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Why does it hardly ever snow in Cambridge?

Sunday evening finally brought some snowfall in Cambridge, which had been left behind during the day.

Many parts of Cambridgeshire enjoyed the chance to play in a winter wonderland on Sunday, but Cambridge residents told of their disappointment at another no snow show in daylight hours.

The city is somewhat infamous for avoiding the white stuff even when it has settled elsewhere in the country.

A snowman in Cambourne (44083978)
A snowman in Cambourne (44083978)

Snowmen and sledging were the order of the day for some in Cambridgeshire and across neighbouring counties, but a few flurries were the best that Cambridge could muster - until darkness fell.

Taking to Twitter during the daytime, Liam O’Rourke wrote: “Despite weather app saying 100% snow most of the day had nothing in Cambridge.”

Paul Bernal wrote: “I can confirm that we’ve not had any snow in Cambridge. Just grey skies and a bit of drizzle. Proper English winter weather.”

In Cambourne, there was enough snow for some proper snowmen.

And there were some decent snowfall in St Neots.

Christine Mitchell was impressed.

But there was no need to get the sledges out in Cambridge.

Finally, the snow began falling in the evening in Cambridge.

It was a rare sight for many city residents, who have got used to missing out on snow days.

But why is that?

Why doesn’t it snow much in Cambridge?

For one thing, Cambridgeshire is a pretty warm county, given its low-lying, inland position on the eastern side of England.

And cities are nearly always slightly warmer than rural areas, due to the higher concentration of buildings, roads, pavements and vehicles.

Writing in the Conversation, Gerald Mills, a senior lecturer in geography at University College Dublin, explained: “Much of the urban landscape is paved and devoid of vegetation. This means that there is usually little water available for evaporation, so most available natural energy is used to warm surfaces. Construction materials are dense, and many – particularly dark-coloured surfaces like asphalt – are good at absorbing and storing solar radiation.”

The ‘Urban Heat Island’ effect means the air, surface and soil temperatures are warmer in cities than in rural areas most of the time.

“The shape and positioning of buildings in the city slows the movement of air near the ground, creates complex patterns of shade and sunlight and limits natural energy exchanges,” adds Prof Mills.

“Urbanisation is also associated with the emission of waste heat from industry, transport and buildings, which contributes directly to the UHI.”

So Cambridge could be described as a low-lying Urban Heat Island in the middle of a warm county.

A 2017 study by Freeflush that used Met Office statistics ranked Cambridge as the second warmest place in the UK, outside London.

The study found its average temperature was 14.5C, while there were 258 dry days and 568mm of rainfall.

Other records show Cambridge’s coldest month is January, but even then, temperatures average 3.1C or 37.6F.

Here’s proof from this weekend, though, that snow does visit the city... every now and then.

Proof that snow can fall in Cambridge... this was taken on Saturday January 23, 2021. Picture: Mike Scialom
Proof that snow can fall in Cambridge... this was taken on Saturday January 23, 2021. Picture: Mike Scialom

Did it snow where you are? We’d love to see your pictures. Send them to newsdesk@iliffemedia.co.uk or tweet us @CambridgeIndy, or post them on our Facebook page.

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