by David Hughes
Last year, the UK ground to a standstill after a spell of cold weather dubbed ‘The Beast from the East’ brought icy temperatures, heavy snow and widespread disruption.
The Met Office has now warned that the stratospheric conditions which prompted the unseasonably bitter spell could return to Britain in 2019 – here’s the latest.
Is the Beast from the East coming back?
The Met Office has said that sudden stratospheric conditions appeared during the Christmas period, delivering a brief, sharp increase in temperatures.
When this happens in the Arctic it can lead to a rush of cold air blowing eastwards across Europe a few weeks later, bringing much cooler temperatures to the continent.
The forecaster said this is what caused the Beast from the East early in 2018 – an icy blast of freezing Siberian winds which brought freezing temperatures and heavy snow to much of the UK.
Spokesperson Grahame Madge said, “Last year there was a classic set-up with the Beast from the East, there was an event in the Arctic – sudden stratospheric warming – where the stratosphere warms rapidly.
“That triggers, generally, a change in the direction of winds across Europe at surface level. The upshot is that normally when this happens in the Arctic you get easterly winds and that’s what happened last year.”
The sun will be out this afternoon across most of the UK 🌞 Blustery showers near the east coast 🚿 will blow off the North Sea in strong winds pic.twitter.com/JXpLwZVswj
— Met Office (@metoffice) January 8, 2019
Because of this, the Met Office has said a similar phenomenon cannot be ruled out this time around although Mr Madge insisted that forecasters are not “seeing any change in an easterly pattern”.
He explained, “There have been some parts of Europe that have experienced quite significant cold, heavier-than-average snow in countries like Austria and in northern and central Europe.
“It is possible we could still see this turn to a more easterly flow but if anything it looks as though we are in stable weather conditions.
“We are looking at the next week or so, but we could see a change after that. But there is nothing in the next week or so that could indicate any change like the Beast from the East.”
What’s the latest UK weather forecast?
Despite the worrying weather patterns, the Met Office stressed that some parts of Britain are set for above average temperatures for January over the weekend.
For the rest of the week, conditions are set to start crisp and chilly for much of the UK, particularly in southern regions, with cloudier but mild conditions gradually sweeping in.
Rain is set to spread from Northern Ireland on Wednesday, with the drizzly conditions affecting Britain more broadly as the weekend approaches.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, inews