More snow is set to batter Britain this week
A block of warm air devloping above the Arctic ice – an event known as Sudden Stratospheric Warming – threatens to generate numbingly cold easterly winds across the UK.
Below-average temperatures could largely hold out through the rest of winter and into March, experts warn.
Thermometers will plunge in the run up to the weekend bringing widespread frosts and up to eight inches of snow to parts.
Scotland and the north are on alert for heavy bursts of rain with showers turning wintry over high ground.
The rest of the country will stay settled but cold with overnight temperatures of -5C (23F) forecast in exposed spots.
A brief burst of milder weather will bring a boost of joy on Monday before the next wintry blast arrives.
Met Office spokesman Nicola Maxey said: “At the start of next week daytime temperatures could lift into double figures, it will also be much more settled than recently.
“However the rest of this week will remain cold with lows of freezing widely overnight and possibly -3C (26.6F) to -5C (23F) in some rural spots.
“We expect some some widespread frosts and a north-south divide will bring wetter conditions with the risk of wintry showers to Scotland and the north while the south is drier but colder.”
Scotland and northern England are expecting wintry showers
Meteorologists this week confirmed the onset of a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) pattern over the North Pole.
The phenomenon, which is linked to extended periods of cold weather, causes freezing air to sink over the UK.
SSW last happened in January 2013 and was followed by a stubborn icy blast which kept the nation shivering into April.
The Met Office said the effects of SSW are likely to set in later next week bringing a risk of colder conditions.
Miss Maxey added: “SSW was confirmed this week and this can lead to a more easterly wind pattern bringing colder but drier conditions, the exact outcome is still uncertain.
“However, there are some signs that high pressure could build over Europe resulting in an easterly flow.
“It will be the middle to letter part of next week when the SSW effects should be apparent.”
Some experts have greater confidence in the event bringing colder conditions to Britain into the first half of spring.
Netweather forecaster Nick Finnis said: “A fairly dramatic event going on in the atmosphere may have a fundamental effect on our weather later this month and perhaps into early March.
“SSW refers to a rapid warming of the stratosphere at high latitudes over a couple of days, some 10 to 15 kilometres above the earth’s surface. There appears to be a greater probability that we will see a risk of nationwide sustained colder weather later this month. But [there is] no guarantee.”
West Lothian has already seen heavy snow this week
Peter Inness, meteorology lecturer at the University of Reading, added: “We expect this to be a major warming event with the main effect being on the jet stream allowing easterly winds to develop.
“What typically happens during an event like this is high pressure builds over Scandinavia drawing cold air into the UK.
“We also see cold air over the North Pole slosh over northern Europe and that is what we are starting to see happen.”
Miserable weather hampered Valentine’s Day plans today as grey skies, wind and rain dampened spirits.
The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for snow and ice across Scotland until just before midnight tonight.
Bookies think February temperatures could hit record lows
Chief forecaster Steve Ramsdale said: “Heavy wintry showers and falling temperatures will lead to some icy surfaces and some lying snow on Thursday.
“Ice will become more isolated during the daytime on Thursday before reforming on Thursday evening, particularly further inland.
“Some roads and railways likely to be affected with longer journey times by road, bus and train services as well as some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces.
“Snow could build up to give 10 to 20 centimetres [7.8 ins] over the highest routes “
The up and down forecasts this week have prompted bookies to take the axe to a raft of winter odds.
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Ladbrokes is offering 6-4 from 2-1 on seeing -10C (14F) by the end of the weekend with 5-2 on snow every day until march.
Spokeswoman Jessica Bridge said: “Unfortunately freezing February’s weather has left us with little option but to slash the odds on it being a record breaker for all the wrong reasons.”
Coral make it evens to be the coldest February on record with 2-1 on snow in London before the end of the month.
Spokesman John Hill said: “It looks like we are set for some frosty days and nights ahead in February in what the betting suggests could end as a record cold month for this time of the year.
“We have taken a flurry of bets for snow to fall in London at some point this week, while we are long odds-on for the white stuff to come down in any major Scottish City by the end of the weekend.”
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