January set to see temperatures dip as cold start to 2024 expected

A number of meteorological ducks are in row, meaning there is a strong chance of a cold snap in January.

It’s been threatening for a while, but things are now lining up favourably for a prolonged cold spell in the UK in the coming weeks and it’s time to get ready.

For months we’ve had El Nino conditions in the Pacific, which is when the mid Pacific is in a warmer phase, but what does this have to do with us here, thousands of miles away? Well, an El Nino can sometimes favour colder conditions across the UK after the new year.

There’s also something known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which is basically a tracking method for a large area of increased rainfall which moves around the tropics – mainly between Africa and the eastern Pacific – again something which is thousands of miles away but has impacts here. At the moment the main area of rainfall is moving out of Africa and into the western Indian Ocean, and when this happens it can change the pressure patterns in the Atlantic in such a way that it increases the risk of colder weather here.

Lastly there’s the polar vortex, which is a strong wind which develops during the polar winter and circles 30 miles above the Arctic. It does a good job of holding the coldest air over the pole, but the speed of the wind varies and this can allow outbreaks of cold air to flood further south, and we’re expecting a big drop in its speed by this weekend.

With all these meteorological ducks lined up it’s fair to say that there is a strong signal for colder and more settled conditions developing. I think we’ll start to see some changes towards the end of this week with the weather settling down and starting to turn a bit colder.

With the air becoming stagnant next week we could get some very cold nights, especially where we still have lying snow. New snowfall looks quite limited at this stage due to the largely dry conditions, but a change to more unsettled northerly flow could occur in the third week of the month and that would bring larger snowfalls to the north and east of the country and will need monitored.

So as things stand January looks like it’s going to be a cold and wintry one with no quick return to the milder conditions and relentless rain of the last few months.

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