze facts

The first time a cold spell was mentioned on our website was in our 30-day forecast issued at the start of November - it provided early indications of the onset of a cold spell from late November.

Since the cold spell set in our website has delivered millions of pages every day, peaking on the 20 December when Met Office web pages were viewed around 13,000,000 times.

Forecasting snow, and accurately predicting where it will fall, poses a tough challenge for forecasters. The sheer number of snowfall events over a prolonged period of severe weather created a very busy time for our weather experts.

To give an idea of how we've done over this time, here's a timeline of the severe weather and our assessment of how we've done.

Met Office big freeze timeline

24-25 November 2010
First blast of snow showers, mainly affecting Scotland, North East England and Northern Ireland. Up to 20 cm on the East Pennines by the end of Thursday.     
26-27 November 2010
Polar weather system brought further widespread snow to most parts of the country including the South West and Wales. Further snow everywhere on Saturday.    
28 November 2010
Record minimum temperatures giving the coldest November night on record in Wales and Northern Ireland. More snow in the North and East. 
29 Nov-3 December 2010
Relentless snow showers over much of the North and East giving 20-30 cm of lying snow in South Yorkshire and around 40 cm in Lincolnshire.   
3 December 2010
A brief, milder spell began in most places.   
6-8 December 2010
The snow and cold returned in northern and eastern areas. There was snowfall across the Central Lowlands of Scotland, causing major problems for the transport network that lasted several days.     
9 December 2010
Widespread disruption in North West England as slightly warmer air resulted in rain showers falling onto frozen ground, just before the morning rush hours. 
16-17 December 2010
Arctic blast from the north starts the second long phase of cold weather with very heavy and frequent snow showers for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Norfolk.     
17 December 2010
More significant snow for Northern Ireland, along with parts of Wales and the South West.
18 December 2010
The snow affected southern areas, with significant falls around London leading to airports being closed.
20 December 2010
An intense band of snow moved across South West England, giving an extra 15-25 cm in places.
22 December 2010
The system that caused problems on 20 December re-activated across the Midlands and East Anglia, with 10-15 cm in places
26-27 December 2010
A marked change to milder weather pushed across the UK from the west preceded by rain falling on frozen surfaces.

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