Cold Arctic air could bring colder weather and snow to parts of the UK, the Met Office has warned
On Monday night, temperatures dropped to -4C in parts of rural England, in a run of unsettled weather that included snow, strong winds and rainfall.
Forecasters predict that temperatures in the south of England could fall to below freezing, bringing snow across the capital from Wednesday next week while temperatures across the north of England and Scotland could also plummet below zero as early as Thursday.
The Met Office said Arctic winds have brought wintry spells across the country. Snow is forecast to arrive in areas above 600m in Scotland but this cold weather will spread to lower levels on Thursday morning as more icy air blows in from the Arctic.
The Met Office tweeted: “Several shots of Arctic air are on the way to the UK later this week as the jet stream dips southwards, bringing much colder and wetter weather. Strong winds may bring some disruption by the weekend with snow possible in places.”
Met Office forecaster Greg Dewhurst said: “Temperatures in London next Thursday could be 7C at maximum – so it will get below average.
“Night time could be nearer to freezing and we could see snowfall. It could be sleet and rain mixed during the day and then there could be a cold blast that heads south and gives snow.”
A yellow warning for wind has also been issued for Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England on Friday.
The warning has been extended to the south west of the UK. The Met Office has told Brits to prepare for damage to buildings such as tiles being blown from roofs, travel delays and power cuts.
It said: “The strongest winds will arrive across northern Scotland during Friday afternoon, before becoming more widespread overnight and into Saturday morning. Winds will tend to slowly ease from the north during the afternoon. The location and strength of the very strongest winds remains uncertain.”
The prospect of early snow already has the bookmakers excited about the possibility of Britain enjoying its first meaningful White Christmas since 2010, the coldest December in a century.
The likes of William Hill are already taking bets on whether the country will see snowfall on Christmas morning and which parts of the country might be most likely to see it, the current favourite being Leeds-Bradford Airport, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“Forecasting snow is done with near-perfect accuracy within five days, and so it remains notoriously tricky business, especially for bookmakers,” reflected William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.
While the British Isles regularly enjoyed snowy Christmases during the “Little Ice Age” that held the country in its grip between 1550 and 1850 – Charles Dickens and all those greetings cards weren’t just making it up – rising global temperatures suggest that heavy snow in the UK is less likely in the 21st century.
However, the Met Office does offer some grounds for hope on that front, explaining: “The natural variability of the weather will not stop cold, snowy winters happening in the future. In fact, in terms of widespread sleet/snow falling across the UK on Christmas Day, between 1971 and 1992 there was only one year (1980), whereas in the years 1993 to 2004 there were six such occasions.”
The truth is that the weather on Christmas Day has been incredibly variable for decades, with the coldest temperature ever recorded in the British Isles an astonishing -18.3C, which struck Gainford in Durham in 1878, according to the Met Office.
By contrast, the warmest Christmas Day was a sweltering 15.6C, which was noted in Killerton, Devon, in 1920.
It remains to be seen what we can expect in 2021 but it is probably too early to make any definite predictions, given that a lot could happen between now and the big day.