Met Office says Sudden Stratospheric Warming that caused 2018 Beast from the East is expected at end of February

By [email protected] (Lauren Abbott)

Forecasters are warning that a weather event which risks bringing Arctic conditions to the UK is likely to happen later this month.

The Met Office believes a rapid heating up of a layer of the Earth’s atmosphere – known as a Sudden Stratospheric Warming – is expected in the next couple of weeks.

A major SSW can lead to a change in the jet stream that shapes much of the UK’s weather which then causes a large area of ‘blocking high pressure’ to stubbornly hover over northern Europe.

This block of high pressure can draw in dry, often extremely cold weather to the UK from places like Scandinavia, just like that seen in 2018 when a prolonged spell of ice, bitterly cold temperatures and heavy snow became known as The Beast from the East.

The storm caused chaos across the UK with weather conditions that resembled Iceland when temperatures dropped as low as -11C in places and some areas reported up to 22 inches of snow.

While the Sudden Stratospheric Warming in 2018 did lead to lengthy Arctic-like conditions for much of the country from February 24 until March 4, an SSW, warns the Met Office, does not always always equate to a ‘Beast from the East’ type scenario.

An SSW the following year – in 2019 – had a much smaller impact on the weather for the UK and north west Europe, it goes on to explain in a blog published this week.

But while the exact weather conditions this latest SSW will cause remain unknown, Professor Adam Scaife at the Met Office says the chance of the weather event occurring is now very likely.

The Head of Long-Range Forecasting at the Met Office, explained: “There is now over 80% chance of a major SSW occurring. Although the impact will become clearer nearer the time, any effect on UK weather is most likely to occur in late February and March.”

The current Met Office long range forecast, which stretches as far ahead as Wednesday, March 8, already warns of a probability of ‘much colder weather’ developing at the end of February. Until then the predictions are for ‘changeable’ conditions with bands of strong rain and winds expected at times.

The Met Office says it will be updating its forecasts with a ‘close view on late February and early March’ as the SSW unfolds and forecasts can assess its likely impact.

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