A predictive forecast for months of snow across the UK could result in the worst winter in half-a-century.
The forecast from Exacta Weather shows snow is expected to start falling in Scotland in December and continue until March, although the earliest snowfall could arrive by early November.
A strong “El Nino” climate phenomenon taking place in the Pacific, which can affect the weather around the world, could spell a colder than usual winter in northern Europe.
James Madden, Exacta Weather forecaster, said: “It is likely to turn significantly colder from mid October onwards.
“This is likely to bring the first significant snow of winter above higher ground in parts of Scotland and potentially to some well-elevated parts of Northern Ireland.
“Some potentially wintry showers could develop in some other parts of the country during the evening or overnight when temperatures will dip with the strong influence of some cool northerly winds.
“The cold winds will allow it to be more settled, but during some periods of showers or unsettled weather we could see some wintry showers developing in places, particularly in some rural parts of the country.
“Some much lower levels of the country could see some early wintry showers during the latter part of October and into November.”
The Met Office is predicting above-average winter precipitation for the end of this year meaning heavy snow could be on the way if the cold does set in.
Its three-month outlook, issued for use by governments and contingency planners, states: “For October-November-December precipitation is more likely to be above-average than below-average.
“The probability that UK precipitation for October-November-December will fall into the driest of our five categories is 15 per cent and the probability that it will fall into the wettest of our five categories is 35 per cent.”
Early winter migration
The earliest recorded autumn arrival of a migratory swan at a UK nature reserve has added to speculation the country is in for a long, cold winter.
Conservationists at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) Slimbridge Wetland Centre said the arrival of the first Bewick’s swan from Russia for the winter on Sunday was the earliest since a study of the species began there more than 50 years ago.
WWT said its studies show that the weather is a major influence on when Bewick’s swans migrate, with the wind direction a crucial factor.
Unusually cold weather is hitting parts of western Russia and Eastern Europe, with temperatures plunging to between 5C and 10C below average, encouraging the swans to press on with their westward migration.
Some of the UK’s worst winters:
1683–84: The Great Frost of 1683–84 is the worst recorded in England with the Thames freezing for two months solid.
1684: the coldest winter in the English instrumental record.
1739-40: one of most severe winters in British history as part of the so-called ‘little ice age’ which lasted from 1350 to 1850.
1836: a huge blizzard and strong winds hit the south, the Thames flooded and eight people were killed in an avalanche in Sussex.
1927: a blizzard began on Christmas Day in the Midlands and Wales, resulting in some of heaviest snowfalls of 20th century.
1933: one of the worst blizzards to ever hit the British Isles saw 48 hours of continuous snowfall.
1947: harsh winter weather across northern Europe from January to March with heavy snow.
1952: high death toll due to London smog.
1962-63: the ‘Big Freeze’ saw the Thames freeze for first time since 1880 and Sheffield have 4ft of snow. It remains one of the coldest winters on record in the UK, with the coldest weather for 200 years and a 36-hour blizzard causing heavy drifting snow in most parts of the country.
1979: the coldest winter since the ‘Big Freeze’ of 1962-63.