According to the experts, if just one snowflake falls in London on Christmas Day, it qualifies as being a White Christmas. Seems a bit of a con doesn’t it, just one. I mean, by the time people have registered that fact, umpteen photographers have taken its picture and the bookies have lost a lot of money, the poor little thing will have melted and ceased to exist.
A snowflake is either a single ice crystal or a dense cluster of ice crystals which falls through the Earth’s atmosphere. Snowflakes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, though movement through differing temperature and humidity determines that individual snowflakes are nearly unique in structure. Snowflakes appear white in color despite being made of clear ice due to diffuse reflection of the whole spectrum of light by the small crystal facets.
I was only a child in the winter of 1963, and in all honesty can’t remember that much about it apart from being dressed in 2 jumpers under my coat, thick woollen mittens, hat and scarf, woolly stockings and fur lined boats walking to school like some kind of tellytubby michelin man.
Reports say that temperatures plummeted and The Big Freeze extended from Boxing Day 1962 to March 1963.
January 1963 was the coldest month of the 20th Century and the coldest since January 1814, with an average temperature of minus 2.1 degrees C. Much of England and Wales was covered in snow throughout the month and the country started to freeze solid, with temperatures reaching as low as minus 19.4 degrees C. The sea froze for a mile out in Herne Bay and four miles out at Dunkirk. On the 22nd January, a car was driven across the frozen Thames at Oxford.
More snow came in February, and with it storms with winds reaching Force 8 on the Beaufort scale. A 36-hour blizzard caused heavy drifting snow in most parts of the country, drifts reached 20 feet (6.1m) in some areas and there were gale force winds reaching up to 81mph (130km/h). Wind speeds on the Isle of Man were recorded at 119mph (191km/h).
The 6th of March was the first morning with no frost anywhere in Britain, and with temperatures rising quickly to 17 degrees C, the remaining snow soon disappeared.
Can you just imagine what an impact another winter like that would have today? Get an inch of snow now and reports on the radio say not to drive unless absolutely necessary. Public transport comes to a halt, and schools close. The winter of ’62 – ’63 had conditions hundreds times worse for over 2 months, yet everything and everyone carried on albeit it with some inconvenience.
With the recent extremes in our weather and the seasons being all over the place, it’s no surprise that nature, migrating birds, and us humans are slightly (!) confused as to what we are supposed to be doing and when we’re supposed to be doing it.
Here we are in December and approaching Christmas. Years ago, it was always cold enough to anticipate a White Christmas, just like the song says.