UK weather forecast: New snow and ice warnings as temperatures plunge to -12C

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New snow and ice warnings have been issued for the UK following the coldest night in almost two years.

Drivers and pedestrians should expect travel delays and hazardous conditions on untreated roads or pavements.

An ice warning covers a stretch of eastern England, from Northumberland down to the Kent coast, where rain-slicked surfaces are expected to freeze from Wednesday evening.

Some of the showers may be wintry inland but the chance of anything but isolated and very small accumulations of snow is very low, the Met Office said.

The agency has issued a snow warning for all of Northern Ireland, saying as much as 5cm (2ins) could fall on higher ground on Thursday morning.

It comes amid fresh warnings that a new Beast from the East could bring extreme cold and heavy snow to the UK within a fortnight.

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A snow warning for Northern Ireland and an ice warning for an eastern stretch of England

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Experts have predicted that a sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event over the North Pole will take place this week, increasing the odds of freezing cold and snow over the next week or two.

This SSW is "potentially the most dangerous kind", researchers warned.

It is the same weather phenomenon that triggered the 2018 Beast from the East, which dumped 50C (20ins) of snow, brought a -15C freeze and was blamed for almost 20 deaths.

The new Beast from the East prediction came as the UK shivered through its coldest night for almost two years.

A temperature of -12.3C overnight in Loch Glascarnoch was the coldest since February 3, 2019, said forecasters.

Elsewhere, a dusting of snow fell in places such as Sussex, Kent, Surrey, the Cotswolds, Warwickshire, Greater Manchester and County Durham.

New weather warnings

The Met Office issued two new severe winter weather warnings on Wednesday morning. The following warning areas and forecasts are subject to change.

Ice warning

Untreated surfaces are expected to freeze as the temperature falls from Wednesday evening

When: 4pm on Wednesday to 10am on Thursday.

Dangers: Some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces, and probably some icy patches on untreated roads, pavements and cycle paths.

The Met Office said: "Further showers are likely on Wednesday evening and overnight, before becoming confined to East Anglia on Thursday morning.

"As ground temperatures fall below freezing there is the likelihood of ice forming on some untreated surfaces.

"Some of the showers may be wintry inland but the chance of any more than isolated very small accumulations of snow is very low."

Snow warning

A snow warning covers all of Northern Ireland

When: 12am to 9am on Thursday

Dangers and disruption: Some roads and railways likely to be affected with longer journey times, by road, bus and train services, some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces, and probably some icy patches on some untreated roads, pavements and cycle paths.

The Met Office said: "A band of rain, sleet and snow is likely to push south-east across Northern Ireland on Wednesday night before clearing during Thursday.

"Away from some northern and eastern coasts, this will fall mainly as snow with accumulations of 1-2cm possible.

"2-5 cm of snow is possible on hills above about 150m.

"Accumulating snow may well affect the Glenshane Pass.

"Snow should ease, whilst probably turning back to rain, early Thursday.

"Regardless of snow accumulation, after several cold days, ice is likely to be relatively widespread on untreated surfaces."

Cold spell to continue

Forecasters say the cold spell affecting much of the UK is due to continue, with temperatures expected to remain slightly below average into next week.

Temperatures will stay in single digits across the UK in the coming days, with rain, sleet and snow expected in parts.

Met Office spokeswoman Nicola Maxey said earlier: "This cold spell will last certainly this week and into next week, although we should see a little bit of recovering temperatures as we start next week.

Snow fell in Bishop Auckland in County Durham overnight
(Image: K88LEY/Twitter)

"By the time we get to Friday, we're starting to see the chance that things might warm up a bit, but we're still looking at 3C or 4C for London, with isolated areas perhaps seeing 6C."

Leeds will see temperatures of around 4C, while parts of Scotland will hover around freezing in the daytime.

Ms Maxey added: "Temperatures are a little bit below average for January. I think by the time we get to mid-month we're probably going to see those temperatures move closer to the average for this kind of year."

Persistent rain is expected in the South East.

Some parts of the UK may also see sleet and snow, though it will largely stay on higher ground.

Ms Maxey said: "We may see the odd flurry down to lower levels, particularly in the North East, maybe the North West depending on what day you're looking at, but certainly any snow to lower levels will be quite transient really and not last very long.

She added that the South East could also see some snow on Thursday and Friday, but "if it happens, it won't stay around for long".

"A half a degree difference in temperature can make the difference between snow and rain, so snow is one of those things that's difficult to be prescriptive about too far out."

New Beast from the East?

Sudden stratospheric warming triggered the 2018 Beast from the East
(Image: Getty Images)

Scientists at the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Bath have warned that the UK could face much more extreme and treacherous conditions before the end of January.

They have predicted an imminent stratospheric warming over the North Pole, which could have severe consequences for the jet stream and weather in the UK.

Their weather forecasting models are predicting with increasing confidence that a SSW will take place this week, the Times reported.

Dr Richard Hall, lead author of the study, said there was an increased chance of extreme cold and snow over the next week or two.

He said: "Today's SSW is potentially the most dangerous kind."

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The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Scientists analysed 40 SSW events over the past 60 years to come up with their January prediction.

Sudden stratospheric warmings occur up to 30 miles above Earth and can bring very cold weather, which can trigger massive snowstorms.

In 2018, the Beast from the East brought freezing cold from Siberia to Britain, causing widespread chaos as snowstorms left drivers stranded on roads for hours, schools were shut and flights were grounded.

Almost 20 deaths were attributed to the cold and snowy conditions.

Residents of Sevenoaks, Kent, woke up to a dusting of snow on Wednesday
(Image: Jack/Twitter)

Snow covers a street in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, on Wednesday morning
(Image: Jacksweatherch1/Twitter)

The Beast from the East hit about two weeks after the sudden stratospheric warming event.

The Met Office has said it is tracking the SSW and another weather event which are "fighting for influence over the UK" and could bring more low temperatures in the coming weeks.

Meteorologists have observed a sudden stratospheric warming is under way.

The agency is also tracking a La Nina in the Pacific, which could bring wet and stormy weather as it increases the UK's chances of westerly winds.

Ms Maxey, the Met Office spokeswoman, said previously: "You've got the two events happening at the same time so they vie against each other in a sense.

More snow is expected in the UK in the days ahead (file photo)
(Image: Getty Images)

"They're sort of fighting for influence over the UK, we're a very small dot in the middle of the ocean."

She added that the warming in the stratosphere takes at least 10 days to move down into our atmosphere.

Ms Maxey added: "The feeling at the moment is that we may see some colder weather towards the end of January into February, but probably the sort of weather that we're seeing at the moment, as opposed to what is popularly perceived as a Beast from the East.

"There's still a lot to play for, we're keeping an eye on the situation, the experts are working on how that might influence our weather."

Met Office five-day weather forecast

Wednesday

Many central and north-western parts dry with sunny spells, whilst further wintry showers affect the east.

Rain, sleet and snow reaching north-west Scotland later.

Cold.

Wednesday night

Wintry showers east and south-east.

Clear spells elsewhere with frost, severe across central parts.

Rain, sleet and snow moving south-east across Scotland and Northern Ireland, turning icy in places.

Thursday

Band of rain, sleet and inland snow moving south across Northern Ireland, Scotland and northern England through the day, with wintry showers following.

Otherwise dry and cold with sunny spells.

Friday to Sunday

Outbreaks of rain, sleet and snow across central areas.

Turning changeable and less cold in the north over the weekend but largely dry and cold in the south.

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