Beast from the East II: Stratospheric warming could bring ‘extreme cold weather’ to the UK, study suggests

Britain could face a period of “extreme cold weather” later this month, scientists have said. Research by academics at the universities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter projects a drop in temperatures due to a phenomenon called sudden stratospheric warming (SSW), which forecasting models predicted would occur on 5 January.  It comes amid speculation that another “Beast from the East“, which thrust the UK into a wave of cold weather in February and March 2018, will hit the country again this winter.

The warming of the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere which lies 10 to 50km above the earth’s surface, can cause the jet stream to shift, bringing lower temperatures to Europe and north Asia. Its effect might not be felt for a number of weeks, a study published by the researchers in the Journal of Geophysical Research. The the storm which caused the 2018 Beast from the East was also triggered by a SSW event.  

After analysing 40 SSWs from the last 60 years, the study’s authors concluded that roughly two thirds of these events had a “significant impact” on weather conditions. Richard Hall, the paper’s lead author, said there was a chance of an extreme cold snap and the possibility of snow over the next fortnight. “While an extreme cold weather event is not a certainty, around two thirds of SSWs have a significant impact on surface weather.

What’s more, today’s SSW is potentially the most dangerous kind, where the polar vortex splits into two smaller “child” vortices,” he said. Although the Met Office has anticipated a patch of colder weather towards the end of the month, it believes temperatures will not plummet to the lows brought by the “Beast from the East”. Nicola Maxey, a Met Office spokesperson, said: “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.”

The national weather service also said temperatures would remain low into next week, forecasting rain, sleet and snow in some areas.

Additional reporting by PA

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