Snow and freezing fog will hit Britain on New Years Day today after temperatures plummeted to -7 ° C overnight – and there is more sub-zero weather this weekend before it could get worse later this month.
Forecasters warn of possible further chaos as the same conditions behind the "Beast from the East" in 2018 – one of the worst storms to hit Britain in living memory – re-form high up in the atmosphere.
The Sudden Warming of the Stratosphere (SSW) event occurs when the temperature in the stratosphere increases by 50 ° C. This "reverses" the UK's wind pattern, from the warmer west in the Atlantic to the east – and into Siberia.
It can take two weeks for the effects of a pregnancy week to be felt. That was the case with the infamous Beast from the East in February 2018, which saw much of the UK hit by travel chaos and school closings in heavy snow.
The Met Office had to issue a “code red” warning for snow for the first time in its history. Snow storms blew in from Russia in bitter winds, and drivers and passengers were stranded on snow-covered highways overnight.
A cottage was surrounded by snow in Teesdale in the northeast yesterday as parts of the land had a very wintry end by 2020
Early risers enjoy a refreshing New Year's swim at Frenchman & # 39; s Bay in South Shields, South Tyneside this morning
A man and woman are running along a beach at Rocker, Sunderland this New Year's Day this morning to get into the North Sea
A spectacular sunrise as the clouds glow orange today over the frost-covered beach and cliffs at West Bay in Dorset
Grahame Madge of the Met Office said, “Many weather agencies agree that this SSW will be next week. In this case – about 30 km in the stratosphere – our traditional wind pattern can be reversed.
'Less clear is the long-term outlook for the impact of this event. Two out of three SSW events result in very cold episodes, but one in three has little effect. & # 39;
What is Sudden Stratospheric Warming?
Severe conditions hit the UK in February 2018 have been dubbed a "cocktail of weather events" by the Met Office.
The cold spell known as "the beast from the east", which also coincided with the arrival of Storm Emma, was caused by a temperature jump high above the Arctic that meteorologists termed "sudden warming of the stratosphere".
The phenomenon that usually leads to cold spells in the UK starts 30 km in the atmosphere of the high altitude jet stream, which normally flows from west to east, bringing relatively warm and humid air from the Atlantic to the UK.
A disturbance hits the jet stream, pushing its waves towards the Arctic and reversing the stream from east to west. As the air over this area is compressed, it starts to heat up.
This creates high pressure over the North Atlantic and blocks the usual mild airflow that flows into the UK from the west.
Instead, colder air is being sucked in from the east over the British Isles, resulting in colder temperatures.
The general outlook for the New Year period and into the second week of January is that the cold conditions with snow, frost and freezing fog will continue.
Wintry showers are expected in north east Scotland and north east England on New Years Day. In the southern parts the frozen fog will improve, while in other areas the sky will be brighter.
Met Office forecaster Clare Nasir said New Year's Day showers in the north would fall as snow at a higher level.
She added, “We have actually seen freezing fog persist well into the afternoon, especially in the south east of England, and temperatures here will get worse.
"Elsewhere there will be brighter skies to end the day – and that really sets the scene for the first weekend in 2021."
A New Year's Eve ice warning over the majority of Devon and Cornwall for motorists facing a standstill on the M5 remained active to 9am today.
About 23 flood warnings – meaning flooding is expected – were in effect in areas in the south and south-east of England. A further 56 flood warnings were also set up by the environmental authority.
The Met Office said winds will bring more freezing cold air from the continent this weekend – meaning many areas under snow are unlikely to see a thaw.
The cold spell continues with "strong local night frosts, especially in the north," the Met Office said, adding that there will be some winter showers in the eastern parts.
Temperatures in Northern Scotland could drop as low as -12 ° C on Saturday night where there is snow.
Police forces in areas affected by ice and snow urged drivers to travel only when necessary as crews participated in multiple collisions.
Simon Williams, spokesman for the RAC breakdown, said: “We urge drivers to exercise caution on New Years Day as there is a high risk of snow and ice on the roads.
& # 39; The message for those who need to drive is to adjust their speed to the conditions and allow extra braking distance so that 2021 doesn't start with an unwanted bump and insurance claim.
"Snow and ice are by far the toughest driving conditions, so if they can be avoided, this is probably the best strategy."
Last night was bitterly cold – temperatures dropped to -7 ° C this morning in both Andover, Hampshire and Salisbury, Wiltshire. Exeter and Bournemouth both dropped to -5 ° C (23 ° F).
However, it wasn't quite as arctic as it was on Wednesday when temperatures in Dalwhinnie in the highlands dropped to -10.2 ° C – the coldest so far this winter.
Yesterday, the last day of 2020 saw bitterly cold conditions and more snow for much of the UK – with a low of -7.5 ° C in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire. This was the coldest morning in England in 2020 on its last day.
Police told visitors to stay away from the snow-covered Dartmoor in Devon after vehicles got stuck. They warned of "treacherous" conditions after snowfall attracted many families to the beauty spot.
Elsewhere, Wales police said they fined a driver for violating Covid restrictions after traveling from England to look for snow.
This is a projection of the wind speeds 30 km above the North Pole. For the next ten days, the drop in the red line indicates that the winds high up in the atmosphere will drop and change. This indicates a "sudden warming of the stratosphere" with temperatures rising high above the North Pole. Those conditions were behind the Beast from the East in February 2018, when much of Britain was hit by travel chaos and school closings in heavy snowfall
In 2018, heavy snow fell in Great Britain in the "Beast from the East". The Millennium Bridge in London is pictured on March 1, 2018
Meanwhile, rescue teams yesterday asked people not to attempt walks in mountainous areas in snow and ice unless they are properly prepared.
The appeal came after they rescued a man who tried to climb the 2,552-foot Dow Crag in the Lake District without equipment in freezing conditions.
He desperately called 999 for help after he was stuck – triggering a rescue involving 17 volunteers and a helicopter 100 miles away in Wales that cost thousands of pounds.
Coniston Mountain Rescue said climbers should only set out in full mountain clothing with phones and backup batteries.
In Scotland, heavy snowfall yesterday blocked the A9 in the highlands between Carrbridge Junction and Slochd. Street plows and spreaders were used to free trapped cars and trucks.
The snow gates have been closed at the Cairn o & # 39; Mount Pass in Aberdeenshire. Part of the M77 in Ayrshire was closed due to an accident in what Traffic Scotland called "difficult" conditions.
Winter weather was also reported on the M74 in Lanarkshire and in Perth the M90 Friarton Bridge was closed due to a collision heading north.
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