Four seasons in one day... why our weather appears to have gone totally crazy
One minute you’re caught in a blizzard, the next there isn’t a flake in sight.
On Monday morning there was no snow lying in central Belfast while a short distance away, in the north of the city, schools were disrupted after a heavy snowfall throughout the night. And just a few miles further, Newtownabbey ground to a complete halt after blizzard-like conditions.
Parts of Co Down experienced heavy falls of snow on Monday, with green grass turning in to a blanket of snow in a matter of minutes.
The nature of the snow showers made for an unpredictable journey for many motorists.
Conor Graham, of the school of Environmental Science at Queen’s University, said: “In one short car journey, you can go from being bumper-to-bumper in a blizzard to speeding along with a few spots of rain. In a matter of miles, snowfall changes dramatically.”
So what is making our weather behave so strangely? While elevation undoubtedly plays a part, Mr Graham said “microclimates” also come in to play.
“This is down to microclimates — the climates of small, specific areas. The snow is falling across the region, but in some parts it turns to rain before it hits the ground. In others, it stays solid, lands as snow and builds up. Weather patches are also due to it being too warm in general.”
Dr Alison Cameron, a climate change lecturer at Queen’s, said: “Because of climate change, it’s getting harder and harder to predict things at a local level. There’s a bigger spread of variation in the weather so a prediction that is based on averages isn’t as relevant as it used to be.”
We can expect more varied weather in future.
“As time goes on, we are likely to see unpredictable and odd weather,” she added. “With this spell of snow and sleet, it doesn’t take much of a dip in the road or climb up a hill to see a big weather change.
“When it’s freezing cold, you don’t notice localised differences as much, but as our climate grows hotter and we sit somewhere between cold and freezing, this patchiness will happen more frequently”
Official figures show Lough Fea in near Cookstown had the highest recorded snowfall in the UK on Friday, with 30cm.