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The Myth Of Snowy Winters

December 28, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




We have all heard the “snow is a thing of the past” nonsense. But was the past really as snowy as we are told?

Even in the last week or so, I have come across two stories of how it does not snow as much anymore.

For instance, the BBC’s Book of the Week is “Snow” by Marcus Sedgwick. I am not sure how you can write a whole book about snow, unless you are an Eskimo, but in this particular episode, at 9 mins in, the book relates how winters in Kent (where the author was brought up) are now much milder, and how there is much less snow around.

Sedgwick was born in 1968, and having heard his mother’s account of the 1963 freeze, he thought he would ask the Met Office for their data on days of snowfall since 1961 for his local weather station at Manston.

He says he entered them on a spreadsheet and produced a graph which showed how snowfall had plummeted.

But is the 1960s a representative place to start from?


The Met Office used to publish an annual “Snow Survey of Great Britain”, beginning in 1946/7. Unfortunately, the last one was published for 1991/2, around the time they decided to concentrate on global warming, at the expense of their day job.

One of the tables for the 1991/2 edition shows the number of days with snow lying at ten representative sites:




Woburn is the nearest we are going to get to Kent, and the data makes interesting reading:




The extreme winters of 1946/7 and 1962/3 stand out like sore thumbs. But it is also clear that most winters in the 1950s and 60s were pretty snowy.

So on the face of it, isn’t Sedgwick right?

But here’s the thing – from 1971 on, there is a noticeable shift. In other words, we are not seeing a gradual trend to milder winters, but a one off shift.

There is certainly no evidence that the 1980s were any less snowy than the 1970s.

Unfortunately, we don’t have data after 1991/2, but it is hard to see that snow days could be any less than the 1970s.

And, of course, we do know that there have been several severe winters lately, notably 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2010/11.

For instance, in December 2010 alone, Woburn, just to the NW of London, appears to have had 12 to 16 days of snow lying.

December 2010 Days of snow lying Actual



It also begs the question, what was the situation before 1946.

Unfortunately there is no data to tell us. However, if we look at January mean temperatures not far away in Oxford, we can see that there is little difference between recent years and the 1920s and 30s.

This raises the question whether it was the 1950s and 60s that were actually snowier than normal, rather than the other way round.




If you grew up in the 1950s and 60s, you may be right in believing that there was more snow around then.

But the idea that British winters were always snowy in the past may just be another popular myth.

  1. Broadlands permalink
    December 28, 2016 3:42 pm

    Sedgwick born in 1968…

    Clarence E. Koeppe, December 1934…

    “The average person remembers the unusual weather which he has experienced, and forgets the normal course; and of this unusual weather, he is likely to remember only that which occurred most recently or which may have made some deep impression upon him at the time. If, as a child, he had an unusual experience of wading through snow up to his hips on Thanksgiving Day, that fact clings to his mind for years; and because no other Thanksgiving since then may have had snow that deep, he knows that the weather isn’t what it used to be, notwithstanding that snow, hip deep, to a child might not need to be much more than a foot deep. It may seem, therefore, that the subject here treated would only be aggravating a situation already bad. That can hardly be the case, however, because probably no reader of this article has experienced as much as 5 percent of the phenomena or conditions which are portrayed. To the student of human climatology a knowledge of extremes of weather is quite as significant as a knowledge of averages, since the extremes cause so much property loss and human suffering.”

    • DMA permalink
      December 28, 2016 9:25 pm

      “wading through snow up to his hips on Thanksgiving Day, that fact clings to his mind for years;”
      So the “height of the hips” is important to the memory.
      When I started college my friend Jim, whose father had attended our new school when Jim was born, couldn’t stop describing this giant cannon we would get to see on the campus when we arrived. It turned out to be a four pounder from the 1800s with iron rimed ,wooden spoked wheels about 3.5 feet in diameter. When he was learning to walk it seemed huge and that is what he remembered.

