WHAT caused such extreme weather in February 1978?

The severe weather was caused by a high pressure system over Scandinavia and Greenland, which fed ‘bitterly cold’ air over the UK and was hard to shift. Any warm air being pushed towards Britain had to rise and travel over the stubborn cold air to make any progress.

Warm air carries more moisture than cold air, but will drop its load as it rises and cools. The battlezone where this process took place came to a grinding halt over Dorset and the South West, resulting in exceptionally heavy snowfall which lasted for up to 30 hours in places.

Saturday, February 18 1978 dawned cold and cloudy with a biting easterly wind. Roads around Dorchester, Blandford and Shaftesbury were blocked. The following evening a repeat performance occurred, as the mild air again tried unsuccessfully to move in. The snowfall that ensued was described locally as the worst since the Arctic winter of 1963 and gave about six inches across most of the county.