Will it snow in Edinburgh this Christmas? Forecast and latest odds for a white Xmas in 2020

According to the latest odds, there could be snowfall in Edinburgh over the festive season

A white Christmas like this one is actually quite uncommon in the UK (Shutterstock)
A white Christmas like this one is actually quite uncommon in the UK (Shutterstock)

When you think of Christmas time, images of a jolly Santa, presents under the tree and roaring log fires come to mind.

Yet, the quintessential portrayal of the festive season is that postcard-perfect landscape of a quaint village coated head-to-toe in snow.

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It’s hard not to wish for a white Christmas every year when we’re repeatedly met with that very scene on the front of cards, in festive films and songs, and even in TV adverts.

In reality, a classic white Christmas isn’t as common an occurrence in Scotland as you may think.

There have been some years in the past where Edinburgh has been dipped in white, but it’s been a while since it’s properly snowed in the capital just in time for the big day itself.

So, could 2020 be the year Edinburgh celebrates a white Christmas? And what is the forecast for the holiday season?

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Will it snow in Edinburgh at Christmas?

With Christmas still being a number of weeks away, it’s hard to say at this point whether it’s going to snow in Edinburgh during the most wonderful time of the year.

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Despite this, the bookmakers have already published odds on snowfall for a number of UK locations, with Ladbrokes’ odds for snow to fall anywhere in the country currently at 5/4, down from 6/4 earlier in November.

When it comes to Edinburgh, snow fanatics will be happy to know that the odds for a white Christmas in the capital stand at 4/1 according to Paddy Powder - meaning it is likely it will snow.

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It’s good news for the rest of Scotland, too, as Paddy Power has the same odds for Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.

What is the weather forecast for Christmas?

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Currently, the Met Office can’t forecast for Edinburgh weather that far ahead, but there are early signs that a white Christmas in the UK is slightly likelier than usual.

A spokesman for the Met Office said: “When it comes to our forecasting, we offer a seven day service so we won’t have anything definitive to say about Christmas itself until around 18 December.

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“What we’re looking for outside of that is general signals on whether this winter will be a bit colder or warmer.

“The La Niña event is happening at this moment in the tropical Pacfic, which is when a section of the ocean goes a bit cooler than average, and that can have connections to other weather systems in parts of the world.

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“What we know is when this happens, it’s a bit more likely to make the first part of the UK winter colder, and the second part wetter.

“That would make a white Christmas just ever so slightly likely. However, with climate change our winters are becoming a little bit more warm which weighs against the likelihood of snow.

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The Met Office’s current rolling 30-day forecast offers a sketch of what the weather may look like in the UK over the festive period.

It states: “Despite some mixed signals, typical early winter weather with periods of persistent rain and showery interludes seems slightly more likely, with winds and weather systems more likely to arrive from the Atlantic.

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"Although confidence is low, in this pattern the best of the driest and brightest weather will be in the south and east. Frost and fog patches are likely during any settled spells, and any wintry precipitation is most likely over high ground of the north and northwest. Conditions in the southwest could turn more settled through the month. There is a risk of gales at times, with the strongest winds being seen to the north and northwest.”

There is no prediction of snow just yet, so Edinburgh might not be set for a white Christmas after all.

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What is the definition of a “white Christmas”?

The Met Office’s definition of a white Christmas is a single snowflake falling within 24 hours of 25 December in a certain location in the UK.

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That means areas could experience a white Christmas without seeing widespread, heavy snowfall.

When was the last white Christmas?

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By this definition, the last white Christmas in the UK was technically in 2017 but there were no reports of snow actually settling on the ground.

According to the Met Office, there has only been widespread, blanket coverings of snow four times across the UK in the last 51 years.

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The last “true” white Christmas was 2010, when snow coverings were reported by 83% of the Met Office’s weather stations used to monitor snowfall - the highest amount ever reported.

The deepest figure ever recorded on Christmas Day was in Perthshire in 1981, when the area witnessed 47cm of snow, while the coldest Christmas ever was in Gainford, Durham, in 1878 with temperatures of -18.3 degrees celsius.

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Why do we associate Christmas with snow?

For a country that barely ever experiences widespread snowfall during the festive period, we are obsessed with the notion of a white Christmas.

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That could stem as far back as the Victorian period, when Dickens featured snow-covered scenes in his stories, such as A Christmas Carol.

Popular culture didn’t help, with songs like Bing Crosby’s White Christmas further cementing the notion that snow and 25 December go hand-in-hand.

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Britain also experienced colder winters between 1600 and 1814, when it was common for major rivers to freeze over.

Now, due to global warming and the rise in temperature across the world, we’re even less likely to experience a snow-covered Christmas.

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How is snow formed?

Snow occurs when temperatures dip and moisture in the atmosphere turns into tiny crystals which stick together to create snowflakes.

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Snowflakes become heavy and start to fall when enough crystals band together. The heaviest snowfalls tend to happen when the temperature drops between zero and two degrees.

It’s notoriously difficult to predict snowfall because the freezing level (the altitude boundary at which precipitation will fall as snow rather than rain) can change hour by hour across the country, or even a few miles down the road.

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Britain tends to not see much of the white stuff, apart from during storms like the recent Beast from the East.

That’s because we’re an island which is surrounded by milder water, so, according to the Met Office, the air often warms up slightly before it reaches our shores.

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Unfortunately for us, this is why we tend to experience heavy rainfall, rather than snow.