  2. Ian Magness permalink
    December 28, 2016 3:51 pm

    Yep – more pro-warming rubbish broadcast by the BBC.
    There was another “can’t stop myself swearing at the telly” report broadcast on the BBC breakfast programme this morning. Apparently, “the last 10 years” (let’s forget about the 2008 – 2011 snowy winters shall we?) have seen increasingly mild winters and that is screwing up everything from farming to insect life. It’s a disaster! Apparently.
    Err, no it ain’t Auntie BBC, it’s just the sort of variable weather we get in Britain, and always have. The populations of some kinds of insects swing wildly from year to year as a result of the weather at crucial times in their life cycles – always have, always will.
    Oh and, by the way, am I mistaken in believing that the Met Office were issuing “severe winter” warnings only a couple of months ago? What happened to that? Here in Surrey we haven’t seen a snowflake as yet. More tax money well spent.

    • Colin permalink
      December 28, 2016 4:11 pm

      I’m 49 and I would say that winters are less snowy now than when I was young. And the data backs this up.( I live in Northern Scotland). Anyone under the age of 35 would be unable to say the same. As pointed out it all depends on when you start.

      • December 28, 2016 7:06 pm

        I am 72 and I would say that they are not. Winters are very variable and the snowy ones that stand out are 47, 57, 63, 76. three in the late 70s early eighties one in the 90s and the three around 2010. Even the British Bullshit Corporation would have difficulties making a pattern which predicts less snow out of that.

    • December 28, 2016 9:41 pm

      @Paul that was the new National Trust report
      Dec 28th and the NT PR teamwere back at their desks today and released a Global Warming scare bomb as prepared
      (but also had to ass cover due to yesterday’s Delingpole article about the NTs LBQT special season)
      On R4 Today they complained about change in this decades weather “warmer winters and wetter summers mean less butterflies”
      (yes as if weather hasn’t always varied from decade to decade)

      ‘Mild winters and periodically wet summers have seen common wasp numbers apparently slump in many parts of the country, along with common ‘meadowland’ insects like the common blue butterfly.
      ‘This could have a knock on effect on the invertebrates, birds and bats that eat them. And what affects insects today could well affect us tomorrow.’

      • December 28, 2016 10:24 pm

        The dramatic statements about snow etc are on this page.

      • December 28, 2016 11:06 pm

        One more thing when the NT guy? was on R4Today screeching about Climate he mentioned the other businesses they were working with; one was Sainsburys so that greenwashing
        put me off shopping there.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        December 29, 2016 6:43 am

        ‘This could have a knock on effect on the invertebrates, birds and bats that eat them. — could well affect us tomorrow.’’. Personally I think invertebrates and bats are safe from me, but then I don’t work for the BBC.

      • December 29, 2016 4:19 pm

        I need to correct myself the Saintsbury’s mention was by a guy on earlier.
        That was @JimWoodsUK of @theCrowd
        former Marxist banker, Yo Sushi manager now GreenPR pusher full background
        BBCbusiness has a chronic problem, they have too close a relationship with GreenDream PR people they get enamoured and are unable o challenge them properly.
        I mention more on the new thread.

  3. Stephen Richards permalink
    December 28, 2016 4:59 pm

    I lived in kent from 1954 to 1962. It was very snowy. I remember being knee deep quite often.

  4. John F. Hultquist permalink
    December 28, 2016 5:58 pm

    The WMO chose the 30-year “Normal” span …

    [Note: done before computers and modern data recordings; so changed only every 10 years]

    … for exactly the reasons stated above — likely to remember only that which occurred most recently — so the daily published (think newsprint) weather report gave a reasonable comparison for adults that would be reading.
    This well defined “Normal” and “normals” was not established to provide a standard for climate research. The Köppen-Geiger climate maps were the “standard” printed material for discussions about climate. They did not attempt to explain weather. To get at climates, the concept of plants “integrating” (see calculus) weather is a useful analogy.

