One of the questions meteorologists are asked most at this time of year is, “Are we getting any snow?” and to answer that, we look to the battle between easterly and westerly winds.
Why? After all, we know that to get some ‘warmth and sunshine’, we head south to the Mediterranean and beyond. Similarly, it’s no surprise that northerlies from the snow-covered Arctic usually bring us cold conditions.
The reason why it’s easterly or westerly winds that are of prime importance is due to our position on the edge of Europe with the Atlantic to the west.
Through most of the winter, the UK is kept relatively mild by westerly winds from the North Atlantic, where sea temperatures are much higher than elsewhere at a similar latitude, thanks to the warming Gulf Stream current.
For example, the average daytime maximum temperature in Bucks at the end of January is around 7C.
This compares to less than 2C in Lodz, Poland, at the same latitude, but 870 miles east in the heart of Europe and so much less warmed by the ocean.
When the wind direction switches to the east, we start to drag in this colder air from the continent, temperatures drop and the chance of snow across southern England increases massively.
So far this winter, the UK has been dominated by the milder westerlies with snow restricted to northern hills and limited frost, even in the notorious Bucks frost hollows.
But what are the prospects as we move into the second half of winter?
Well, some particularly cold air has been lurking ominously just to the east across north-eastern Europe and, over the next couple of days, this will make a brief incursion westwards into the UK, bringing a couple of cold days, with overnight frosts.
However, the next Atlantic frontal system looks set to steam in during Friday, bringing a return to the heavy rain and strong winds that have been all too common over the past couple of months.
Low pressure will continue to dominate over the weekend, bringing lots of wind and further showers, perhaps a little wintry at times, but with nothing that could allow me to answer “Yes!” to the initial question, not for a while at least.