A monster winter storm threatens to blanket parts of the UK with up to six inches of snow, some forecasts claim.
The potentially life-threatening storm is due hit in just over a week with heavy snow and extreme cold, raising fears of travel chaos that could affect millions of Britons.
New weather charts show the severe weather system sweeping across a majority of the UK – from Scotland’s Highlands in the north down to East Anglia, the Midlands and the south-east coast of England.
The threat was announced as continental Europe is hammered by relentless snowstorms that have killed upwards of 20 people so far and spawned devastating avalanches.
Here in the UK, the Met Office is predicting mild weather over the next five days, saying it will be mostly cloudy and windy with some rain at times.
It will turn colder later next week with spells of wintry showers, snow and frost.
From then on, some forecasts are warning Britons to brace for a length cold snap with the first major snowstorms of the season.
The Met Office has said it cannot rule out a repeat of February 2018’s ‘Beast from the East’, which caused chaos with extreme cold and heavy snow that trapped drivers on motorways overnight, grounded flights and forced schools to close for days.
A weather map from Wxcharts shows up to 5cm of snow is possible in North Wales and Scotland by next Friday, and up to 1cm over higher ground in the Midlands as temperatures begin to slide.
About 1-2cm of snow is possible across East Anglia, the Midlands parts of Greater London and Kent by January 23.
Snow is also possible in parts of Cornwall and Devon, and Northern Ireland in the next seven to 10 days.
The maps suggest a majority of the UK will see snowfall on January 24 and 25.
The system will stretch from the Scottish Highlands down to England’s south-east coast.
Some places in the Lake District in northern England could see up to six inches (16cm) of snow while Yorkshire could be hit by about 2.3 inches (6cm), the Express reported.
In its latest long-term update, the Met Office said there are signs that colder winter weather, resulting from a sudden stratospheric warming, is on the way for the UK.
It has warned of snow, ice and widespread frost.
The warming started around December 22 and winds about 18 miles above the North Pole reversed form westerly to easterly around New Year’s Day, it said.
As a result of the sudden warming, the Met Office said, the main stratospheric polar vortex has split and been displaced across the Atlantic and Europe – a type of pattern normally seen in the spring.
Unlike the ‘Beast from the East’ last year, this event is burrowing down through the atmosphere relatively slowly, the Met Office said.
Deputy Chief Meteorologist, Martin Young said: “The latest forecast suggests the highest risk of any severe wintry weather is from late January and into February. Whether cold spells will be brought about by Arctic air arriving from the north or easterly flows arriving from the continent remains uncertain.
“However, before this happens we expect a rather changeable and relatively mild spell over the weekend and early next week, with some rain for most of us.
“From the middle of next week, and especially during the last week of January and into early February, there is an increased likelihood of cold weather becoming established across all of the UK.
“This would bring an enhanced risk of snow and widespread frost almost anywhere across the UK, but particularly across northern parts.
“However, the cold weather may not affect the whole of the UK and it is still possible that some milder and wetter interludes will intersperse this generally cold period, especially in the south.”
Britons have been given an early warning after research found two-thirds have been caught out by severe weather.
Met Office five-day forecast
A cloudy, mild and windier day, with outbreaks of patchy light rain and drizzle clearing the south during the morning.
Remaining cloudy across western areas, with further rain arriving into the northwest later.
Perhaps some sunny spells in the northeast.
Cloudy with further outbreaks of rain across northern and eastern parts overnight, heaviest in northwest Scotland.
Mostly cloudy and mild elsewhere, but windy, especially across northern areas.
Cloudy and mild, with some patchy rain across England and Wales.
Brighter, with heavy showers across Scotland.
Windy, with gales in the north.
Turning much colder in the northeast later.
Monday to Wednesday
Monday looks less windy, colder and brighter.
Cloudy, breezy and milder again on Tuesday with outbreaks of rain.
Rain clearing to brighter, showery and windier conditions on Wednesday.
Weather to turn nasty next week
Here is the Met Office’s outlook for Wednesday 16 January to Friday 25 January:
“Cloudy skies and a spell of rain will slowly edge southeastwards on Wednesday, clearing most places by the end of the day.
“Behind this it will turn clearer and colder from the north by Thursday, with scattered blustery showers, becoming wintry across northern areas.
“Winds will be strong with a risk of gales in the north at times.
“Thereafter, it looks set to remain mainly cold, unsettled and sometimes windy, with any milder spells tending to be brief and associated with longer spells of rain.
“The rain could turn to snow almost anywhere, but particularly across northern and central areas, especially later in this period.
“Some drier, brighter, quieter spells are likely, perhaps with snow showers, especially in the east.
“During such spells, frost could become widespread and severe.”
Heavy snow, ice and widespread frost
In its long-term forecast for late January and early February, the Met Office has warned of cold weather, including snow, ice and widespread frost.
This is the outlook for Saturday 26 January Saturday 9 February:
“During the last week of January and into early February, there is an increased likelihood of cold weather being established across all of the UK.
“This would bring a greater risk of snow, ice and widespread frost, particularly across northern parts of the country.
“However, there remains uncertainty over the extent of the cold weather and how long it will last, and it is still possible that some milder and wetter interludes will intersperse this generally cold period, especially in the south.”