Government forecasters have issued the first cold weather alert of the season amid warnings this week for dangerous Arctic air spreading over the UK. Temperatures could plummet to -15C in the Highlands of Scotland ahead of the weekend while up to four inches of snow is forecast for the region.
Britons have been urged to ‘take action’ to prepare for the cold blast, which threatens to hold out until mid-December.
Jim Dale, a meteorologist for British Weather Services, said: “This is not about panicking, but being ready and prepared in the run-up to Christmas.
“It is important to make sure you are stocked up for the cold weather to prevent a panic when it happens.
“This is especially important this close to Christmas and with other factors that could leave shelves not very well stocked during the cold period.”
Freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall in parts later this week will lead to icy pavements and dangerous driving conditions, he warned.
He said: “There will be hazards in parts of the country in terms of snowfall and ice on the roads and pavements.
“This will bring the risk of slipping and will make for dangerous driving conditions.
“The key is to be prepared for if this comes off and do things a little bit ahead of time.”
Northern Scotland is braced for blizzards on Wednesday to dump up to four inches of snow across the region
The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning across Grampian, the Highlands, Orkney and Shetland, and Central Tayside and Fife.
Severe cold weather could hamper railway services and other travel networks while triggering delays on the roads.
Elderly and vulnerable people have been warned to take extra care while others have been urged to keep an eye on neighbours as the cold strikes.
The Met Office with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued a level three ‘severe weather action’ alert which will stay in force between Wednesday and the start of next week.
Dr Agostinho Sousa, consultant in public health medicine at UKHSA, said: “Cold weather can have serious consequences for health, and older people and those with heart or lung conditions can be particularly at risk.
“If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should heat your home to a temperature that is comfortable for you.”
Met Office deputy chief meteorologist Rebekah Sherwin added: “Temperatures will start to dip this week, with daytime temperatures struggling to get above freezing in many places from mid-week onwards.
“However, the cold air from the Arctic will also bring brighter conditions, with some dry, sunny spells in many areas, particularly away from the coast.”
Keep-fitters with underlying health conditions are warned to take extra care exercising in extreme cold.
Health and wellness coach Ryan French, founder of Military Outdoor Fitness (MOFit), based in London, Greenwich, said: “Training in cold weather, as in very hot weather, does carry some risk, so it is important to prepare.
“This is especially true of people with asthma because studies show cold weather can increase bronchoconstriction–a narrowing of the airways.
“If you are training outside in the cold weather, make sure to have your inhaler to hand.”
As temperatures plummet, bookies have once more slashed the odds on festive snow with Ladbrokes offering 11-10 from 6-4 on a White Christmas.
Spokesman Alex Apati said: “White Christmas punters look set to get their wish this year, if the latest odds are anything to go by.”
Netweather meteorologist Nick Finnis warned a ‘chunk of the tropospheric Polar vortex’ will ‘drip south towards the UK bringing Arctic air’.
He said: “A chunk of the tropospheric polar vortex will push out from the Arctic southwards over Scandinavia and the Norwegian Sea before moving across Britain later [this] week.
“Winds will turn northerly by mid-week and will introduce colder air from the arctic across all parts through the second half of the week.”
Exacta Weather’s James Madden added: “In addition to the snow, it is also going to become exceptionally cold and widespread frosts will develop across the whole country and deliver problems/warnings for ice in places from midweek.
“This will also allow the fallen snow to persist in many places while temperatures drop as low as -10C or lower in the coldest spots.”
The last time Britain was hit by heavy snow in December was 2010 which also brought the last widespread White Christmas.