What is the 'Beast from the East'? Storm set to return to UK this winter bringing freezing temperatures

A gritting lorry at work on the A2 near Canterbury in Kent in 2018 during the last "Beast from the East". (PA)

Scientists have warned the UK to brace for one of the coldest winters in three decades as fears of a more extreme version of the “Beast from the East” grow.

Last weekend The Sunday Times revealed that researchers from University College London had forecast freezing cold temperatures this winter, similar to the storm in 2018.

Using one of the longest-range UK weather forecasts ever recorded, they predicted blizzard-like conditions for much of January and February next year.

But what exactly is the “Beast from the East”?

Transprort networks were disrupted for weeks during the last storm. (PA)

Where does the Beast from the East come from?

The “Beast from the East” describes any winter conditions in the UK which arrive as a result of easterly winds from Europe.

According to the Met Office, areas of high pressure over Scandinavia tend to cause a “polar continental air mass” over Britain.

This causes cold air to be swept from the Eurasian landmass which can result in sub-zero temperatures and freak weather conditions.

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When was the last Beast from the East and how cold was it?

Last year’s storm, which hit Britain in February last year, saw gusts of up to 70mph and temperatures of -14C recorded in parts of Scotland.

More than 22 inches of snow fell in parts of the country, causing widespread travel chaos.

The extreme weather pattern claimed the lives of 17 people, including a seven-year-old girl.

How much worse is it than normal weather patterns?

The team of UCL researchers have forecast an average temperature of just 3.9C for February next year when the storm arrives.

According to Statista, average temperatures for February the last time the Beast from the East swept Britain in February 2018 were 3.1C.

The bitterly cold temperatures in 2018 were nearly 3C colder than the year before, when temperatures averaged 6.2C across the country.

This year it was even warmer, averaging 6.9C for February.

What does the Met Office say about it?

Met Office forecasters have warned that if the storm does arrive this winter, the air will be “inherently very cold and dry and if it reaches southern Britain”.

People have also been told to expect weather “characterised by clear skies and severe frost”.

“With a longer sea track over the North Sea, the air becomes unstable and moisture is added giving rise to showers of rain or snow, especially near the east coast of Britain,” the Met Office said in a statement on their website.

“The UK’s lowest temperatures usually occur in this air mass, lower than minus 10C at night, and sometimes remaining below freezing all day.

“Polar continental air only reaches Britain between November and April; at other times of the year the source region is neither cold nor snow-covered and winds from north-eastern Europe bring a form of tropical continental air.”