UK weather: New Beast from the East likely warns expert
Forecasters have warned bitterly-cold air could soon sweep across the UK, bringing with it the risk of “significant snowfall” in weeks. The Met Office said towards the end of January, there remains the possibility of “cold air outbreaks in the north as flow across Scandinavia pushes across the North Sea”. Their forecast from January 19 to February 2, said: “Confidence for this period is low, though there is a signal for Atlantic mobility to weaken which perhaps allows conditions, at least in the north, to become drier and for temperatures to be closer to average.
“However, there is still a chance of cold air outbreaks in the north as flow across Scandinavia pushes across the North Sea.
“This would confine more unsettled conditions to the south, as well as milder than average temperatures.
“Further, this boundary between the cold and milder conditions could also allow for some significant snowfall where the two air masses.”
It comes as a study published by researchers at the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Bath suggests a dramatic meteorological event could soon bring snow to Britain.
The so-called Beast from the East brought havoc to the UK two years ago – and the study suggests the sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event could trigger something similar.
The stratosphere is the layer of the atmosphere from around 10-50km above the earth’s surface.
SSW events are some of the most extreme of atmospheric phenomena and can result in polar stratospheric temperatures increasing by up to 50C over the course of a few days.
Such events can result in very cold weather, often including snowstorms sweeping across parts of Europe.
Dr Richard Hall, the study’s lead author, confirmed there was an increased chance of extreme cold, and possibly blizzards over the course of the next week or two.
He said: “While an extreme cold weather event is not a certainty, around two-thirds of SSWs have a significant impact on surface weather.
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“What’s more, today’s SSW is potentially the most dangerous kind, where the polar vortex splits into two smaller ‘child’ vortices.”
Dann Mitchell, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Bristol and another of the study’s co-author, added: “The extreme cold weather that these polar vortex breakdowns bring is a stark reminder of how suddenly our weather can flip.
“Even with climate change warming our planet, these events will still occur, meaning we must be adaptable to an ever more extreme range of temperatures.”
The research, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), analysed 40 observed SSW events which occurred over the last 60 years.
Researchers developed a novel method for tracking the signal of an SSW downward from its onset in the stratosphere to the surface.
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The paper, entitled Tracking the stratosphere‐to‐surface impact of Sudden Stratospheric Warmings, suggests split events tend to be associated with colder weather over northwest Europe and Siberia.
Dr William Seviour, senior lecturer at the Department of Mathematics and Global Systems Institute, University of Exeter, who also helped write the paper, said: “Our study quantifies for the first time the probabilities of when we might expect extreme surface weather following a sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event.
“These vary widely, but importantly the impacts appear faster and stronger following events in which the stratospheric polar vortex splits in two, as is predicted in the currently unfolding event.
“Despite this advance, many questions remain as to the mechanisms causing these dramatic events, and how they can influence the surface, and so this is an exciting and important area for future research.”
Met Office Professor Adam Scaife – head of long-range prediction, said: “As predicted, atmospheric observations are now showing that the Arctic stratosphere is undergoing a sudden warming event associated with a weakening stratospheric polar vortex.”
Paul Davies, the Met Office’s Chief Meteorologist, added: “We can’t completely rule out a signal for colder weather following this SSW event later in the month.
“However, evidence from model data and other drivers of the UK weather support a return to relatively milder and more unsettled conditions next week.”
The Beast from the East, officially labelled Anticyclone Hartmut, was a storm which began on February 22 2018, bringing a freezing cold wave to Great Britain and Ireland.
It caused massive transport disruption and was blamed for a total of 16 weather-related deaths.
It comes as the UK is bracing for the coldest night for nearly two years.
Temperatures could plunge to as low as -13C in some regions across the UK on Tuesday night into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Writing on Twitter, the Met Office wrote: “A cold and frosty night, away from South East England. A locally severe frost is likely in North West Scotland, where temperatures may plummet to a low of -13C.”
If these conditions were reached, they added it would “make it the coldest night since the end of January-early February 2019”.
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