The Scottish Mail on Sunday
THE BIG FREEZE
36 days of snow, temperatures to sink to ... get set for
SCOTLAND is facing one its harshest winters in decades due to a freak drop in ocean temperatures.
Meteorologists have warned Scots to prepare for up to 36 days of snow and ice and temperatures as low as -21c as freezing winds blow in from the Atlantic.
Tests have shown a large swathe of ocean 500 miles off the West Coast is at its coldest since records began – caused, experts believe, by Greenland’s ice sheet gradually melting.
The drop in water temperature is forecast to cool Scotland’s usually mild westerly winds and slow the warm Gulf Stream – but England is expected to avoid the icy blast.
The US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said: ‘The area of ocean had its coldest January to August in at least 80 years of records.’
The expected cold snap could even rival the ‘Big Freeze’ during winter 2010-11, which brought travel chaos.
December 2010 saw traffic brought to a standstill after heavy snow blocked roads for up to 48 hours, flights grounded and rail travellers left stranded when tracks froze.
Global forecaster AccuWeather said Scotland was due ‘full-on cold spells’ this winter – with Aviemore in Inverness-shire expected to see the most snow and ice, 30 to 36 days; while Aberdeen can expect 17 to 23 and Glasgow 12 to 18 days.
The lowest temperature so far this year, -4c, was on Friday at Kinbrace, Sutherland.
AccuWeather meteorologist Tyler Roys said: ‘Scotland is forecast a colder than normal winter. We’ll see full-on cold spells across Scotland.
‘The Atlantic is very cold off the coast of Scotland, which will cool weather systems as they move to Scotland. Cold air is also expected from the Arctic.
‘Given recent past winters’ minimum temperatures of -8c to -21c in Scotland, lows of that level are possible this winter.
‘The number of snow and ice days means the risk of disruption to travel. The most wintry conditions are expected from January to March.’
Fellow AccuWeather meteorologist Alan Reppert said: ‘Colder than normal water temperatures in the North Atlantic will keep Scotland’s daytime temperatures below normal for much of the winter.
‘The greatest threat for damaging wind storms appears to be through December as storms approach from the Atlantic.
‘Christmas shopping could be affected by wintry weather, while storms also forecast in December risk disrupting travel.’
Scotland’s winter chill will be caused by a cold 1,500 mile-wide swathe of the North Atlantic starting 500 miles off the West Coast, south of Iceland, AccuWeather said. This tranche of ocean is at its coldest since 1935.
Experts blamed the record cold ocean temperatures on the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which is also feared to be slowing the warm Gulf Stream pushing towards Scotland.
The Met Office has not yet issued a full winter forecast – but has warned of storms up until the end of next month.
Government forecasters warned of more Atlantic tempests than normal, meaning gales, washouts and flood risks ahead.
The Met Office’s October to December forecast said: ‘Spells of windy or stormy weather are more likely than is usual.’
The winter of 2014-15 saw three severe cold spells.
The -13.7c low on January 19 at Loch Glascarnoch, Ross-shire, was Britain’s coldest temperature since February 2012 and Scotland’s coldest since December 2010.
That month saw a bone-shuddering -21.3c at Altnaharra, Sutherland.