  5. Sara Hall permalink
    December 28, 2016 6:24 pm

    Being just that little further south, Guernsey presumably gets fewer snowy days than the rest of Britain but each snowfall event is remembered because it often brings the generally unprepared island to a near complete halt, so many journeys involving a steep hill somewhere along the route.
    I well remember the big freeze of 62/63 (no school for weeks!) and several other years since when significant snow fell, but more recently we have had a heavy snowfall in February 2009, November 2010 and March 2013, which does seem to be rather more often than average.

    Guernsey weather records date back to 1777 when a certain Elisha Dobree began keeping a journal. I shall have to make serious time next year to check it out.

  6. Singer beneath bridges permalink
    December 28, 2016 6:36 pm

    All the above comments have elements of the truth – we do tend to remember unusual weather events of our youth and consider them later to be “normal” or “representative”.

    I, however, recall snowy Christmases in East London when I was small (late 1940s) but then I have evidence in the form of photographs taken by my parents of me in deep snow with my Christmas presents (for several different years). Since I returned to the UK in 1989 I cannot recall a single Christmas day snowfall in the much more snowier Norfolk where I currently reside.

    So I do make the claim that Christmases were snowier in my particular backyard.

  7. Stonyground permalink
    December 28, 2016 7:57 pm

    I’m 58 and I can certainly remember as a kid being disappointed when we didn’t get any snow. I seem to recall that this happened quite often. I can remember a year when we only got a feeble dusting of powdery snow that you couldn’t make snowballs out of never mind a snowman. I tend to think that snow has always been ‘a rare and exiting event’.

  8. Bloke down the pub permalink
    December 28, 2016 8:06 pm

    I was born in London in January ’62 and apparently there were big snow piles outside the house that meant the doctor who delivered me had to block the road when he parked his car. I was obviously too young to remember the winter of 63 and saw very little snow until the late 70’s after we moved to Gloucestershire.

  9. December 28, 2016 8:49 pm

    We’re now entering a period of low solar activity, which could last for a few decades.

    ‘The cold LIA [Little Ice Age] period agrees with the timing of the Maunder sunspot minimum and is therefore associated with low solar activity.’

    Don’t get rid of your winter coat just yet.

  10. December 28, 2016 11:07 pm

    I worked through the 62-63 winter travelling on roads in Lincolnshire hit by up to 10 foot drifts. Of course he would start in the 60s, most people today thought life began in the 6os. Many of us can disabuse them. Terry Langford, Hampshire.

  11. M E Emberson permalink
    December 29, 2016 6:24 am

    Living in London in 1947 I remember snow on the hill leading up to Islington. – City Road.. immortalised in the song ‘Pop goes the Weasel.’.. There were trolley buses which ran up and down the hill and I remember the difficulties they had. It seemed deep to me because I was only nine years old. I had seen deeper snow in Newcastle during the war, though.

    We were still in the period of Austerity after WWII… and gas for heating and lighting were in short supply. We had moved to a flat with electric light but there was a gas fire. The City was well supplied with coal gas as offices had to be heated and most rebuilding had not been begun after the Blitz so many offices dated back as far as the 19thC .Coal fires were common too. I remember there were gas lamps in the streets lit every evening by a lamplighter on a bike. Quite difficult in the snow. Only the main roads had electric lamps.

    There were other snowy winters in the City but that was the coldest I remember.

  12. tom0mason permalink
    December 29, 2016 7:30 am

    The old faithful of grain prices gives a reasonable indicator not snow fall but of weather trends.
    This site gives an ideas of bread prices over 1600 to late 1700. So many time the price increases were due to bad weather forcing the import of expensive grains.

  13. Athelstan permalink
    December 29, 2016 8:10 am

    Lets get some perspective not – prospective though, it’s too unpredictable.

    Britain’s climate is maritime temperate and influenced largely via the north Atlantic drift, which is fortunate on latitude of 50º+ North – our winters could without the oceanic influence be more like that of Labrador – where even brass monkey’s are frozen.

    New Zealand – a sort of comparable island[s] in the SH has permanent glaciers,its latitude is further ‘south’ ie nearer the equator – actually north if you know what I mean but NZ does not benefit from a warming current as we do here in the north.

