Winter is coming: Polar vortex to plunge UK into WORST January FREEZE...

Winter is coming: Polar vortex to plunge UK into WORST January FREEZE in years

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Extreme weather threatens to bring roads and transport networks to a halt while heavy snow could force school closures around the country.

A monster plume of brutally cold air is poised to sweep down from the North Pole next Friday prompting forecasters to re-issue warnings for severe weather.

Britain is facing the worst winter blast since the shockers of 2010 and 2011 when heavy snow, sub-zero temperatures and ice ground the country to a near standstill.

A volatile combination of climatological factors including a La Nina Pacific Ocean cooling and a weakening of the Polar vortex will allow freezing air to flood in from the Arctic region.

The onset of La Nina comes at the tail end of the strongest El Nino on record which set in during the summer of 2015 raising water temperatures around the coast of Peru.

Both phenomena are linked to dramatic changes in the weather around the globe including colder winter temperatures in the UK.

La Nina is already packing a punch in the United States bringing torrential rain and storms as cold air sweeps down from the Gulf of Alaska.

Air currents circling the North Pole – the so-called Polar Vortex- have shown signs of weakening in the coming weeks and opening the floodgates for numbing winds to pour in from the Arctic.

Britain will enter a period of rapid cooldown from next Friday (January 13) bringing overnight lows of -15C (5F) to Scotland and the north while the south sinks to around -2C (28.4F).

Thermometers will struggle to get much above low single figures during the day while elsewhere hovers around the -3C (26.6F) mark.

Some forecasters say this could herald the start of a major freeze which will grip the UK into the start of spring.

James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said: “There is agreement across several weather models that next week we will see a significant weather pattern change.

“Widespread snow events could bring the risk of wintry showers to most, if not all parts of the country.

“This is likely to lead to some notable accumulations and lying snow on the ground for several days due to the accompanying cold conditions, including to much lower levels of the country including London.

“Widespread school closures are also very likely.

“The last time we experienced anything on such a scale was December 2010 or March 2013 – one of the coldest Marches on record.”

Piers Corbyn, forecaster for WeatherAction, warned to brace for freezing gales and blizzards to bring travel chaos and power outages across Britain.

He said: “Towards the second half the month extreme cold will develop with bitter gales which could be damaging at times and blizzards across all parts which will then become limited to the Midlands and eastern England.

“There could be a spell of dangerous weather with severe gales, storms and even the chance of hurricane-force winds further out to sea.

“It will remain very cold until the end of January with further northeasterly gales – temperatures for January are likely to come in well below normal.”

He warned fluctuating temperatures will cause snow to melt and rapidly re-freeze turning Britain into an ‘ice rink’.

Supercooled rain – rain which drops below freezing while falling but remains in liquid form until it hits the ground – will also be a risk, he added.

He said: “Because of the wild fluctuations of the jet stream we are expecting through the month there will be wild changes in temperatures.

“Heavy snow followed by milder temperatures will cause large areas of snowmelt which will refreeze leading to very dangerous icy rods and pavements.

“We could also see supercooled rain freeze on contact with the ground forming large sheets of ice.”

Freezing forecasts have prompted bookies to take the axe to odds that this month will be the coldest January on record.

Coral is offering 5-1 from 12-1 on January entering the record books with 10-1 from 12-1 on a new record low being set this month.

Spokesman David Stevens said: “We may have ended 2016 by avoiding a White Christmas, but if the opening days of 2017 are a guide, this could be one of the coldest months for decades, with the odds on a new record low plunging as quickly as the mercury is right now.”

Ladbrokes is offering 50-1 from 200-1 on the -27.2C record tumbling this month with 20-1 from 100-1 on hitting -20C.

Spokesman Alex Donohue said: “Winter is finally here and the odds of frosty weather records being broken in 2017 are in freefall.”

The Weather Company predicts February will be colder than average in the UK thanks to a breakdown of the Polar Vortex.

Meteorologist Todd Crawford said: “We expect the persistent Scandinavian ridging to regress a bit into the Northeast Atlantic, which may allow the cold weather to slide further west across parts of southern Europe, at least early in January.

“We continue to watch the stratosphere for signs of a polar vortex breakdown that may allow more extensive North Atlantic blocking that would increase the chances for cold in western Europe in time for the end of winter.”