Brace yourself: 'Arctic plunge' could be on the way for Easter, say forecasters
Watch out for those tender seedlings – Northern Ireland is set for an 'Arctic plunge' this Easter.
That's the warning from the Weather Channel UK, which says that a flurry of bad weather is to descend on the UK after a period of sunshine in southern areas.
Weather Channel forecaster Leon Brown,said: "We are expecting a colder Arctic plunge for Easter.
"It looks like it may well become windy and showery – the showers wintry too, with snow over high ground in Scotland, but possibly even to lower levels.
"Being a late Easter this year, there should be a greater chance of seeing warm temperatures, but it doesn't look like the case this year. Temperatures are feeling more like late March or early April.
"Good Friday looks like a cold day with showers, especially over the north and west. The showers are wintry too and cold enough for some snow over higher parts.
"Later over the Easter Weekend, the majority of forecast solutions keep the north in a colder and unstable NW flow with showers, some heavy and wintry."
However, forecasters Meteogroup disagreed with predictions that snow is on the way.
Ben Windsor said: "It's probably not going to get really cold. At the moment, for Easter Saturday there are predictions of maximum temperatures of 11C, so it won't be warm weather like we've been having, but it's not an Arctic plunge either.
"It looks like the middle of next week is going to get more unsettled, with persistent rain.
"At the moment there is high pressure over the central Atlantic over the Azores and that is bringing high pressure over the southern part of the UK, which is why the weather is nice there.
"But there is currently low pressure over Iceland that is going to bring some rain into northern Scotland."
The Met Office predicts dry weather across the UK for the start of the Easter break, gradually changing to more unsettled weather from Easter Monday and into the following week, with showers or longer spells of rain, particularly in the west. Easter last year saw the worst snowfall in decades, with more than 44,000 livestock killed in blizzards, particularly in the Mournes and Glens of Antrim areas.
Belfast Zoo was forced to close at Easter for the first time ever after trees were brought down by the heavy snow, some crashing into animal enclosures.
A cold snap this late in spring can be a real challenge for gardeners, and could damage or kill soft spring plants, said horticulturalist Gareth Austin. "Many plants' foliages can be damaged by cold easterly winds – indeed emerging shoots of new potatoes will need to be protected by being earthed up or covered with fleece," he added.
"Emerging flowers on plum trees will need to be protected with some fleece also.
"I would say the cold blast will see off many of the daffodils too. These are just peaking in many gardens right now.
"Cold winds can have a damaging effect on new growth on mature shrubs in the garden."
He added: "New growth tips and new foliages can be burnt by the cold wind – this will manifest itself in brown leaves in a few weeks' time if damage has been done."