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Met Office explains what a Sudden Stratospheric Warming is
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An Arctic blast reaching the UK in March would “not be surprising”, an independent forecaster has said. Jim Dale, senior meteorologist for British Weather Services, is one of the many experts keeping watch on the growing fears of a snowstorm hitting to Britain next month. A scenario where a final cold spell reaches the UK would be propelled by sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) which happened close to Scandinavia this week. This weather event, tipped to end today, will now leave the nation on tenderhooks as the SSW plays out over the next two to three weeks.
The Met Office’s explanation of SSW says: “As the cold air from high up in the stratosphere disperses, it can affect the shape of the jet stream as the cold air sinks from the stratosphere into the troposphere. It is this change in the jet stream that causes our weather to change.”
While it is linked to the Beast from the East 2018, and was the driving factor behind the plunging mercury and snow blitz which hit the nation, it’s not guaranteed every time the warming happens. In 2019 it had no impacts on the country’s weather.
But this time around, the Met Office described it as “major” which indicates the potential for it to ramp up in the coming weeks. Mr Dale, who claims to have coined the Beast from the East phrase 20 years ago, said the outcome of this month’s warming may not result in snow – but could bring a tirade of stormy condtions.
He said: “There are some indications [of a colder spell] but it would not be surprising. It’s the same regarding a named storm. But, nothing yet is set in concrete; it remains a watching brief.
Mr Dale said forecasters will know in a matter of days whether or not any dramatic weather is heading to the UK, if at all. He told Express.co.uk: “We will know more within three to five days in my opinion. Remember, any dislocation of the polar vortex may not have our name on it.
“The SSW is happening but where the polar air goes is yet to be determined.” A run of the GFS weather model shows extremely cold air pushing from the east towards Britain on March 3, which could be linked to the warming.
By 6pm on March 3 a wall of snow looks set to arrive across Britain, but its colouring in accordance with the maps’ key suggests it could be a light shower which could even fall as sleet.
The Met Office’s latest long-range forecast, published this afternoon, now leans on the probability of colder weather dominating. It has now also said the middle of the month is looking like the more favourable outcome at present for a cold snap.
From March 3 to 17 it says: “Through early March, high pressure will likely dominate across the UK with any more unsettled weather likely confining to the far north or northwest.
“Generally drier more settled conditions are expected to continue, with occasional spells of unsettled weather possible at times, especially in the south later into the period. Colder nights are likely in places throughout.
“Temperatures will likely be around or slightly above average for the whole period, with perhaps colder conditions relative to average more likely towards mid-March. There remains a small but increasing probability of much colder weather developing as we move further into March.”
But despite recent speculation on a second Beast from the East pushing from Scandinavia, there is no confirmation as to how severe a the colder period will be.
Earlier this week, Jo Farrow a senior forecaster from Netweather said: “The answer to the question (of a Beast from the East) still remains and we don’t know yet.
“We will wait a week or so to see how the forecast settles after such a major atmospheric happening and it will be eyes peeled for any signs of the deep blue colours on the thickness charts showing bitter cold marching eastwards at the surface.”
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