Beast from the East potential laid bare as UK braces for big freeze

UK weather: Met Office forecasts cold and foggy conditions

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Another snow bomb is days away from hitting Britain, bringing a whopping 11cm of snow onto the ground for some regions. The wintry blast is set to hit Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England by February 2 and will most likely hang around for at least a week, a forecaster has warned. Interactive weather model WXCHARTS shows snow caking Great Britain in its entirety on February 7, which indicates a period of high disruption and bitterly cold temperatures once again. 

This has caused much speculation as to whether the Beast from the East will be returning to the nation. The last time the UK felt its wrath was some five years ago back in February 2018 when a change was detected to the northern polar jet stream.

Reports say it twisted its direction unexpectedly, drawing in the cold air from the east. A Beast from the East weather front is defined as a polar continental air mass which is blown easterly to the UK from Scandinavia. 

“When this happens in winter, cold air is drawn in from the Eurasian landmass, bringing the cold and wintry conditions that give rise to the ‘Beast from the East’ moniker,” the Met Office says. 

Jim Dale, from British Weather Services, claimed he coined this phrase some 20 years ago – and has spoken to Express.co.uk about its potential to return in a matter of days.

First, speaking of the specifics, he said: “It’s more like February 2 and 3 when it’ll start unwinding with snow into February 4 and 5. Again northern areas most at risk but universal frosts/ice will be deep for Scotland and the north. The polar front will be down near the north Mediterranean by then so it’s moderated Arctic air all the way.

“It looks set for at least a week so it won’t be a one-day wonder.” He said Scotland will cop the brunt of it with northern England and Wales “coming a good second.” He confirmed other more southerly areas would have to wait and see.

Weather maps show nearly all of Britain set to see some form of snow – and Mr Dale said if this weather front gains traction, it has the potential to cause quite a bit of disruption. He added: “Certainly for Scotland and parts of the north, if it comes off as currently seen. There is every potential for disruption on top of high energy usage.”

While the bitterly cold freeze shows no signs of easing up, Mr Dale pointed out that this was all very common for the time of year, with December’s bout of snow and sub-zero temperatures being more of a rarity. 

In terms of a Beast from the East developing, he continued: “This is more from the north – the polar front diving towards the Mediterranean but it could easily switch to the Beast later – we need to wait and watch.”

Brian Gaze, founder of The Weather Outlook, echoed Mr Dale’s sentiments, and added: “Computer models are suggesting that a weakening of the Stratospheric Polar Vortex (SPV) in the coming weeks could lead to an increasing chance of cold weather during February. 

The Met Office has detailed exactly how a Beast from the East frontal system materialises in a spiel on its website, offering some idea as to how its journey to Britain across the Channel or the North Sea changes how it turns out.

It says: “The characteristics of the air depend on the length of sea track during its passage from Europe to the British Isles. The air is inherently very cold and dry and if it reaches southern Britain, with a short sea track over the English Channel, the weather is characterised by clear skies and severe frost.

“With a longer sea track over the North Sea, the air becomes unstable and moisture is added, giving rise to showers of rain or snow, especially near the east coast of Britain. The UK’s lowest temperatures usually occur in this air mass, lower than -10C at night, and sometimes remaining below freezing all day.

“Polar continental air only reaches Britain between November and April. At other times of the year, the source region is neither cold nor snow-covered and winds from northeastern Europe bring a form of tropical continental air.”

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