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Weather: One week after blizzards, Northern Ireland's hotter than the Med

By Michelle Smyth

Just a few days after being battered by bitter snowstorms, Northern Ireland's balmy weather was outshining the Mediterranean hotspots.

In an astonishing meteorological turnaround, we basked in some of the warmest temperatures in Europe over the weekend.

Murlough Nature Reserve in Co Down reached a balmy high of 17.5C on Saturday, making it the warmest spot of the year so far in the UK and Ireland.

Indeed, the mercury rose higher here than in some top holiday destinations around Europe.

While Murlough was enjoying the first warm day of spring, Rome struggled to hit 13C and Istanbul recorded a paltry 10.4C.

The Mediterranean resort of Malaga almost pipped Murlough to the post, however, reaching 17.4 degrees, but Almeria in Spain only reached 16.5C and Athens recorded a mediocre 15.2C.

Even in north Africa, Tunisia was just 15C, while in England, only Suffolk came close to our surprising temperature spike at 17.3C.

As UK temperatures far outstripped the seasonal average, forecasters were issuing sunburn warnings and the bookmaker Coral slashed its odds to 4/1 for March being the hottest on record.

According to Met Office forecaster Graham Whipp, it was unusually warm in Co Down on Saturday because the Mourne Mountains broke through the clouds, creating a pathway for the sun to shine through.

"The Murlough area was warmer than anywhere else in the country on Saturday," he said. "It was cloudy and raining in most other places. The variation is because the Mournes broke through the clouds, creating a small hole to let the sunshine through, which raised the temperature from about 11am to 1pm.

"An area of low pressure over the central Mediterranean is the reason for the uncharacteristically cool weather in areas of Europe that are usually warmer," Mr Whipp added.

However, don't break out the Bermuda shorts and sandals just yet. The wintry weather is set to return with a fresh icy blast looming. A storm system will move across the Atlantic ocean which will bring wind, rain and snow this week.

A severe winds warning has been issued for northern coastal areas today from 9am for 24 hours. There is also the potential for several centimetres of snow in areas above 300m.

Tomorrow is set to be drier, with some sunny spells and lighter winds, with strong winds and rain returning later in the week.

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