A leading forecaster says there is a "significantly heightened risk" of the weather phenomenon that caused 2018's Beast from the East returning to the UK in the New Year.
Despite the name, sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) causes temperatures to plummet in the UK and can lead to widespread snow.
It describes when changes in the polar vortex cause cold air to rush downwards, impacting the jet stream and potentially creating a blocking pattern that could keep snow and cold locked in place for an extended period of time.
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Exacta Weather forecaster James Madden reckons this is what we could see in January. He said in an update this week: "There has recently been some fairly good to strong indicators for a major SSW to occur during the first half/early part of January, and if things fall into place as expected afterwards, then many parts of the UK can fully expect to end up in the freezer and be constantly peppered with snow events and some severe cold weather for a prolonged period from later in January and into February, including the much milder parts to the south of the country."
We had an SSW event earlier this year that brought "a little taste of snow and cold last March", according to Madden, but the forecaster says this was "too little, too late". That might not be the case this time around.
Madden continued: "This is somewhat different, as it is a very early and potentially major disruption of the polar vortex, which should see us as beneficiaries of some substantial cold and snow this time around.
"These overall developments may even have the potential to delay spring and bring a cold or very cold March this year, but some early indicators are suggestive of some early warmer weather from as early as April of this year."
The Met Office has also said cold and snowy spells are on the cards in January. Its forecast for January 3 to 17 reads: "Short-lived colder spells remain possible, with hazards such as snow and ice, particularly in the north. The chance of these colder spells slightly increases moving through January, with a low likelihood of a more prolonged spell of cold weather developing towards mid-month."
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