part 3 - Many February snowfalls!
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gales of the second half of January, the advent of February saw a
transition to a biting, raw Easterly wind as an intense area of high
pressure over NW Russia and Scandinavia - a "Scandi High" in
weatherspeak - took control of things. Scandi Highs in the depths of
Winter are almost the Holy Grail to any avid fan of cold weather and
this once certainly delivered the goods, ushering in an upper cold pool
that came out of the frozen lands of North Russia (i.e. what the
tabloids call a "Siberian Blast") and tracked across the North Sea
before setting over the UK for a number of days. Fronts and troughs in
this airflow forced the moisture picked up from the North Sea to fall -
mostly - as snow over a wide area on Monday 2nd February, and the
strong East wind allowed the snow to drift widely over high ground.
we are used, here on the western upslopes of the Cambrian Mountains, to
intense rain in a mild sou-westerly, whilst towns to the east of the
Cambrian Mountains, like Newtown, will get much less rain out of such
an event. It's known as the "rain-shadow" effect: the air is lifted up
over the mountains, where it is forced to drop most of its moisture, so
that by the time it has got past the mountains, there's a lot less
moisture left to precipitate.
an Easterly, exactly the reverse is the case: snow is heavy up on the
mountains but western coastal fringes see hardly any. Such was the case
on the 2nd, with barely a covering in Machynlleth, so on the 3rd I set
out with camera to investigate what had fallen where...
north through Corris the snow cover increased to a few centimetres.
Past Corris, this was the view down to a part-frozen Tal-y-llyn - not
much snow there! I headed on NE up the "Cadair Pass".....
...here's the view back down the pass to the lake. I continued down to
Cross Foxes, then east up the A470 towards the Bwlch ....
....here, up in the mountains, there was a lot more snow that had
I liked these crazy snow-sculptures, but better was to come....
...with a chance of getting a nice sunset I headed back to Machynlleth
and off up the Mountain Road to Llanidloes. At just under the 300m
contour I started to run into drifts....
this bit of natural perfection, where snow had blown through a gap in
the hedge. This was just under a metre across.
Sunset was not so impressive....
I had a crack at the Moon instead!
cold pool remained over the southern UK in the days to come, with an
area of low pressure in the English Channel (a "Channel Low" - Holy
Grail #2 of snow-lovers) throwing bands of snow and wintry showers
across the country. On the 5th, I ventured to the same point on the
Mountain Road to get a few "action shots"....
...sheep make useful models in such conditions! I wonder what mixed
grass and snow taste like??
The 6th dawned bright and fine and I thought I might get right up and
over the Mountain Road, although a lot of new snow had obviously
fallen. Random wanderings of the sheep made interesting patterns in the
it became clear that I was not going to get very far!! Someone's been
wheel-spinning all over the place here - look at the wheel-marks! I
suspected ice underlying snow....
On the 9th, another Channel Low swept through, but it brought only
light snowfall to Mid-Wales, affecting areas further south to a much
greater extent. On the 10th, I had to go to Llanidloes. On the way
there, I missed the shortcut over the Mountain Road in case I was going
to have to turn back, going instead via Llanbrynmair, Cwm Pennant and
past Clywedog reservoir. Dylife is only a mile off this route, and the
top of the Mountain Road only a mile beyond that, so I thought I would
go for a look on the way back. As the road climbed up to the top, it
became obviously impassable so I parked up and set off on foot....
This section of the road, as it drops down from the top towards Dylife,
is typically the best, or worst, depending on your viewpoint, for
drifting, as it runs down a bit of a hollow - the ideal place for snow
to build up. Here, it is a metre thick.....
....and the hard,
refrozen snow between the tractor-ruts would have grounded my small 4x4
quickly. I assumed a farmer had gone up to check on sheep, but nearing
the top I could hear an engine....
...and this came into view!
When you get this amount of drifted snow,
it's time to break out the serious kit!
Good job done, too.
Keeping these roads open can be a losing battle sometimes - at ~500m
above sea-level, scenes like this are not that unusual. Dark clouds
were gathering to the north so I turned and headed back to the jeep as
the visibility deteriorated....
in it came again! I think I saw falling snow pretty much every day from
...a cold winter
certainly, if you add in the cold late October onset, the bitter frosts
of January and this snowy spell. In 2008 I spotted the first Lesser
Celandine of the year on January 19th. This year it was February 6th
before I saw one, in the same place, a south-facing hedgerow at the
entrance to Cwm Maethlon, between Tywyn and Aberdyfi. Brave little
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