Arctic conditions hit Britain today with heavy snow on the way as temperatures fell to -10C (14F) and much of the country set to feel sub-zero for most of the day.
Drivers face being stranded after National Highways issued a severe weather alert for snow affecting the North West of England, with road users advised to plan ahead.
Despite bright sunshine in many areas today, daytime highs of just 3C (37F) are expected in London where it will feel like -2C (28F) due to a strong northerly wind. Bright but chilly days will continue in the Midlands and South as the week goes on.
The coldest temperature this morning was -10.1C (13.8F) at Cairngorm mountain in the Highlands, while it was -5C (23F) at Glasgow Airport, Powys and Cumbria.
More than 70 schools in Aberdeenshire and most in Shetland were closed due to snow today, and ferries were disrupted after 7cm (2.8in) fell overnight in Aberdeen.
Snow hits Scarborough in North Yorkshire today as pedestrians battle the icy conditions
Early morning snow in Scarborough today as drivers battle the conditions in North Yorkshire
A member of the Serpentine Swimming Club goes for a chilly dip in London’s Hyde Park today
Commuters are seen crossing London Bridge this morning in the very cold temperatures
Frost covers a car windscreen in Greenwich, South East London, early this morning
Snow warnings have been issued in the Lake District, Northumberland, the Pennines, wider areas of the North West and parts of Wales between today and Thursday.
And a flooding risk remains for many communities across England particularly in the South, with 27 warnings and 118 alerts in place from the Environment Agency today.
It comes amid major rail disruption between Oxford and London today, with Chiltern Railways issuing a ‘do not travel’ alert after all lines were shut between Haddenham and Thame Parkway and Bicester North due to a huge landslip following heavy rain.
The misery was compounded by disruption on Great Western Railway because of problems with overhead wires at Didcot Parkway. Elsewhere, commuters on ScotRail routes in the Highlands were affected by forecasted severe weather near Inverness.
And South Western Railway warned trains across its whole network could be delayed or cancelled tomorrow or on Wednesday due to expected snow and wintry weather.
Met Office meteorologist Liam Eslick said that temperatures will be about 5C to 6C lower than usual for this time of year.
A snow and ice warning is in place from 3am today until 9am tomorrow across Northern Ireland with another for ice in place until 11am today across parts of north east Wales and north west England from Liverpool to the West Midlands.
The Met Office has also issued a warning for snow and ice in parts of East Anglia, including Norwich, which runs from 7am today until midnight.
Mr Eslick said: ‘Especially towards the North where we do have these warnings, we’re likely to see some travel disruption.
‘So we would recommend people stick to the main roads and avoid country lanes where possible.
‘These are the places that aren’t going to see any gritting or any road clearances for the next couple of days.
‘So we recommend people take their time, make sure they have time to do their cars in the mornings, and go steady.’
He said: ‘So essentially we’re looking at a strong northerly wind which is bringing in Arctic airmass which is cold, which is bringing in these wintry showers.’
He said that ‘icy conditions’ were expected, with maximum temperatures of 0C in parts of Scotland, and only 2C to 4C in southern parts of the UK.
Wintry showers could affect coastal areas of the North today, but tomorrow an ‘area of more organised rain, sleet and snow is likely to move east.’
A Met Office warning for snow and ice – driven by an Arctic airflow – has been issued throughout tomorrow from Cumbria and Northumberland down the Pennines as far as the Peak District, extending across the North West into North Wales.
The Met Office warns 2 to 5cm (0.8 to 2in) is ‘possible within a few hours’, while some areas could see 5 to 10cm (2 to 4in).
In parts of northern Scotland, up to 20cm (8in) could fall. Tomorrow night into the early hours of Wednesday is likely to be the most chilly.
In Pennine areas of Cumbria, temperatures are predicted to fall as low as -11C (12F) on Wednesday morning.
This would be England’s coldest temperature of the winter so far – although short of this year’s UK record of -12.5C (9.5F) in Altnaharra, Sutherland, on December 3.
In southern areas, overnight lows of -4C (25F) or -5C (27F) are expected.
Current lowest temperatures for the season so far were -10C (14F) in England, recorded at two locations in North Yorkshire, Ravensworth and Redesdale Camp, and -8.9C (16F) at Sennybridge, Powys, in Wales, all recorded on December 2.
The snow could bring travel delays and power cuts, while ‘some rural communities could become cut off’ and pedestrians and motorists could be at risk because of icy surfaces.
A second warning, for Wednesday and Thursday, predicts further snow showers to affect the Pennines, the North West and North and West Wales.
Met Office deputy chief meteorologist Chris Bulmer said: ‘There are a couple of weather systems for Tuesday and Wednesday which we are keeping an eye on that bring the potential for disruptive snow for some regions.’
The UK Health Security Agency has a cold-health alert in force until at least Thursday, which puts the NHS on stand-by for extra demand and urges people to take care of vulnerable friends and neighbours.
Dr Agostinho Sousa, of UKHSA, said: ‘The temperatures we will see leading into the weekend can have a serious impact on the health of those over the age of 65 and those with pre-existing health conditions as it increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.
‘It is vital to check in on friends, family and neighbours to ensure they are well prepared for the cold weather.’
Drivers are also urged to allow extra time and carry items such as blankets in case of a breakdown.
Drivers are also urged to allow extra time, check their vehicles and carry items such as blankets in case of a breakdown.
Amy Fellows, National Network Manager at National Highways said: ‘Freezing conditions bring so many hazards such as snow and ice, so take every possible step to understand your journey in advance and allow lots of extra time when travelling to prepare for the unexpected.’
Milder air is not expected to arrive until at least the weekend.