British people, who suffered during the winter of 2009, would disagree that there is less snowfall now than in the past. Many areas were covered in a blanket of snow for some weeks. There was difficulty in getting food supplies into some isolated villages, especially in the hills of Northumberland. Motorists were stuck on motorways, due to the terrible weather conditions and the government took over the distribution of rock salt and grit, to local authorities, in a bid to keep the roads open and traffic and thus the economy moving.
Was there more snowfall in the U.K. in the past than the present? Scotland still gets plenty of snow every winter. Other parts of the U.K. have seen less snowfall in recent years. In the 1950’s and 1960’s snow came regular as clockwork at least once every winter.
Many people will remember the winter of 1962/3, when continual bouts of snow, blizzards and long periods of freezing temperatures meant that snow, in some areas, lay on the ground for more than three months. Blizzards and snow drifts blocked roads and railway lines, cut villages off from the rest of the world and brought the power lines down. There was snowfall in all parts of the U.K. even as far south as the Channel Islands. In many areas the snow was very deep. Sheep, cattle and ponies starved because farmers were unable to get food to them. When snow was not falling, freezing temperatures and night frosts contributed to -16 centigrade temperatures recorded from Gatwick Airport, south of London (most unusual so far south to Eskdalemuir in Northern Scotland. The sea froze for half a mile out from Herne Bay, the Thames froze across in some places and ice floes floated under London’s Tower Bridge. The big freeze up lasted until the middle of March, ending the coldest winter since 1795.
1946/7 was another spectacular winter when snow fell every day from January 22nd to March 17th. Snow was 5ft deep in Teesdale and Denbighshire. The armed services dropped supplies to people snowed up in their homes. The beginning of the winter was, strangely, very mild. On the 16th January 1947 in Norfolk, Hereford and Flintshire the temperature was 14 degrees centigrade. The first frost arrived on the 20th January 1947 followed by the first snow on 23rd January. The winter eventually ended with heavy rain, flooding and storms and 90 knot winds in southern England.
These spectacular winters are the exception, rather than the rule. Further back in history between the 15th and 19th centuries the river Thames froze hard enough in winter for Frost fairs to be held on the ice. During the 1683/4 winter the Thames was frozen for two months, the ice was 11 inches thick at London. The North Sea was frozen solid for miles opposite France.
Although London is on the same line of latitude as Moscow, winter weather is usually much milder. Although in the past, winters were much colder, up to the 19th century, and therein lies the key, the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century saw the fastest growth in industrialization that the World has ever seen. Climate change in action and affected by man. Lack of snowfall has been replaced by more rainfall and more incidence of heavy flooding. This will lead to the desalination of the sea around the islands of the United Kingdom leading to more rainfall and rising sea levels and affecting the Gulf Stream, the sea current that keeps the United Kingdom’s climate more temperate than Russia.