Maps show sudden snow pillar to hit UK after spring conditions arrive

Weather: Frosty morning for start of week turning milder

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The threat of sub-zero temperatures hitting Britain has hung over the country for weeks, with some forecasters believing time is running out. A Beast from the East, or after effects from sudden stratospheric warming, has been tipped to arrive this month – with experts poised for an influx of wintry showers and bone-chilling temperatures.

But, new interactive maps show a snow pillar pushing eastwards across the nation before the end of February, indicating that a brief cold spell may be on the cards after-all. Despite the maps always being subject to change – one meteorologist has described the “waiting game”, while another insists that March may be the month to watch for snow. 

The only place in Britain which has retained snow since November/December time is the Scottish Highlands, with this picture remaining largely the same in the coming weeks. But on Sunday, February 19 – just under two weeks away – more of the nation may be in for a dusting.

The snow drama will start at midnight, WXCHARTS maps illustrate, with a band of rain pushing in off the Atlantic but potentially falling as snow across a large part of the south east, including London, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Hampshire. 

Central Wales may even be hit with freezing rain as temperatures plunge overnight. It looks set to blanket the north western coast, pushing further north than Manchester. Ice pellets may also hammer Belfast in Northern Ireland during this period. 

How much of the snow will lay remains to be confirmed, but maps are expecting up to between 1cm and 3cm across the UK’s central belt – with Wales scooping the thickest snowfall out of the four nations.

Jim Dale, senior meteorologist at British Weather Services, told “It’s settled for a time yet but only marginal frosts. There is a likely high pressure moving out around February 18, but any snow risks as yet are minimal.

“It is all very much wait and see, it is all in the melting pot and time is slowly running out.” Mr Dale believes that mid-March will be the cut-off for any snowy weather. Meteorological spring begins on March 20, which could be a big factor in a lower risk of bitterly cold temperatures.

But weather maps paint a more immediate picture, with more rain showers overnight between February 19 and 20 falling as snow sporadically across the nation. Ice pellets and freezing rain may also hit parts of northern Britain, in areas such as Newcastle.

This means over a 24-hour period much of the country may have experienced snow showers at least, even if it doesn’t settle in all areas. Maps also suggest Wales may get up to 5cm and parts of eastern Scotland potentially waking up to 7cm. 

Nick Finnis, a senior forecaster for NetWeather, explained how charts are reading for the middle of this month. In his blog he said: “Around mid-month 15 to 20, GFS and its ensembles along with ECWMF extended ensembles have been increasing the probability of a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) around this time.

“This reversal of winds from westerly to easterly as the polar vortex is weakened and displaced from the pole could propagate towards the troposphere (where our weather happens) and trigger high latitude blocking.

“This could bring cold and wintry weather to the UK at the end of the month and into early March. But no guarantee this may happen, even if there is a SSW.”

In his analysis of the weather for the UK amid the first half of this month he, along with other forecasters, predict a mild period. “It’s looking like a rather dry for the first half for much of the UK,” he added.

“Signs from model ensemble means for a change by mid-month, with EPS and GEFS 500mb mean showing an upper trough close to the UK, meaning a cyclonic flow with low pressure in charge bringing unsettled and windy conditions. Depending on where the trough sets up, it may be mild or chilly, trough to the west = mild, trough over the UK = chilly.”

The Met Office’s long-range forecast for the month does not go into as much depth, but it does indicate a potential favouring over wet and windy conditions. From February 11 to 20 its verdict is: “The coming weekend is expected to be mostly dry and largely cloudy, albeit with some rain at times in the far north and northwest.

“For the rest of the period, settled conditions overall are expected for most, bringing dry weather with sunny spells. There is a risk of overnight fog in many parts of the country, particularly in the south.

“Changeable weather conditions are more likely in the far north, with showers and longer spells of rain, as well as periods of stronger winds in the northwest. Temperatures overall will be mild in the north, particularly in the northwest, but near average elsewhere, with a low chance of colder conditions and frost in the south.”

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