Britain is bracing itself for one of the coldest winters for a century with temperatures hitting minus 16 degrees Celsius, forecasters have warned.
They predicted no let up in the freezing snap until at least mid-January, with snow, ice and severe frosts dominating.
And the likelihood is that the second half of the month will be even colder.
Weather patterns were more like those in the late 1970s, experts said, while Met Office figures released on Monday are expected to show that the country is experiencing the coldest winter for up to 25 years.
On New Year’s Day 10 extreme weather warnings were in place, with heavy snow expected in northern England and Scotland.
Despite New Year celebrations passing off mostly unaffected by the weather, drivers in parts of the country, particularly areas of Northumberland, Cumbria and the Scottish Highlands, were warned not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
The continued freezing temperatures did not signal bad news for everyone however. CairnGorm Mountain said it has had its best Christmas holiday season in 14 years.
With heavy snow in the area, the resort said that over a four-day period following Christmas Day it has had more than 8,000 skiers and snowboarders using its runs – including 800 on New Year’s Eve.
Over 15,000 skiers have used the resort since the start of December, compared to 2,000 last year.
A spokesman for the Met Office said: “It is certainly a while since we had cold weather like this and there isn’t any sign of any milder weather on the way.”
Considerable amounts of “showery snow” is expected over Scotland and eastern England over the coming days, he said, whilst the rest of the United Kingdom would remains dry but very cold.
He added that temperatures in the Scottish highlands could dip to minus 16 degrees while even southern areas of England could see lows of minus 7.
The cold weather comes despite the Met Office’s long range forecast, published, in October, of a mild winter. That followed it’s earlier inaccurate prediction of a “barbecue summer”, which then saw heavy rainfall and the wettest July for almost 100 years.
Paul Michaelwaite, forecaster for NetWeather.tv, said: “It is looking like this winter could be in the top 20 cold winters in the last 100 years.
“It’s going to be very cold the for the next 10 days and although there could be a milder spell at some stage the indications are that the second half of the month will be even colder.”
Revellers braved temperatures of minus 6 degrees to see in the New Year, with only the celebrations in Inverness being cancelled because of the cold.
Matt Dobson, forecaster for MeteoGroup, the Press Association’s weather division, said last month had been the coldest December for 13 years. “It has been the coldest December on average since 1996,” he said. “The second half of the month was very cold indeed but the first half was relatively mild. If it had been colder in the first few weeks we would have seen more records broken.”
Police divers searching a lake for two duck hunters who had been missing over Christmas have found a second body.
The hunt for Paul Lichfield had been called off over Christmas because sub-zero temperatures made searching the ice covered lake too perilous.
However, as the weather conditions improved police frogmen resumed their search for the 30-year-old at Brightwell Lake at Ringstead, Northants. Police found the body of his friend, Philip Surridge, before Christmas after the pair fell in on December 22 whilst trying to rescue their dog.
Meanwhile, a fleet of gritters in Perth, central Scotland, was grounded this week because it was so cold, leaving roads untreated in temperatures of minus 10 degrees.
Perth and Kinross Council said the gritters were unable to leave the depot after the extreme weather led to difficulties in refuelling.
Perth resident Ian Thomson said: “I’ve heard of the rail companies blaming the wrong kind of snow and leaves on the line for disruption but for the council to say it was too cold to get the gritters out is just ridiculous.”
Published: 8:00AM GMT 02 Jan 2010
Source: The Telegraph