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How Heatwaves and Climate Changes are Impacting Winter Gritting in the UK

The UK has the some of the most notoriously unpredictable weather and climate when compared to other locations across the planet. We can experience changeable conditions from one location to the next and even completely different weather from sleet to sunshine all in in one day.

The main reason for this variability is because we sit in the middle of six different weather systems, cold weather from the Polar and Maritime systems in the north and warm Continental and Maritime weather from the south. (UK weather systems explained)

Our climate is also undoubtedly changing, 2022 was the warmest year since 1884, with recorded temperatures above 40°C for the first time. Scientists said that would have been “virtually impossible without climate change”.

With heatwaves becoming more frequent, conversely the UK also gets on average 23.7 days of snowfall or sleet a year. Scientists are now saying that the UK weather will become more extreme and difficult to predict.

Despite being at opposite ends of the spectrum, heat waves and snowstorms have something in common, both cause significant economic impact, and both impinge UK infrastructure causing damage and delays.

CarbonBrief, a UK based organisation specialising in climate science and energy policy, following the record temperatures of 2022 stated that our lifestyles and infrastructure were not suited to what was coming, referring predominantly to future heat related events. Change being inferred. (read their article here)

The Environmental Defence Fund, a global non-profit organisation tackling climate change, has said that we can expect more snowfall as a result of climate change. That’s because a warmer planet is evaporating more water into the atmosphere. That added moisture means more precipitation in the form of heavy snowfall or downpours. During warmer months, this can cause record-breaking floods. But during the winter – when our part of the world is tipped away from the sun – temperatures drop, and instead of downpours we can get massive winter storms.

Winter weather it would seem is here to stay.. 1963 may have been the coldest winter on record, however in recent years we have seen several extreme cold and snow events;

The Big Freeze in 2009 – 2010 was the coldest for 30 years with lows of -22°C.

The Beast from the East in 2018 was caused by an anticyclone bringing with it temperatures that barely got above -10°C.

More recently the warmest year on record ended with some parts of the UK staying well below zero for the first half of December 2022, with the coldest being recorded at -17.3°C.

Short range forecasts

Combatting less predictable weather means we are increasingly relying on short-range forecasts and the ability to act quickly and ensure any winter preparation and prevention, snow clearance and winter gritting is carried out in a tight window to minimise any impact to UK Business.

For the past few years our short range forecasts have been running at +98% accuracy, meaning we can’t totally defeat the weather, but can effectively mitigate some of the impact that would otherwise be experienced.

OUTCO (formerly GRITIT) are the UK’s leading winter risk management provider, please speak to one of our team if you would like to find out how we can help you mitigate the impact of severe cold weather. Or simply would like some good old fashioned reliable Winter Gritting and Snow Clearance …

Contact OUTCO

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