After a brief breather of milder and wetter conditions, winter will return with a vengeance to parts of the UK as up to 30cm of snow falls over 40 hours and temperatures plummet to as low as -12°C (10°F).
Blizzard conditions are expected to hit Scotland and northern England from tomorrow morning through Thursday night – while freezing rain, which turns to ice on hitting the ground, is also a possibility.
It comes as much milder conditions have moved into southern England and Wales, with highs of 11C (52F) expected in Cornwall today – although much of the south is set to be hit with heavy rain over the next two days.
Colder air prevails in the north, however, with highs of just 3C (37F) expected in sunny weather this afternoon. It follows an ice warning this morning for Scotland and England up to the Peak District.
The UK could also be hit by another ‘beast from the east’ in the coming weeks due to an unusual meteorological event over the North Pole. Stratospheric Sudden Warming or SSW began last Tuesday and could trigger weather changes that would result in a severe cold snap in the UK.
Swimmers brave the cold at Tynemouth Beach on the north east coast of England this morning
Swimmers splash in the waves at Tynemouth Beach in the North East this morning
Huge waves smash against Tynemouth Pier in North Tyneside this afternoon
Swimmers and walkers on the beach at Tynemouth on the north east coast of England this morning
Seagulls fight over food that has been thrown onto the lake at Sefton Park in Liverpool this afternoon
The Met Office has warned that widespread snowfall of up to 15cm and up to 5cm at lower elevations is likely in areas at least 150m above sea level in Scotland and northern England from tomorrow.
But in some areas, especially on high floors, there is a possibility of falling up to 30 cm. “Significant travel disruption” is predicted, with the possibility of motorists being stranded and isolated rural communities “cut off”.
The UK could be hit by another Beast from the East in the coming weeks
The UK could be hit by another ‘beast from the east’ in the coming weeks due to an unusual meteorological event over the North Pole.
Stratospheric Sudden Warming or SSW began last Tuesday and could trigger weather changes that would result in a severe cold snap in the UK.
dr Richard Hall, an expert on SSWs from the University of Bristol, said it was “loading the dice” or “tipping the odds” in favor of another blast of heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures from Siberia.
A study by experts from the universities of Bristol, Exeter and Bath shows how dramatic meteorological changes over the North Pole can have serious consequences for the UK’s weather.
During a SSW, the stratosphere — the layer 6 to 31 miles above the Earth’s surface — can warm by as much as 50°C in a matter of days.
This disturbance can travel through the atmosphere to the Earth’s surface, causing shifts in the jet stream, the fast-moving air currents that cool Europa.
British experts examined 40 episodes of stratospheric warming over the past six decades in the latest study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. dr Hall said one SSW happens “every two years in three years” and one “is happening right now.”
In 2018, there was a SSW event two weeks before the “Beast from the East” brought 50 cm (20 inches) of snowfall.
dr However, Hall said only two-thirds of SSWs reach the surface and the current one could “just run out”.
He added: “The main area of influence is over Siberia, where it gets very cold and then expands west towards Europe. We’re on the very edge of it and so slight variations may impact when it reaches us.’
Today, many parts of England remain at risk of flooding, with a total of 36 Environment Agency warnings in place across the country, plus eight more severe warnings, all in North Yorkshire.
Meteorologists predict freezing temperatures will cause further problems in Scotland today. Met Office meteorologist Nicky Maxey said: “This could be the time to take care of elderly or vulnerable neighbours.
“Relatively warm rain will meet cold ground over Scotland. It will certainly be the worst over the high ground, but we will also see some snow down to sea level.
“Nights will also be cold, with -10C or -12C on Thursday evening. Daytime temperatures will also be fairly low across Scotland for the remainder of the week.’
Snow is forecast when a weather front moves north-east through tomorrow, falling as rain in Wales, southern England and the Midlands, but turning wintry as it meets cold air over the Pennines.
In its alert, which begins at 8am tomorrow, the Met Office said: “The rainy area is expected to increasingly fall as snow, at least at times, as it meets colder air in Scotland and parts of northern England.
“There is still a chance that milder air will get in and the snow will continue to turn into rain, in which case the snow would be largely confined to the highest points.”
The Met Office is also warning of potential power outages and disruption to cell phone services. After heavy snowfall and rain, the end of the week is expected to be mostly cloudy with scattered rain showers.
Temperatures will remain in the low single digits in northern areas – between 4°C (39°F) and 7°C (45°F) – and slightly warmer in Wales, the Midlands and the South, where 7°C (45 °F) and 9 °C (48 °F) are predicted.
The weather is expected to remain unsettled over the next fortnight, with “rainy spells accompanied at times by strong winds”.
Forecasters say the wettest and windiest conditions are expected in the south and west, with the best dry weather expected in the north and east.
In northern areas, particularly on high ground, snow is “intermittent” possible and temperatures are likely to remain “below normal” for the time of year in the low single digits Celsius.
In the Highlands yesterday, melting snow led to flooding, with the A9 particularly hard hit near Slochd, 15 miles south of Inverness. Bear Scotland said it had 38 gritters in the north west alone last night.
The storm followed in the wake of Storm Bella, which struck in the days after Christmas. And after a brief respite, parts of the country remained under a blanket of snow for the first few days of the new year.
Heavy rain falls in the south this morning (left) before snow falls in Scotland and the north tomorrow (right).
Met Office weather warnings are for ice today (left) and snow and rain tomorrow (right) across Scotland and the North
People go to their daily exercise at Sefton Park in Liverpool this morning during the third national lockdown for England
A person walks a dog at sunrise on Scarbourough beach in North Yorkshire this morning
A starry sky over St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear photographed in the early hours of the morning