FREEZING Britain is on alert for a potential ‘Beast from the East’ whiteout as meteorologists sound the alarm over a sudden collapse of the Polar Vortex.
Weather models have in the past 24 hours agreed that a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) –the driver of the 2018 February big freeze – is now likely later this month.
The phenomenon causes the circling dome of -50C air over the North Pole to descend pushing a cold plume into mid-latitude regions, including the UK, around 10 days later.
Some experts have warned the vortex could even split, putting Britain and parts of Europe in the firing line for a major cold spell lasting well into February.
SSW events were behind the devastating freezes of February 2018, winter 2009 to 2010, and early 2013 when bitter temperatures held fast into April.
Heavy snow is set to return to the UK next month as the Beast from the East returns PA
James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said: “Recent weather models are starting to show a split of the Polar Vortex as a result of a Sudden Stratospheric Warming event.
“This could affect the UK weather by bringing us more snow and cold weather by the start of February, and this cold snap could be prolonged, perhaps delaying the start of the warmer spring weather.
“The SSW event could lead to a major disruption of the Polar Vortex, and that puts the UK at risk of much more cold and snowy weather through the coming weeks.”
A strong SSW drove the 2018 Beast from the East February freeze which left swathes of Britain under inches of snow.
The Polar Vortex collapsed over Eastern Europe allowing a huge high pressure system to build and drag snow-laden easterly winds into the UK.
Meteorologists remain uncertain where the Vortex will land should predictions for an SSW to come to fruition.
Snow warning: The warming and collapsing of the Polar Vortex could unleash an Arctic blast WX
However, many agree that winds in the stratospheric Polar Vortex are slowing–the tell-tale signal for an imminent SSW event.
Writing on Twitter, Dr Amy Butler, an atmospheric scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said: “At least a minor SSW looks likely by the end of January.”
Gavin Partridge, of GavsWeatherVids, said the weather forecasting model GFS-Global Forecasting System-showed the stratospheric Polar Vortex ‘splitting’ later this month.
UK meteorologist Marco Petagna wrote: “GFS…continues to suggest 2 periods of warming over [the North Pole]...with a [second] more pronounced episode [suggesting] a major…sudden stratospheric warming.”
James Peacock, head meteorologist at MetSwift added it is ‘increasingly likely’ that by the end of January the Polar Vortex will have displaced over Scandinavia.
However, while SSW events have previously lit the fuse for major cold spells in Britain, sub-zero temperatures, snow and blizzards are still not guaranteed.
The Polar Vortex could offload its freezing delivery over America, mainland Europe or Asia, plunging those regions into a ‘horrific’ freeze, experts say.
This may have a knock-on effect on the UK’s weather by firing up the jet stream and steering storms into Britain, as happened earlier this year when America froze over.
Jim Dale, meteorologist for British Weather Services, said: “I think that a Sudden Stratospheric Warming will probably happen, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Polar Vortex will fall over Britain.
“It is a bit of a lottery where it lands, as it tends to dislocate over continental regions like America, Europe and Asia.
Multiple weather maps now show the SSW event 'splitting' the Polar Vortex Tropical Tidbits
“However, that is not to say we could not get a cold snap as there is a chance it could push across Greenland, but for the moment we must be a bit reserved on predicting the impacts.
“Somewhere, though, could now be in for something quite horrific.”
If it lands over America, the stark change in temperatures could once more fire up the jet stream to unleash another dose of storm misery, he warned.
He said: “These events always have a knock-on effect.
“As we saw just a few weeks ago, the American freeze powered the jet stream and as a result we had a prolonged spell of Atlantic driven wet and windy weather.
“But we have to wait to see how this plays out. It is bit like waiting for the big fight to begin.”
The current cold weather and talk of a prolonged winter snap has prompted bookies to slash the winter weather odds.
Heavy snow warning: A split Polar Vortex is now an increasingly 'likely' event Meteociel
Coral is offering 6-4 from 2-1 on plunging temperatures this month driving the coldest January on record.
Spokesman John Hill said: “With temperatures dropping all the time, and parts of the UK set to covered in a blanket of snow, we have slashed the odds on this month ending as the coldest January since records began.”
In the meantime, the UK Met Office has warned that sub-zero temperatures will hold out through the rest of this week.
Chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen said: “Cold air is continuing to push across the UK from the north and many areas have seen some snow, wintry conditions, and overnight frosts.
“National Severe Weather Warnings have been issued across parts of western England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland with more warnings likely to be issued over the coming days.”