Britons wake to snow and freezing fog after -10C overnight lows


Snow was blanketing large swathes of the country today as Britons were warned to remain cautious when venturing out into the hazardous conditions brought by the cold snap.

In the early hours the Met Office revised its forecast and spared only the South East and parts of western Scotland from its yellow weather warnings.

Icy surfaces were already wreaking havoc on the roads this morning and police in Derbyshire used an image of an upturned car to warn other drivers to be careful behind the wheel.

The A1 in County Durham has been brought to a standstill with motorists enduring hour-long tailbacks because of problems caused during the snow, including a stalled truck.

And in Harrogate, Yorkshire, cars and pedestrians were seen braving blizzard-like conditions as the snow pelted down upon them.

Yet morning dog walkers embraced the wintry weather and trudged through the thick snow which settled as temperatures plunged to as low as -6C.

A romantic image saw the Angel Of The North statue, in Gateshead, looming over acres of land covered in snow, as children armed with sledges visited the iconic hilltop landmark.

It comes amid warnings that the Beast from the East, which caused chaos across the country in 2018, could return.

Temperatures will struggle to climb beyond 5C and north of the border will plunge to as low as -6C this morning as forecasters urged to ‘wrap up warm and take care if you have to step outside’.

Fog patches are also expected for parts of the South, while outbreaks of sleet and snow have been forecast for the Midlands and parts of the North.

After another freezing night with national temperatures ranging from -6C to just 3C, Saturday will usher in sunnier spells with no weather warnings – although it will still be very chilly.

Thick cloud across northwest Scotland will sink southwards during the day across much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England, bringing a chance of light rain which may be wintry at times.

Although all of the UK is under strict ‘stay at home’ orders – with exceptions such as for essential work – to stem the spread of coronavirus, drivers were warned to be careful on the roads.

Drivers in the North East were told to only take to the roads if absolutely necessary as the weather caused huge logjams.

Highways England tweeted: ‘We are currently monitoring heavy snowfall which is causing disruption in the area of County Durham.  Traffic officers and gritters are out patrolling the area. With delays reaching 60 mins on the A1M southbound we are advising drivers to only travel if essential.’

Thames Valley Police, which covers Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, said: ‘Please take extra care when driving this morning as some roads could be icy. If you’re driving this morning, please fully de-ice your car windows, adapt your driving to the conditions, keep well back from vehicles in front, and leave extra time for travel.’

Surrey Police warned that just because the roads have been gritted it ‘does not ensure that they are entirely ice free! Drive safely and be aware that black ice on roads is possible.’

Lorry drivers working throughout the night this morning warned others taking to the roads this morning to be cautious amid icy conditions.

One Somerset-based distribution company tweeted a picture of snow falling on one of their vehicles, saying: ‘Another cold night with patches of snow across the country! Go careful on the road.’

North East traffic cameras showed heavy snowfall with the roads blanketed with the white stuff.

The same conditions that brought snow storms three years ago are forming again high up in the atmosphere.

The ‘sudden stratospheric warming’ (SSW) event happens when the temperature in the stratosphere soars by 50C (122F). This ‘reverses’ Britain’s wind pattern, from the warmer west out in the Atlantic to the east – and Siberia.

It can take two weeks for the effects of a SSW to be felt. This was the case in February 2018 with the infamous Beast from the East, which saw much of the UK gripped by travel chaos and school closures amid heavy snow.

Dr Richard Hall, an expert in SSWs from the University of Bristol, said it ‘loads the dice’ or ‘tips the odds’ in favour of another blast of heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures from Siberia.

A study by experts at the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Bath shows how dramatic meteorological changes above the North Pole can have severe consequences for the weather in the UK.

During an SSW the stratosphere – the layer six to 31 miles above the Earth’s surface – can increase in temperature by up to 50C over a matter of days.

This disturbance can travel down through the atmosphere to the Earth’s surface and cause shifts in the jet stream, the fast-moving air currents that cool Europe.

UK experts studied 40 stratospheric warming episodes from the last six decades in the latest study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Dr Hall said an SSW happens ‘every two years in three’ and one is ‘taking place at the moment’.

In 2018 there was an SSW event two weeks before the ‘Beast from the East’ brought 50cm (20in) snowfalls.

However Dr Hall said only two thirds of SSWs reach the surface and the current one could ‘just peter out’.

He added: ‘The main area of impact is over Siberia where you get intense cold and that then extends westwards toward Europe.

‘We are right on the edge of this and so slight variations can affect if it reaches us.’