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'La Nina' could make UK's mild winter take turn for the worse, Met Office warns

A cyclist turns around to avoid flood waters in Somerset on Monday. (PA)
A cyclist turns around to avoid flood waters in Somerset on Monday. (PA)

The UK’s recent mild weather could take a turn for the worse due to a weather phenomenon across the Pacific, the Met Office has said.

The weather agency said "La Nina" could lead to unsettled conditions, including wind and rain, in January and February.

This would follow a period of milder weather in recent weeks, which came after mid-December's freezing conditions.

La Nina, as set out by the Met Office, is a naturally occurring and large-scale cooling of the average sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific.

“During an event,” the agency says, “sea temperatures can often fall 3-5C below average”. This means “cooler, drier than average weather is experienced in the tropical eastern Pacific”.

This, the Met Office said in a blog this week, "can often lead to a drier and cooler first half of winter, before a transition to more unsettled conditions in January and February, with frequent wind and rain moving into the UK from the west".

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The UK is not the only country to have experienced mild weather in recent weeks. The Met Office noted "exceptionally high" temperatures in countries including Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Belarus - all of which have recorded their warmest January days on record.

It said the temperature in Brest, Belarus, would usually be around 0C at this time of year - but it was 16C on New Year's Day.

Climate scientist Rosie Oakes said: “Although this specific event can’t be attributed to climate change without a formal study, the increases in average global temperatures caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels makes it more likely that temperature records will be broken.

“What’s noteworthy about this event is how widespread it is as well as the amount previous records have been exceeded by. Climate models projects that both the frequency and intensity of these warm weather events will increase in the future, not just in the summer but in the winter too.”