Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer with RSPB Scotland, is back with another blog on the For The Love Of...campaign - just in time for Christmas. 

For The Love Of.....A White Christmas

The odds of a white Christmas in Glasgow this year are currently 3-1 (from a well known bookmaker) but may be cut even further now that we have had the first proper winter weather. The likelihood of a white Christmas used to be much higher. When Dickens wrote 'A Christmas Carol' back in 1843 I’m sure his bookmaker would have stopped taking bets on it. The last official white Christmas was in 2010 – there was snow on the ground and snowfall was recorded.

Last week we had the announcement that 2014 will be the hottest year on record – both in the UK and for the whole globe. This graph shows the warmest years quite nicely and it would seem that the trend probably means less chance of cold winters in the future. 

Scotland has been warming through the 20th century so global warming and climate change is already happening here – its not a thing of the future http://www.climatetrendshandbook.adaptationscotland.org.uk/. So what about a future white Christmas? 

The trend for warmer years has gone hand in hand with warmer spring weather, spring starting earlier, less frost days and less snow cover. But, in Scotland, there is also a trend for more precipitation (rain and snow and anything in between) but on the same number of days as before. So if it is going to snow on or before Christmas day perhaps we might be in for a heavier dump of snow.

If you are a gardener, you might be pleased with less frosts and snow damaging precious plants, but some of our rarest mountain plants actually need snow. The blue heath Phyllodoce caerulea needs snow as an insulating blanket to protect against frosts. 

Without, snow cover, the white coat of a mountain hare or feathers of ptarmigan are little use as camouflage from eagles. Cold winter weather also kills off pests and diseases that might otherwise run rampant through the countryside. Snow and ice aren’t just fun for those who love ice-climbing, they are also essential to many of our precisely evolved species.

Mountain hare

We do sometimes talk of climate change impacts in terms of climatic chaos and the threat of extreme events – including heavy snow storms and freezing conditions. And the physics of global warming means that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water in clouds and that leads to more volatile weather. So no-one can rule out a white Christmas in the future, just don’t go placing any bets just yet.  

If you love a white Christmas, sledging on a crisp morning or our wonderful winter wildlife, why not go online and tell us about it at www.rspb.org.uk/fortheloveof