England woke up to its coldest morning of the year on the last day of 2020 as temperatures fell to -7.5C (18.5F) and forecasters warned of further heavy snow, bitterly cold wintry showers and widespread frost.
The mercury could plunge to -12C (10F) in Scotland this morning and again on Saturday night as the
A snow and ice weather warning remains in force for much of northern England as well as large parts of Scotland until 2pm today, while a separate snow and ice warning for northern Scotland expires at 11am today.
An ice warning covering the southern tip of England also remains in force until 11am, with the possibility of rapidly freezing surfaces after downpours and a risk of injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces.
There is also still a flood risk for more than 100 areas of the country after further rain followed 106mph Storm Bella last weekend, with the Environment Agency imposing 31 flood warnings and 70 alerts across England.
For those watching any New Year fireworks tonight, most of the UK will have light cloud although there will be rain across Scotland which will sink into northern England overnight and reach Wales and the Midlands by dawn.
And more snow is on the way next week, with the Met Office warning of ‘hill snow but with a chance of snow falling to lower levels at times’ along with a risk of frost, freezing fog and ‘very cold overnight temperatures’.
A gritter with a plough drives down Chorley New Road in Horwich, Greater Manchester, this morning after further heavy snow
Heavy snow falls early this morning in Horwich, Greater Manchester, with much of the country still under weather warnings
A gritter drives down a road in Horwich, Greater Manchester, today after the Met Office warned of danger on the roads
A pedestrian walks along a snowy path this morning after heavy snow fell overnight in Horwich, Greater Manchester
The long-range forecast from the Met Office suggests ‘colder than average’ conditions will persist until at least January 26, with Scotland most at risk of continued snowfalls during early 2021.
This morning, temperatures fell to -7.5C (18.5F) at Topcliffe in North Yorkshire, a record for a morning in England in 2020, while they dipped to -6C (21F) in Edinburgh, -5C (23F) in Thetford, Norfolk and -4C (25F) in Bristol.
Met Office forecaster Clare Nasir told of a ‘very cold start’ to the last day of 2020, adding: ‘New Year’s Eve will bear with it again the risk of rain, sleet and snow, another feature sliding down the country from northern Scotland.’
She continued: ‘Particularly inland and over the hills we will see some snow. Many of us will see some brighter weather, with still a keen breeze keeping things very cold indeed, and again the risk of ice as we head into New Year’s Day, with again a wintry mix coming and going, and a fairly widespread frost.’
Snow falls in the town of Horwich in Greater Manchester this morning as travel warnings remain in place across the area
A car drives through snowy conditions in Horwich, Greater Manchester, today with the area under a Met Office warning
Ice on car windscreens in West London this morning as temperatures plunged below zero in the capital overnight
Temperatures were below freezing in most areas in the early hours of today (left) and still sub-zero for some by 8am (right)
Weather warnings are in place for much of Britain today (left), with temperatures this afternoon between 2C and 6C (right)
Temperatures across the UK are forecast to be between 2C (36F) and 6C (43F) during the day today. Yesterday saw the coldest night of the winter in Britain so far, with a low of -10.2C (13.7F) at Dalwhinnie in the Scottish Highlands.
‘Truly remarkable’ 2020 is set to enter top ten for sunshine and rainfall
2020 has been hailed as a ‘truly remarkable’ weather year after featuring the sunniest spring and the wettest February on record.
The Met Office said the UK’s ‘year of extremes’ was on course to be the third or fourth warmest year on record, and to be in the top 10 for both rainfall and sunshine. As well as a summer heatwave, 2020 also boasted an October day which smashed rainfall records.
Ahead of full-year figures due to be released on January 4, the Met Office said the data made it clear ‘that the general trend of warming as a consequence of climate change is being seen, not just at a global level, but in our own national temperature records’.
In its round-up of the year, the Met Office said: ‘The most noteworthy winter month was February, due to a rapid succession of named storms, rainfall totals were well above normal virtually everywhere, with many places getting more than three times their expected average.
‘It was the wettest February on record (records back to 1862) with the UK recording 237% of its average rainfall. It was also the fifth wettest of any calendar month on record.’
Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, said: ‘We have seen a number of exceptionally wet winters in the last decade, and due to climate change, we expect UK winters to become wetter. Of the top 10 wettest winters, four have occurred since 2007 and seven since 1990 while there has been a 17 per cent increase in the total rainfall from extremely wet days. In just over a decade we have now seen the UK’s wettest February (2020), April (2012), June (2012), November (2009) and December (2015), remarkably new national records in five out of 12 months.’
All four UK countries recorded their sunniest spring, as judged by Met Office records dating back to 1919, with only three summers (1976, 1989 and 1995) recording more hours of sun.
Dr McCarthy added: ‘In climate statistics, 2019 will be remembered for the UK’s hottest day, whereas 2020 will be associated with rainfall records. Saturday October 3, the day which followed Storm Alex, provisionally holds the record for the UK’s wettest day on record, in data stretching back to 1891. 2020 also has the third wettest day with the rainfall associated with Storm Dennis in February.’
Met Office presenter Alex Deakin said: ‘2020 will be remembered for many, many things and the weather should be one of them. There are still a couple of days to go so we don’t know exactly where 2020 will sit. But it is going to be another very warm year, very likely to be in the top five warmest years on record. It’s also very likely to be in the top 10 for sunniest and wettest years, a truly remarkable year.’
Although the AA said regional restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 meant roads were quieter than normal, bitterly cold conditions continuing throughout today and into the new year will bring a continued risk of ice to drivers.
Tonight will be the first time Scotland has seen temperatures below -9C (16F) at Hogmanay since 2009.
The conditions have sparked fears of travel chaos, including the risk of ice building up on the £1.35billion Queensferry Crossing, possibly forcing its closure.
Pensioners’ groups are also calling on people to look out for elderly neighbours who may be struggling to heat their homes.
Speaking about the forecast for Scotland, Met Office meteorologist Ollie Claydon said: ‘Overnight into Thursday morning we are expecting readings of -12C (10F). Hogmanay and New Year’s Day could see -10C (14F) in the countryside, especially where snow is lying on the ground.
‘Even towns and cities will drop below zero, with -4C (25F) expected in Glasgow as the clock strikes 12 on Hogmanay. But the mercury falls further on Saturday night, when -12C is expected in the countryside again.’
The last time similarly low New Year temperatures were seen was December 2009, when the mercury plunged to -18C (0F) at Braemar in Aberdeenshire.
In Inverness-shire yesterday, dedicated wild swimmer Nicky Goode had to break through the ice before taking a chilly dip in Loch Insh.
Meanwhile, a rare phenomenon known as ‘ice pancakes’ formed on Dunbeath Water near Latheronwheel, Caithness. The frozen discs tend to occur in very cold oceans and lakes and are frequently seen in the Baltic region.
As 2020 neared its end, the last full moon of the year shone brightly in clear skies. But despite the natural beauty of the season, there was a reminder of the dangers of winter.
Elderly people in Ardrossan, Ayrshire, were trapped in their homes without food because untreated pavements had become ‘ice rinks’ before volunteers from the Salvation Army stepped in to take vital supplies to pensioners.
Last night, Age Scotland asked people to watch out for the elderly during the cold spell.
The charity’s head of policy, Adam Stachura, said: ‘With strict restrictions in place in many areas, we’re less likely to see older family, friends and neighbours in person but it’s vital to keep in touch.
‘Offering a hand with shopping or collecting prescriptions, or even just a phone call or doorstep chat where possible to check someone is OK can make all the difference. This sense of connection can also be a lifeline for those feeling isolated and lonely.
‘With these icy conditions expec-ted to last a good few weeks, we can all play a part in looking out for older, more vulnerable members of our communities and making sure they keep warm and well this winter and beyond.’
Citizens Advice Scotland is also reporting soaring demand for energy advice across the country as temperatures plummet.
In the Highlands, meanwhile, drivers have been criticised for leaving carrots at the roadside to feed red deer. The animals are being attracted to graze close to the A82 at Kingshouse, Inverness-shire, presenting a danger to traffic – particularly at night.