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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 17:24 GMT
Derek's Weatherwatch - Winter takes hold
Snow in Essex
Parts of the UK have been covered in snow
BBC Wales meteorologist Derek Brockway explains the reason behind the latest cold weather snap.

Wales remains in the grip of winter and although we have escaped most of the snow it certainly is bitterly cold.

Temperatures over much of Wales have been below freezing for days.

Only coastal areas have struggled above zero during the day reaching plus 3 Celsius.

Frost has been widespread and in many places hard with black ice on untreated roads making driving conditions dangerous.

Wales has so far escaped the snowfall
Wales has so far escaped the snowfall

Last night the of whole Wales fell below freezing.

Hawarden in Flintshire - where temperatures plunged to minus 8 Celcius - was one of the coldest spots.

While, in the south, St. Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan saw the mercury fall to minus 4 Celsius.

The coldest nights are those on which there is little wind, skies are clear, and there is a covering of snow; the lowest temperatures occur away from the sea, on the floors of inland valleys.

It was under such conditions that the temperature fell to minus 23.3 C at Rhayader in Powys on 21 January 1940 - the lowest ever recorded in Wales.

Coastal areas do not experience such cold nights.

For example, the lowest temperature ever recorded at Brawdy on the Pembrokeshire coast is minus 10.7 C on 13 January 1987.

Snow cover

Snow is comparatively rare on the Welsh coast, but much more frequent over the hills.

The average number of days each year when sleet or snow falls in Wales varies from about 10 or less in some south-western coastal areas to over 40 in Snowdonia.

Snow rarely lies on the ground at sea level before December or after March, and the average number of days with snow lying in Wales varies from six or less around the coasts to over 30 in Snowdonia.

The number of days of snowfall and snow cover varies enormously from year to year.

Severe drifting

At many places in the last 50 years it has ranged from none at all in several winters to in excess of 30 days during the winters of 1946/47 and 1962/63.

Even places near the coast experienced prolonged snow cover during these two winters.

In heavy snowfalls there can be quite extensive drifting of the snow in strong winds, especially over the higher ground, resulting in severe transport problems.

Fortunately, such occasions are rare, but one of the worst snowstorms last century in south Wales occurred on 7 and 8 January 1982, when depths of one metre or more were commonplace, with severe drifting.

Power lines were brought down, schools shut and some places cut off for several days.

Don't worry theres nothing like that heading our way in the foreseeable future.

Milder air

There's been some heavy snow in southeast England on Wednesday and London had its heaviest snow since the mid 1990s.

While in Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands temperatures have plummeted to as low as minus 18 Celsius.

The reason for the current cold snap is cold easterly winds blowing off the continent but we are in for a change.

The wind will turn into the southwest on Sunday bringing milder air across the UK from the Atlantic together with some rain.

So keep those winter woolies handy for a few more days yet, but it looks we will be swapping the de-icer for an umbrella next week!

See Derek Brockway on Wales Today at 1330GMT and 1830GMT weekdays on BBC One Wales and hear him on BBC Radio Wales.

Click here to watch the Wales Today webcast, or here to listen to BBC Radio Wales live online.

If you have a weather topic you want Derek to explain, send an email to newsonline.wales@bbc.co.uk

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