The Met Office says a repeat of the ‘Beast from the East’ cannot be ruled out, a year after last year’s extreme cold and heavy snow left drivers trapped on motorways and forced schools to close
A new ‘Beast from the East’ is expected to hammer Britain with heavy snow and extreme cold through March, forecasters have warned.
Last year’s brutal conditions wreaked havoc for millions – trapping drivers on motorways overnight, grounding flights and forcing schools to close.
This year’s warning has sparked fears that parts of the UK could see a repeat in the coming weeks – and Britons have been urged to prepare for severe and life-threatening winter weather.
The same weather warnings and patterns from last year have been spotted again this month, with the Met Office saying an icy Siberian blast cannot be ruled out.
Before a cold snap hits, however, the UK will see above average temperatures for January over the weekend, although they won’t feel pleasant in places where it is wet and windy.
Wednesday got off to a cold start with temperatures dropping to -3C in northern parts of the UK and -1C in southern areas overnight.
The Met Office warned that frost was likely on untreated roads and pavements, so drivers and pedestrians should take care.
Showers are expected along some eastern fringes throughout the day, while Northern Ireland and Scotland will see cloudier and milder conditions as the day progresses
Patchy rain will spread east, and it will be cold but dry elsewhere, with some sunny spells.
Outbreaks of rain and drizzle are likely across the north in the evening, while the south will be drier with a frost overnight.
On Thursday, patchy rain across northern areas will spread southwards while temperatures stay mild in most places.
Friday through Sunday will be largely cloudy by generally mild, the Met Office said.
There will be some rain at times, particularly across northern areas, and it will turn breezy across the country with a risk of gales in the north.
Looking further ahead, a ‘Beast from the East’ could bring a spell of freezing temperatures and heavy snow, the Met Office warned.
It said a sudden stratospheric warming had appeared around Christmas, when there was a sharp increase in the temperature over a couple of days.
When this happens in the Arctic it can lead to a rush of cold air blowing eastwards across Europe a few weeks later, bringing much cooler temperatures to the continent.
The Met Office said this is what caused the ‘Beast from the East’ early last year.
Spokesman Grahame Madge said that another Beast from the East could not be ruled out, but the current forecast suggests there will be stable weather conditions.
He said: “Last year there was a classic set-up with the Beast from the East, there was an event in the Arctic – sudden stratospheric warming – where the stratosphere warms rapidly.
“That triggers, generally, a change in the direction of winds across Europe at surface level. The upshot is that normally when this happens in the Arctic you get easterly winds and that’s what happened last year.
“But although that warming has happened in the Arctic already just prior to Christmas, we are not seeing any change in an easterly pattern.”