Explainer

UK cold weather alert: Forecast for snowfall and freezing temperatures prompts Met Office warning

A man walks amongst frost covered vegetation in Bushy Park London after a night of low temperatures in the capital. Weather forecasters are predicting fresh falls of snow later in the morning across the north of England. Picture date: Thursday January 6, 2022.
Snow falls in Bushy Park, London, last winter. Credit: PA

It may only just be the beginning of meteorological winter, however cold northerly winds, originating from the Arctic, are set to bring cold days, frosty nights with some snowfall and the risk of ice as we move through the week.

Northerly winds will develop allowing cold air to drift southwards across the UK.

This will cause temperatures to fall not only by day, but widely by night too.

Overnight temperatures are forecast to be as low as -8C to -10C in one or two prone spots as we head to Friday as a widespread frost forms.

Daytime highs are likely to struggle come Friday reaching just 1-3C Credit: ITV Weather

Wind chill will also be a factor. This is where the temperature of the air feels colder due to the wind speed and the amount of moisture in the air.

In a northerly flow as the air drifts over a relatively warm sea it picks up moisture.

This will allow some heavy snow showers to form, especially as we head to Friday and the weekend.

These will affect Scotland primarily, along with eastern and western coastal areas with snowfall mainly affecting high ground but progressively getting down to even lower levels as it turns colder.

Temperatures by Friday will drop well below freezing allowing a widespread harsh frost. Prone locations will get as low as -8 to -10C Credit: ITV Weather

Remember with showers not all will see these. Showers are hit and miss, they may line up at times giving some locations persistent snowfall, but just five miles down the road you may wonder what all of the fuss is about.

This makes them very difficult to predict and it's worth staying up to date with the latest forecast.

We're expecting to see travel disruption and dangerous driving conditions with these wintry hazards.

There is currently a yellow weather warning for snow on Wednesday for northern Scotland where 2-5cm is expected and up to 10cm above 200m.

More warnings are likely as we move through the week and the confidence increases. You can keep up to date with these on the Met Office Weather warnings website and remember to check the forecast before you travel.

Not everyone will see the snow. Those through central areas and away from coasts are prone to seeing some brighter days but it will remain particularly cold.

It's worth noting we're not expecting widespread snowfall, just a few flurries the further south you are.

A yellow warning for snow has been issued for northern Scotland on Wednesday, with 2-5cm likely and 5-10cm expected above 200 metres. Credit: Met Office

As a result of sub zero temperatures expected until after the weekend, Public Health England have issued a Cold Health Alert from Wednesday (7 December) to Monday (12 December).

It advises "that we should look out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold, and ensure they have access to warm food and drinks and are managing to heat their homes adequately.

If possible you should try to maintain an indoor temperature of at least 18°C, particularly if you are not mobile, have a long-term illness or are 65 and over. You should avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions if you are at a higher risk of cold-related illness or falls".

Remember the five P's in cold weather:

The 5 P's you need to remember with cold weather Credit: Chris Page, ITV Weather
  • People - especially the elderly, if you can please check in on your neighbours and check if they are OK and need anything

  • Pets - in cold weather, animals that may usually be outside, it's worth considering bringing them inside or ensuring they have somewhere warm to shelter. And don't forget that salt spread on the roads can be irritating to your furry friends paws, remember to rinse them in warm water

  • Pavements - remember icy paths and pavements are likely so be careful of slips, trips and falls

  • Pipes - cover your pipes and protect your outside taps from freezing over to help prevent water leaks

  • Plants - cover and protect cold sensitive plants

How long is it expected to last?

Although there are still large uncertainties with the detail of the forecast, it is expected that this cold snap will last past the weekend and into next week as temperatures will remain well below average for the time of year.