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UK: First snow of the year reaches London

Heavy snow, freezing fog and gale force winds in the UK – luckily not all in the same place.

The snow

Snow is always newsworthy in the UK, especially when it falls in London. On Sunday morning, that is just what happened.

This was not just a few flakes - train services slowly closed in the suburbs of Britain's capital, while the UK Met Office issued a warning of up to 30cm in Wales and much of central England.

By 11:00 GMT, with snow still falling, 30cm was on the ground in Sennybridge, south Wales, and 15cm in the Cotswolds and the Chiltern Hills.

Flights were suspended, meanwhile, at Birmingham Airport. With 11cm falling on Buckinghamshire before dawn, snow ploughs were brought out, but the rate of snowfall exceeded their ability to keep roads open.

To add to the risk, the snow fell onto ice in many places.

This may be the first outbreak of proper snow in central Britain, but, in Northern Ireland, it started snowing on Friday. Belfast got away with 4cm, but Lough Fea in County Tyrone, in the middle of Northern Ireland, measured 13cm.

The Scottish Highlands have had white tops on and off for a while, but the ski resorts are now starting to look worthy of the name. Even at sea level, snow is now lying: Aberdeen, the "Granite City", recorded 6cm on Saturday, a day after the snow started falling.

When snow is on the ground but the sky is clear, temperatures can really drop. In Aberdeen, the thermometer registered -8C on Sunday morning. Edinburgh showed -7C and Glasgow -6C in freezing fog.

In contrast, south of the snow line, a howling, but relatively warm wind was blowing. Gusts along the coast of south Wales and southwest England exceeded 100 kilometres an hour.

This weekend saw the first real plunge of cold air in a northerly wind that will reach Morocco by Monday. As a result, 30cm of snow is possible in the Atlas Mountains and over Spain's Sierra Nevada, and half a metre in the Pyrenees. Over the Alps, more than a metre is likely.

The snow risk for London and southeast England lasts throughout Monday. The same weather system will bring similar amounts of snow to the Benelux countries, as well as to western and northern Germany and eastern France over the next two days.


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