ANYONE dreaming of a white Christmas is likely to be disappointed in the next few decades.
Scientists at the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit say the number of below-zero winter days will continue to fall next century with global warming.
Sophisticated computer models now used by the Meteorological Office give a much clearer picture of climate trends. Analysis of these trends at the East Anglia centre shows hot summers of the kind experienced in 1995 are likely to take place once every three or four years by the early 2000s, instead of once every 70 or so years.
Cold winters will become rarer. The number of below-zero days has already dropped from 20 per year at the beginning of the century to fewer than 10.
Trevor Davies, centre director, said some of this change was the result of natural factors affecting climate, such as variations in the output of energy from the sun, volcanic eruptions and changes in the atmosphere of the oceans.
But continuing emissions of greenhouse gases were expected to help push up temperatures worldwide by a degree or more over the next ten years, he said. This month's Kyoto agreement by leaders of industrialised nations to cut emissions by 6 per cent was a step in the right direction.
But cuts needed to be bigger. "Reductions of 6 per cent will slow global warming very very little. We are going to see an increasing frequency of very hot summers and certainly mild winters, leading to less snow lying around and therefore fewer snowmen.
"In future the chances of a white Christmas are going to be much less," he added.