WITH the big day fast approaching, children – and a fair number of adults - will be starting to ask "will it snow on Christmas Day?"
The Met Office is not able to answer that question just yet - with forecasters saying they can only accurately forecast if snow is likely on any given Christmas Day up to five days beforehand.
But the Exeter-based weather agency has produced a guide showing the number of times snow has fallen on Christmas Day over the past 50 years.
The Met Office definition of a "white Christmas" – and the one used most widely by those placing and taking bets, is for a single snowflake (perhaps among a mixed shower of rain and snow) to be observed falling in the 24 hours of December 25 at a specified location.
Christmas 2010 was the last white Christmas with snow on the ground at 83 per cent of Met Office recording stations. It was also a white Christmas in 2009, 13 per cent of stations recorded snow or sleet falling, and 57 per cent reported snow on the ground.
A Met office spokesman said: "In terms of the statistical likelihood of snow based on climatology, we know that a snowflake has fallen on Christmas Day 38 times in the last 52 years, therefore we can probably expect more than half of all Christmases to be a 'white Christmas' in this sense.
"Snow lying on the ground on Christmas Day - as we would expect from typical Christmas scene - is much rarer. There has only been a widespread covering of snow on the ground (where more than 40 per cent of stations in the UK reported snow on the ground at 9am) four times in the last 51 years."
At the moment, the Met Office's long range forecast, covering December 19 to January 2, says this – "The signal for rain and snowfall amounts during this period shows a high degree of uncertainty, however, on balance, slightly drier conditions compared to average are favoured for most of the UK. Even though there is a drier-than-average signal for much of the UK, where precipitation does occur, there is a greater chance that it will fall as snow compared to normal."
So watch this space for updates.