Britain’s most senior weather expert has played down newspaper reports that the UK is in for an Arctic winter – with temperatures even lower than last year’s big freeze.

The Daily Mail claimed Britain would experience -20C (-4F) within weeks, while the Daily Express warned of a “mini ice age that could last for decades”.

Chief executive of the Met Office, John Hirst, said the headlines bore “no relation to the kind of weather that Met Office forecasters are currently experiencing” and added: “There is no need for alarm.”

John said: “These stories reflect our national obsession with the weather but they can confuse and even scare vulnerable people.

“The Met Office’s job is to provide accurate information and at this stage we see no scientific evidence to support these premature predictions.

“In fact, the scientific capability does not exist to allow such extremes to be identified on a long-range timescale.”

John summed up: “No forecaster can say whether we’ll see a week of -20C temperatures in Manchester in the second week of December.

“This does not mean that harsh winter conditions are not possible, just that they can’t be identified now.”

The Sunday Times had claimed that La Nina, a weather phenomenon characterised by cold
ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, could lead to a prolonged big freeze in the UK.