What caused the Beast from the East?


What caused the Beast from the East?
This little guy may be from Norfolk but he isn’t the Beast from the East (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Thick snow has blanketed the UK and brought the average March temperature down a whole seven degrees in the last few days.

Some rural areas have even experienced punishing temperature lows of -12°C.

And who’s to blame? The Beast from the East, of course. But what caused this huge bulge of icy cloud to coat us so mercilessly in snow?

Well, at the end of last week the UK became a victim of the northern polar jet stream, which has twisted its direction unexpectedly, drawing in cold air from the east.

What caused the Beast from the East?
Two girls lark about in Greenwich Park (Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

This bending was caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic, known by meteorologists as sudden stratospheric warming.

In turn, this unexpected warming weakened the jet stream that brings warm air in from the Atlantic to Ireland and Britain.

And so cold air from thousands of miles away is dragged over to us, bringing a severe chill – though the air is a lot warmer when it arrives at our doorstep, having risen from -50°C.

What caused the Beast from the East?
Leeds snow-lovers enjoy the Beast’s deposits (Picture: Rahman Hassani/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The last time this easterly assault happened was 2013, but the UK has not experienced such low temperatures since 1991, 27 years ago.

Storm Emma may now hit us, packing snow and ice as it goes, after rolling in from Portugal and France.

Meanwhile environmental scientists are extremely worried about this weather and the fact there has been, in essence, a heatwave over the sunless Arctic.

What caused the Beast from the East?
Snow even settled in Cornwall this week for the first time in years (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The warming of Arctic temperatures seems to have risen in a spike rather than the heating we know is already happening, recorded as a small amount each year.

Even though there’s been no sun there since October, there have been times it has been warmer there than London, Paris and New York.

From 17 to 25 February, there were 10 consecutive days where temperatures were above freezing for at least part of the day at Cape Morris Jesup on the northern tip of Greenland.

The monitoring station has recorded a sizeable 61 hours above 0°C.

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