Britain is heading for the coldest winter in 300 years if the freezing weather continues, forecasters have warned.
The Met Office is already predicting a colder than average January with temperatures falling again from New Year's Day Photo: EPA
8:00AM GMT 30 Dec 2010
The average temperature of the season so far has been -0.8C (32F), colder than any year since 1683/84 when the mercury plunged to -1.17C (29.9C).
Traditionally a cold December leads into a chillier than usual January and February, meaning this winter could be one of the coldest on record.
Even though it has been warmer in the last few days, the Met Office is already predicting a colder than average January with temperatures falling again from New Year’s Day.
Dave Britton, of the Met Office, said the winter could be colder than normal.
However he pointed out that the forecast for January is uncertain at the moment and there are no predictions for February yet.
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“We could be heading for a colder than average winter,” he said. “But there is a long way to go. We have a couple of months.”
The Central England Temperature Record, that goes back to 1659, recorded -0.8C as the average temperature up to December 29. This makes it equal coldest with 1890.
The coldest winter on record is 1683/84 at -1.17C (29F) just 67 years after the death of Shakespeare when Charles II was still on the throne. Frost fairs were held on the River Thames and the ground froze to a depth of 4ft in places.
If this winter breaks the record it would be the coldest in more than 1,000 years as temperatures are not believed to have gone below the current record since the beginning of the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ in 950.
Even if it remains around the -0.8C mark it will be cooler than the second coldest on record, the big freeze in 1962/63 when temperatures fell to -0.33C (31.4F) and Britain struggled through 71 days of consecutive snow and drifts up to 20ft high.
Ian Michaelwhite, of Netweather, said Britain was in the grip of a ‘mini-iceage’.
“We expect January to be colder than average - there’s no way we’re moving out of this mini ice
age anytime soon,” he said.
The next couple of days will see warmer temperatures for December, which could push up the average for the month slightly.
However the Met Office predicts the weather will get colder towards the weekend with sleet and snow over high ground.