Northern Ireland set for its coldest winter in years
Northern Ireland is set for its coldest winter in years, with sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall predicted to plunge the province into an Arctic freeze within weeks.
Forecasters have warned that mercury levels will start falling significantly throughout November, leading to a shivering run-up to Christmas and an even bitterer January.
Meteorologists said the combination of unusually-high Siberian snow cover throughout October, recent solar activity levels and volcanic emission patterns in Iceland all point to a harsh winter ahead, with severe spells of cold between December and January.
James Madden, forecaster with Exacta Weather, also predicted that Northern Ireland would be hit by harsher wintry conditions than the Republic.
He claimed December could be as bitter as four years ago, the coldest in over 100 years in Ireland, while January could turn out to be one of the worst winter months on record.
He said: "As we progress throughout November, it is going to become gradually colder across many parts of Ireland, in particular from around the mid-month point when it is likely to become exceptionally cold at times.
"This early start to what is likely to be a harsh winter is also likely to be accompanied by a number of potentially widespread snow events within this period and into the start of December.
"The parts most at risk of experiencing snow within this period will be to the north and east of Ireland and some of this cold could prove to be quite significant at times, even across some much lower levels of the country."
He continued: "The worst case and more plausible scenario could bring something on a par to the winter of 2009/2010, which was the coldest in 31 years, or an event close to 2010/2011, which experienced the coldest December in 100 years. However, the alternative and slightly more favourable scenario could see a winter period on a similar par to 2012/2013 developing, which would still support a colder and snowier than average winter throughout 2014/2015."
Mr Madden said Northern Ireland was likely to bear the brunt of the most wintry conditions into the new year.
He said: "The latter part of December and into January is likely to see the most severe spell of cold and some major periods of snow developing.
"February and into spring may also not escape an extension of these waves of cold and widespread snow at times."
He added: "However, there are some conflicting signals for December at present, which could introduce some milder and rather unsettled interludes of weather at times."