A weather expert has warned Brits must "keep looking over our shoulders" as a "chaotic" weather phenomenon that can bring heavy snow and freezing temperatures is "on the menu".
Sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) occurs when temperatures in the stratosphere spike, causing the polar vortex – a circle of cold air over the Arctic – to dislocate. The cold then comes crashing down to us on the ground.
"It normally heads to the continents, the US, Asia generally. We’re on the edge of that and we occasionally do get a foray," Jim Dale, Senior Meteorological Consultant at British Weather Services, told the Daily Star. The heavy snow that brought the M25 to a standstill in December last year was as a result of SSW.
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He said: "There's every chance that could happen again. There’s no way of being sure, there’s no way of knowing where it will hit, but it’s definitely part of the menu of choice. It’s on the menu.
"Normally you would expect them to happen in the second half of winter, but that doesn't mean they can't happen in November or December – that's quite possible."
Mr Dale explained that such events are "a feature of climate change" and the "chaos" it causes. He said: "We're going to have to get used to these erroneous chaotic events, whether that's from a heat side which is more likely or on the other side from the poles in winter. It's not a case of global warming/climate change just means warm warm warm – it can mean severe spikes of cold."
SSW can lead to massive snow events, such as 2018's Beast from the East, when a "blocking pattern" forms, preventing other weather systems from moving in and alleviating the polar vortex's impact. Mr Dale added: "We'll have to keep looking over our shoulders to see what’s happening, but it won’t be for some weeks and months yet."
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