Frequently Asked Questions
We've compiled a list of questions that we expect to be asked a lot this season. Many of these are commonly asked questions that are asked every year. If we receive a lot of questions about a particular topic we'll add more questions below.
When does UK Snow Updates operate?
UK Snow Updates generally operates between October and April every year. This is in line with council gritters although we have sometimes operated later depending on how the winter period is.
Why are some airports not updating?
Weather data is presented from the airport weather reports and for most airports these update every half hour. Some airports only receive weather reports for the period of time that they are open and as a result we present the last known report.
Why are you not covering schools this year?
The coronavirus pandemic makes it very hard for us to determine if schools are closed due to snow related issues. If you are wanting to know about school closures we advise visiting their website or social media.
Why do you show all weather warnings?
In order to use the Met Office weather warnings the licence requires us to also show all severe weather warnings, not just those related to snow and ice. We are looking into a solution that will allow us to comply with the licencing terms.
Is it going to snow in xyz?
We are not forecasters and so we are unable to provide a forecast for a location at a specific time. We can tell you if there are weather warnings for a specific location.
Why are flights cancelled or delayed in winter?
Flights are often delayed during snowy conditions for a number of different reasons.
Snow and ice on the runway or taxiways increase the stopping distance of a plane and so the distance between planes is increased. For some airports like Heathrow, any additional delay is a problem as they are almost at the maximum capacity already. In some instances it is easier for airlines to cancel flights rather than have to deal with the knock on delays affecting the flight schedule for days.
If the snowfall on a runway is too much to land on, then the runway is cleared. This can result in a runway being closed for at least 30 minutes, often longer, as the runway and airfield is cleared. This can cause considerable delays and many airports clear in between flights taking off and landing. For some major airports this is not possible due to the volume of air traffic they deal with.
Why do airports struggle to cope with snow compared to other countries?
Colder countries have to deal with snow on a more regular basis and it is cost effective for them to have the necessary resources to deal with it. In the UK, airports may only be affected by snowfall once or twice a year and so purchasing and maintaining equipment to the same level as colder climates is not cost effective.
It should be noted that it is very rare that an airport has to close due to snowfall. Airports often clear their runways between takeoffs/landings or in more severe conditions will temporarily close their runway in order to clear them. The airport is usually kept open for passengers however.
Why do schools get closed?
School closures are in most cases decided by headteachers and are the last resort for the senior management of a school. Headteachers have to take into account that teachers often live further afield than the school catchment area and the extra potential risk or delay that their staff may have to face.
The BBC produced a very detailed article in 2010 about why schools shut following snowfall and we recommended reading it as it is just as valid today.