What are the odds of a White Christmas - and will it snow on election day 2019?

Precious Adesina
As the weather turns colder, the nation starts to wonder - will there be a white Christmas? And with the general election looming, could snow prevent voters heading to their polling stations? - © Eddie Mulholland

Many Christmas tales tend to follow the same imagery; picturesque snow-covered towns and villages, log fires and a sense of joy and togetherness as families get together reminiscing over the past year. But, despite the large coats, extra long scarves and thick boots, the chance of widespread snow on December 25th is usually pretty slim in the UK.  

The relationship between snow and Christmas that we know today first began with the Victorians. The Charles Dickens novel, 'A Christmas Carol,' tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old businessman who hates Christmas but has a change of heart on the day. In it, and in multiple other books by Dickens, snow is heavily detailed during this holiday season.

While a white Christmas was more frequent when Dickens was a child, today, thanks to climate change, higher temperatures mean lower odds. Though that doesn't mean it's time to give up hope of a white Christmas just yet as they do still happen in the UK on occasion. So, we’ll keep wishing for it and hopefully you will too.

But could we finally see a White Christmas in 2019, or could December snowfall affect the upcoming general election? From the science behind winter weather to the bookmaker odds, here is everything you need to about snow during the festive season. 

What is a 'white' Christmas?

While Bing Crosby imagined a white Christmas to involve treetops glistening and sleigh bells ringing, the Met Office defines the term as at least one snowflake falling in a specific location during the 24 hours of December 25. 

The Met Office also analyses the data from its observing stations across the UK  to provide a better understand of where snow has fallen on Christmas day.  Snow doesn't need to settle on the ground to be a white Christmas either.

Not quite the white Christmas we all dream of but, according to the Met Office,  there have only been four occasion in the UK in the last 51 years where more than 40 per cent of stations in the UK reported snow on the ground at 9am. 

Latest white Christmas odds

After 40-50cm of snow fell in the Highlands and 70mph winds occurred on the Welsh Coast a few weeks ago, bookmakers started offering odds on snowfall in a number of cities across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

However, betting odds have now changed, suggesting snow is less likely to fall in the UK this Christmas.

A spokesman for William Hill said: "At this stage of the year, the odds always suggest that a White Christmas is a long shot."

Latest odds from William Hill 

9/4 Snow in Aberdeen on Christmas Day

5-2 Snow in Glasgow on Christmas Day

5-2 Snow in Edinburgh on Christmas Day

3-1 Snow in Newcastle on Christmas Day

10-3 Snow in Leeds on Christmas Day

9-2 Snow in Birmingham on Christmas Day

5-1 Snow in Belfast on Christmas Day

5-1 Snow in Dublin on Christmas Day

5-1 Snow in Manchester on Christmas Day

6-1 Snow in Liverpool on Christmas Day

6-1 Snow in London on Christmas Day

7-1 Snow in Bristol on Christmas Day

8-1 Snow in Norwich on Christmas Day

10-1 Snow in Cardiff on Christmas Day

12-1 Snow in Penzance on Christmas Day

Odds last updated November 27, 2019.

History of Christmas Day snow and weather forecasts

Previously, the Met Office building in London used to be the location used to determine whether the UK had a white Christmas, but as the number of people betting on it has increased so has the locations used (as the odds show). 

The last widespread white Christmas in the UK was back in 2010.  A whopping 83 per cent of stations recorded snow on the ground, the highest amount ever reported.  Though technically, the last white Christmas was on Christmas Day in 2015, with 10 per cent of weather stations recording snowfall, though no station reported any of  snow settling on the ground.

Perthshire, Scotland had 47cm of snow on December 25, 1981, the deepest figure ever recorded, while Gainford, Durham, had the coldest Christmas Day in 1878 at -18.3 C. 

Capel Curig, Wales, experienced the wettest Christmas Day in 2015, with 165mm of rain and Sella Ness, Shetland Islands, faced the strongest winds at 101mph in 2011. 

Why do we associate Christmas with snow?

It is thought Christmas first became associated with snow during the Victorian period, after Dickens featured it in his books. Britain also experienced colder winters between 1600 and 1814, with temperatures often dropping to -13 C. This era is now known as the Little Ice Age. During this period, it was common for the River Thames to freeze and in 1536, King Henry VIII travelled from London to Greenwich on a sleigh across it.

The severe weather later led to the idea of 'frost fairs', where shops, ice rinks and pubs would open on the ice. In more recent years, snow has become a recognisable symbol of Christmas, often seen as part of cards, wrapping paper, festive artwork and tree decorations.

Engraving of a Frost Fair on the frozen Thames River Credit: Getty Images Fee

Will it snow on the general election day 2019?

General elections in recent years have fallen in the Spring or Summer, but thanks to the Brexit chaos, the next one has been called for December 2019, less than two weeks before Christmas Day. 

While most of us wouldn't typically associate December with political events, dates for general elections in the early 20th Century were much more sporadic. In fact, general elections were held across the month of December in 1910, 1918 and 1923. 

Snow didn't fall during these December elections, but in more recent years, adverse weather conditions have impacted political votes.  Some commuters struggled to get back home to vote in the EU referendum in 2016, after thunderstorms and flash floods led to delays and cancellations across transport networks. 

This year's general election falls on December 12, and around two years prior to this, December 11 and 12, 2017, saw snow, ice and freezing conditions bring travel disruption to parts of the UK.

The increasing talk of snow, combined with the drop in temperature and shorter daylight hours, has raised some concerns that this year's general election could see lower turnout and poor voter engagement. 

Unfortunately it is still too early to predict the chance of snowfall on December 12, but according to the Met Office's Long Range Weather Forecast, the start of December looks to be cold for many, with wintry showers in the north. Widespread frosts and ice are also likely in the days leading up to the general election.

Will the general election 2019 be postponed if there is snow?

Rain or shine, snow or heatwave, general elections tend to go ahead in all types of weather conditions because they are written in law. As a result, a general election cannot be postponed unless the law is changed. 

The science behind snow

The formation of snow begins when the temperature drops and there is moisture in the atmosphere, creating tiny ice crystals in the clouds that stick together and become snowflakes. Snowflakes, which are clear in appearance, become heavy and start to fall when enough crystals group together. The heaviest snowfalls tend to occur when the temperature is between zero and two degrees and blizzards occur when winds are strong. 

According to the Met Office, the UK gets approximately 33 days of snowfall each year and on average it falls 3.9 days each year in December, compared to 5.6 days in February and 4.2 days in March.