Thaw before big freeze returns

Motorists across Britain can take advantage of a short spell of relatively warm weather on Thursday before the icy conditions make a return.

Forecasters said with milder winds blowing in from the west, temperatures are expected to climb to nearly double digits in some parts of the country, hopefully bringing some respite from the travel chaos of the past week.

But they warned people should brace themselves next week for another icy blast, which is likely to last through to the new year.

Bookmakers slashed the odds for a white Christmas after forecasts that the thaw in the worst December weather for three decades would last only for a few days.

Overnight, the mercury plunged to minus 13C across northern England and drivers were cautioned about dangerous road conditions.

John Hutchinson, from MeteoGroup, the weather division of Press Association, said: "What we're going to have through the next few days is the wind moving round from the Atlantic, bringing less cold air.

"As far as (today) goes, quite a lot of England and Wales will have a pretty fine day."

He said southern areas will see temperatures between 2C (35.6F) and 4C (39.2F), while across Scotland and Northern Ireland, they will be even higher, up to 9C (48.2F).

John Hammond from the Met Office said: "It's going to stay cold for much of the rest of the month with widespread risk of ice, frost and snow showers."

Copyright © Press Association 2010