Weather respite 'will be brief'
Britain will enjoy some brief respite from the worst December weather in nearly 30 years before temperatures plunge again for the rest of the month.
After more than a week of snow, ice and transport chaos, forecasters said the UK would start to thaw, with the mercury almost reaching double figures in parts.
But bitterly cold winds are expected to return by the start of next week as bookmakers slashed the odds for a white Christmas.
Temperatures fell as low as minus 13C (14F) across northern England overnight, and there were warnings of widespread icy roads before milder winds arrived from the west.
John Hutchinson, from MeteoGroup, the weather division of Press Association, said: "What we're going to have through the next few days is the wind moving round from the Atlantic, bringing less cold air. As far as (today) goes, quite a lot of England and Wales will have a pretty fine day."
But despite the thaw conditions, forecasters warned the Arctic conditions were expected to return next week.
John Hammond from the Met Office said: "December has got off to a very cold start. The last time we saw prolonged cold weather in December with such low temperatures and this amount of snow fall was 1981.
"Next week the north easterly winds will bring in the cold weather once more with an increasing risk of snow showers, especially in northern and eastern parts of the UK. It's going to stay cold for much of the rest of the month with widespread risk of ice, frost and snow showers."
On Wednesday, the UK remained in the grip of freezing conditions. In Carlisle, temperatures barely moved above minus 8C (17.6F) all day, with the lowest temperature recorded at minus 7.9C (17.8F).
Roads in worst-hit Scotland have been getting back to normal, with the Army drafted in to help Edinburgh Council clear roads in the city. The M8, which links Edinburgh and Glasgow, reopened on Wednesday after ice and snow closed it for two days, stranding hundreds of drivers.