Big chill unlikely to hit this winter

PLENTY of rain, high winds and some snow, but no repeat of last December’s big freeze — that’s the winter forecast by Peter O’Donnell, a Canadian-based climatologist who specialises in providing long-range forecasts for Ireland and Britain.

Last year, he accurately forecast a bitterly cold spell here with lots of snow, saying that it “could become an epic winter”.

This time, he predicts that Mother Nature will be kinder.

“Winter 2011-12 looks like being quite an active winter and not lacking in wintry weather types, although not entirely dominated by them either,” he says.

While he advises people living in isolated and upland locations should prepare for an early winter, he forecast that the real cold weather will not arrive until January, with temperatures 2C below normal.

O’Donnell predicts that the current warm but dull weather will give way later this month to an early onset of winter.

“Late October could be a lot colder than the past three weeks have been. That colder trend may fade out for part of early November with another mild spell, but colder weather with some snow may then return in the second half of November.

“In general, this is not expected to be as dramatic as last year, and the severe cold is not expected to continue through most of December. There may be roughly equal spells of mild and cold weather with strong winds, some heavy rainfalls and some snow or ice.”

According to his predictions, which he makes based on research into natural variations in atmospheric patterns, the outlook for late December suggests a return to good weather after some rather cold days about a week before Christmas.

The real cold month will be January, he says, with temperatures well below average with plenty of snow and rain.

“There are indications of cold spells with northeast or east winds that are often associated with snow in eastern counties, and in particular around Meath and Dublin and Wicklow.”

The week starting around January 8 could become stormy and cold enough for snow, although the south is likely to be milder with a precipitation alternating between snow and rain.

Overall, O’Donnell says that while next winter will be colder and more variable than most, he does not expect it to be as severe as last year.

* To see O’Donnell's detailed forecast go to irishweatheronline.com

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