    Britain, as the above comments allude to is not totally immune from severe winter episodes, in living memory the early 40’s, 47, 62/63, 78/79, 81, 85 have been rather cold and snowy, whether it was volcanic events, the NAO tipping cold, blocking highs causing polar winds shrieking across these islands, in combination we get it sometimes.

    Only the soothsayers of the NOAA and Met Office……..actually know [snigger]….. but really, who knows? And perhaps in our lifetimes the Thames may start to freeze over again – as it used to but if that happy circumstance starts to frequent then we’ll know that temporarily, our climate has clicked back into cold and to be brutally frigid – as is often forgotten conveniently glossed over by the climactivists/eco lunatics – we are in a warming period between the forthcoming advancement – oh yes the ice is coming back.

    • December 29, 2016 9:19 am

      Excellent points. However, the Thames has not frozen since thermal power stations began pumping warm water into the river and estuary.(See Langford, 1990, Ecology of Thermal Discharges) At times the Trent used to run at up to 18oC in the winter.

      • Singer beneath bridges permalink
        December 29, 2016 1:22 pm

        I was taught, too many moons ago, that the Thames no longer freezes since flow rates increased following the construction of the Embankment.

    • dennisambler permalink
      December 29, 2016 12:17 pm

      More here on the Atlantic conveyor and the Gulf Stream:

  14. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    December 29, 2016 8:25 am

    I grew up in SE London in the 50’s and it snowed as expected requiring us kids to slide about the place. I remember that my parents and wider family never bothered with it, really never talked about it at all. The next time I noticed snow was in Germany (low country) during the 60’s and digging my VW out…often. Just cold/bleak and danger of busting a limb largely. I think here in the W. Midlands it last snowed for sledging about 4 years back.

    Its currently -6 deg C (south facing) yet the prior temp transition did not cause snow to occur. Conditions, Conditions, Conditions – Regional. How old is this planet? And the sample sizes are…freaking minuscule!

  15. Nigel S permalink
    December 29, 2016 9:17 am

    Searching for ‘snow on the Air Ministry roof’ I found this lovely Pathe News clip from 1959. A few sources of experimental error even there (solar instruments next to the chimney pots?).

  16. david permalink
    December 29, 2016 10:10 am

    MY BUNIONS are still in business – along with my knees.

    I wonder why they used a fresh-faced girl to demonstrate the writing down of numbers!
    Heavens, she is 76 if she is still alive.

    • Nigel S permalink
      December 30, 2016 9:38 am

      Yes, nice dress too (she probably didn’t wear that to work every day even in 1959) fairly standard for Pathe. I expect they couldn’t persuade Air Ministry to let them use an actress in skimpy shorts which is what they liked best.

      • December 30, 2016 4:51 pm

        I think when it comes to the Climate Change/Global Warming scenario we must be aware that “if they can’t blame you for it, they can’t tax you for it”. Our environmental taxes are a scandal based on a lie.

  17. Ben Vorlich permalink
    December 29, 2016 11:46 am

    My memory of Perthshire from mid-1950s is pretty much as Paul says. Snow and cold most winters until 1980s. Usually followed a fairly (for the UK) predictable pattern. Early cold snap with snow on the hills before November then nothing much until Christmas then cold would return with snow, often between Christmas and New Year.

    I have memories of walking across snow drifts several feet deep which had a layer of ice caused by the sun melting the surface which froze overnight. There was always much hilarity when either my brother or I fell through into waist/chest deep snow.

  18. December 29, 2016 2:43 pm

    Tell this to the folks across the northern and midwestern United States:

    • Athelstan permalink
      December 29, 2016 8:35 pm

      Blimey! said the Limey!

      It’s a bit humbling really and honestly speaking, us Brits when we – er, I talk “snow”, I don’t know what I am on about.

      Sincere empathy…….with red faces, to all those Americans caught up in “real snow”.

  19. December 30, 2016 4:53 pm

    Surely American Snow is a hoax . It can’t exist in a warmist scenario.!!!!


  1. The National Trust’s Climate Myths | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

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