Winter 2009/10 was the most severe in the UK for over 30 years - the coldest since 1978/79. As snow and ice swept across the country, our forecasts and warnings helped the emergency services, our customers and the public to manage the difficult circumstances.
From mid-December, cold air from Eastern Europe started a cold spell in the UK with widespread frost, ice and snow affecting many areas with the first significant snowfall on the night of 17 December.
By 19 December, there was cold air across most of the UK with widespread snow and ice causing travel disruption in the run-up to Christmas. Low temperatures continued into the New Year as winds from the north and north east brought freezing temperatures to the UK.
The mean UK temperature over the entire winter was 1.5 °C, the lowest since 1978/79 when it was 1.2 °C.
What we did
Despite the challenges, our forecasters accurately predicted the wintry weather before it arrived. The sheer number of snowfall events over a prolonged period of severe weather created a very busy time for our weather experts. We had around 100 million hits on our website during the cold spell, with 15 million hits during the snow on 5/6 January.
Most snowfalls were well forecast but there were localised forecasts that proved difficult given the combination of rain, sleet, snow, freezing rain, and extensive icy roads. Despite tough conditions, the accuracy of our forecasts was widely acknowledged as the severe weather gave us the opportunity to showcase our forecasting capability.
To give an idea of our performance, here are some examples of the weather warnings we put out and the subsequent weather that followed:
During the testing period our forecasts for up to five days were consistently accurate. Here are some examples of feedback we received from our customers:
Edmund King, President of the AA: "The Met Office had predicted when the snow was coming. Therefore, there was a window of opportunity for getting gritters out on these roads."
Cabinet Office spokesperson: "The Met Office is an integral part of the UK central government response to the current severe weather and we have been very grateful for the support and advice that has been provided."There is no link between this particular event and climate change - it's just part of the natural variability of the weather. As the climate warms, we expect fewer cold winters and less snowfall in future.
There is no link between this particular event and climate change - it's just part of the natural variability of the weather. As the climate warms, we expect fewer cold winters and less snowfall in future.