Winter set to be coldest for 30 years
Brace yourselves for a freezing cold, bleak new year. This winter is set to be the coldest for more than 30 years, since the Winter of Discontent of 1978-79.
It was the coldest December in Britain for 14 years, 1.8C (3.2F) below average, and the coldest in Scotland for 28 years, 2.1C (3.8F) below average.
After thick snows, avalanches and temperatures plunging to -17C (-1F) in the Highlands, it looks as though the remainder of the winter for the rest of the country is on a slippery downhill run.
The Met Office has issued an updated seasonal forecast for January and February giving a 45 per cent probability of colder than average temperatures, compared with only a 30 per cent chance of average or 25 per chance of milder temperatures.
The conditions are already in place for a long freeze. By January and February the seas around Britain cool further, giving less insulation from biting, raw winds off Europe.
And the covering of thick snow in northern parts of the country is now acting like a refrigerator, cooling the air above.
Another worrying sign is a huge blockage in the weather pattern, as a vast high pressure system sits over Greenland and helps to steer the high-altitude jet streams far to the south of Britain, leaving the country exposed to winds from Russia, Scandinavia and the Arctic Ocean.
This combination is a throwback to some of our worst winters in history, such as 1978-79, when snow began to fall before Christmas, and blizzards later paralysed the country.
One feature that has surprised forecasters this winter is the coldness of the surface seas of the North Atlantic. In May last year there were early signs of warmer seas giving a milder winter, but a lid of cold water on the Atlantic surface is holding down that warmer water and it is not known if and when the warmer waters will break through.
Another sign of a cold winter comes from a growing El Niño in the Pacific, which has been getting stronger over the past few weeks. This turmoil in the tropical ocean shunts warm waters towards the coast of South America, and at present the sea in some places is 3C (5.4F) above normal, the warmest for 12 years.
This upheaval thousands of miles away reverberates through the atmosphere, affecting the jet stream winds that run around the globe and influence the weather in Britain.
“We can show a robust link between European climate and El Niño in late winter, with cold conditions over northern Europe and mild conditions in southern Europe,” said Dr Scaife of the seasonal forecasting group at Met Office’s Hadley Centre.
This doesn’t mean that the entire winter will be cold, though. Even the worst winters in history have had brief interludes of milder weather.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/w ... 976679.ece