SCOTLAND was hit by sub-zero temperatures and parts of the Highlands were blanketed with snow as winter returned at the weekend, with forecasters predicting the cold snap will continue through the week.
Overnight temperatures fell to as low as -5.5C at Kinbrace near Wick in the early hours of yesterday, and -4C in Eskdalemuir in Dumfriesshire.
In the Central Belt, temperatures in Glasgow and Edinburgh hovered just above freezing.
Ian Robertson, a forecaster for the Met Office in Aberdeen, said a large area of low pressure over Scandanavia was to blame for the cold snap.
He said: “It’s currently pulling in winds from up in the Arctic Circle and that’s bringing cold air across Scotland. As that cold air travels across the warm seas, it generates showers and that’s what’s been pushing into Scotland.
“It’s just kept feeding cold air down, and it’s brought wintry showers to low levels, particularly across Shetland and the surrounding area – they’ve seen sleet at low levels.
“Although there’s been brief snow showers at low levels, it’s on higher ground, above 300 or 400 metres, that it is really falling as snow, which is making some of the fields develop snow cover.”
The wintry weather is in stark contrast to the brief heatwave that swept the country in late March, when temperatures climbed to well above 20C.
Mr Robertson said that while people might be shocked at seeing snow so late in the year, it was the prolonged run of cold temperatures that Scotland has been experiencing that was less usual.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the norm, it’s reasonably unusual, but it’s not unheard of. What is unusual is that it’s been like this for the past month,” he said.
“We’ve not got rid of it. We had that spell of good weather at the back end of March, but since then it’s been pretty cold.”
There is no end in sight to the poor weather – while the northerly air flow will dissipate over the next few days the cold will remain and rain is expected to push across Scotland. Frosts will continue through the week with snow showers above 500m.
But the cold weather has proved a boon for skiiers, with Cairngorm Ski Centre reporting “amazing conditions”.
A spokesman for the centre said yesterday: “We’ve got tremendous skiing at the top half of the mountain.
“We had 1,300 people up today, and yesterday, and hope for more of the same tomorrow, because we’ve had fabulous forecasts again.
“It is unusually late to have snow, but it is a great respite to pick up the season, which has been a mixed bag, so it’s a great end to help keep a lot of people happy.”
He said that, after a poor March during which the mountain had began to turn brown, the snow had picked up over the past three weeks, and that word had got out on Facebook and Twitter, attracting skiers.