Crowds enjoying New Year’s Eve celebrations across Britain tonight can expect dry and mild weather as the clocks strike midnight – before temperatures plunge at the start of 2019.
Those with tickets for London’s fireworks show or Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations will see warmer than usual temperatures of around 8C (46F), but are still being urged to wrap up warm for the outdoors.
Today brought a grey start for many, with conditions expected to brighten up throughout the day – but New Year’s Day could see daytime temperatures plunge from 14C (57F) to 6C (43F), and drop below 0C (32F) at night.
And forecasters have warned Britain could face another Beast from the East within a fortnight following an atmospheric event known as Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) that has happened over the last week.
Sunset is pictured today over Whitey Bay in Tyne and Wear. Those celebrating the New Year across Britain tonight can expect dry and mild weather as the clocks strike midnight
Those with tickets for London’s fireworks show or Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations will see temperatures of 46F (8C)
Competitors in fancy dress run across the Pennine tops near Haworth, West Yorkshire, in the Auld Lang Syne Fell race today
Two competitors take part in the annual Auld Lang Syne Fell race today, which attracts hundreds of runners every year
New Year’s Day could see daytime temperatures fall, and drop below 32F (0C) at night – before remaining cold the next day
This is where the temperature suddenly rises high up in the stratosphere, between six and 30 miles above the North Pole, and it can result in a chain reaction that leads to very cold conditions from eastern Europe and Russia.
Met Office forecaster Ellie Creed said the SSW happened a week ago, and – if it translates to the earth’s surface – Britain would most likely see the effects by mid-January with colder than average temperatures and snow.
What’s the forecast for midnight tonight in your area of Britain?
- London: 8C, 0% chance of rain, 7mph winds
- Cardiff: 8C, 2% chance of rain, 11mph winds
- Edinburgh: 10C, 10% chance of rain, 18mph winds
- Belfast: 9C, 4% chance of rain, 9mph winds
- Birmingham: 7C, 2% chance of rain, 8mph winds
- Manchester: 8C, 14% chance of rain, 9mph winds
However, she added that this is ‘by no means certain’ and the impact on Britain ‘depends on the circumstances of the weather at the time’. The last Beast from the East to hit the UK, in February, caused widespread travel chaos.
More pressingly – tomorrow, forecasters have also warned of hard frosts and freezing fog overnight, and say the cold snap could last for at least a week. Snow is possible even at low levels as far south as the Peak District.
The early evening is forecast to be wet and windy across Scotland, particularly in northern parts, where gusts could reach between 40mph and 50 mph.
A yellow weather warning has been issued from 5pm on New Year’s Eve to 5am on New Year’s Day for Orkney and Shetland, where transport is expected to be delayed due to winds of 70mph.
The weather in Edinburgh should improve further into the evening as the new year approaches, due to a band of patchy rain moving southwards.
The change in weather from tomorrow is being brought about by a shift in the position of an area of high pressure, which has been centred over northern France and brought mild air from the west over recent days.
The cold spell dubbed ‘the Beast from the East’ was caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic, known as ‘sudden stratospheric warming’. This is where the temperature suddenly rises high up in the stratosphere, between six and 30 miles above the North Pole, and can result in a chain reaction that leads to very cold conditions from eastern Europe and Russia
Yesterday temperatures reached 13.3C (56F) at Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, compared with average levels for late December of 6C to 7C (42 to 44F) in northern England and 8C to 9C (46F to 48F) in the South.
What is Sudden Stratospheric Warming?
Severe conditions that hit Britain early this year were described by the Met Office as a ‘cocktail of weather events’.
The cold spell dubbed the ‘the Beast from the East’ – which also coincided with the arrival of Storm Emma – was caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic, known by meteorologists as ‘sudden stratospheric warming’.
The phenomenon, which in Britain usually leads to cold periods, begins 30 miles into the atmosphere in the high altitude jet stream, which usually flows from west to east, bringing relatively warm and wet air from the Atlantic into the UK.
A disturbance hits the jetstream, pushing its waves down towards the Arctic and reversing the stream from east to west. As the air is compressed over this region, it begins to warm.
This leads to high pressure over the North Atlantic, blocking the usual flow of mild air that flows into Britain from the west.
Instead, colder air from the east is sucked over the British Isles, resulting in colder temperatures.
Outlining the change, Met Office meteorologist Greg Dewhurst said: ‘Through the course of New Year’s Day, we’ll see a weak cold front pushing across the UK, which will introduce the colder air mass.
‘The high pressure is due to move position, bringing polar air, which then stays, leading to mostly bright days and very cold nights. Where fog lingers during the day, places will be dull and cold.
‘Cold air will be stuck over the UK. If any further weather fronts make it – and our predictions do not suggest any until the middle of next week – they could give some snow as far south as the Peak District.
‘The snow is likely to be mostly at high levels but there could be some at low levels at times.’
Mr Dewhurst said night time temperatures could fall to -3C (27F) on New Year’s Day into Wednesday, and -4C (25F) the following night in rural areas of England and Wales. By Thursday night, -6C (21F) is possible in rural areas and most cities could also experience a frost, except London.
Daytime temperatures are likely to be between 3C and 6C (37-43F), apart from on some southern coasts where it could reach 7C to 8C (45F to 46F), Mr Dewhurst added.
Environmentalists warn the sudden change in the weather could have a severe impact on plants, animals and birds.
Ian Rotherham, professor of environmental geography at Sheffield Hallam University, urged households to leave out seeds, fat balls and water for birds, and cat food for hedgehogs. ‘They will need food before they can go back into hibernation,’ he said.