Cold weather to chill UK into late January

LONDON (Reuters) - The bitterly cold weather is likely to continue into late January after one of the chilliest Decembers on record, the Met Office said on Monday.

The UK’s official weather forecaster expects widespread and severe frost, patchy heavy snow showers and Arctic winds over the next few weeks, threatening crops and keeping heating demand well above seasonal norms.

“For the first half of the month, every forecast model is going for remaining with easterly winds or northerly winds and that can only be cold at this time of year,” Helen Chivers, a forecaster at weather centre said.

“Quite easily with the patterns set up the way they are we could see this hanging on for the next two weeks.”

Britain often escapes the extreme winter cold of continental Europe because of relatively mild but wet weather brought by south westerly winds from the Atlantic.

But Arctic winds expected to come from the north, mixed with cold and relatively dry easterly winds from continental Europe and Russia, means there is unlikely to be much relief from the winter freeze this month.

“There were hints that you might get something slightly less cold pushing in from the south west mid month,” Chivers said.

“But we saw that before Christmas and the temperature only got up to about plus five (degrees Celsius), at best. So we are not talking mild.”

With an average mean temperature of 2.1 degrees Celsius, last month was Britain’s coldest December since 1995, when the average mean temperature across the country was just 1.7 degrees, a spokeswoman for the Met Office said.

December 1995 was the fifth coldest since records began in 1914.

Reporting by Daniel Fineren