With freezing temperatures dipping as low as -12C, Britain is even colder than Iceland

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Britain has been hit by more freezing weather, with forecasters warning of widespread snowfalls today. The Met Office issued severe weather warnings for eastern England and Scotland last night, saying that snow and freezing fog would make the roads particularly dangerous.

But although winds will bring a biting chill factor, temperatures will rise during the day and tonight the country will start thawing out. Snow was expected to have fallen last night again in Northern Ireland while the north-east of England is due to receive some of the most persistent snow. The west of the country is expected to avoid most of the snow but will suffer from severe ice and fog.

East Anglia, eastern Kent and East Sussex have seen the worst conditions so far, with some roads closed because of snow, and severe delays to train services.

The cold weather meant that much of Britain was colder than Moscow or Reykjavik yesterday. At Aviemore in Scotland - where temperatures plummeted to minus 12C on Wednesday night - yesterday's lunchtime high was only minus 7.1C.

Teesside airport in Co Durham also recorded a daytime high of minus 7C, while temperatures in Nottingham and York peaked at minus 4C. The extreme cold also caused the harbour at Whitehaven marina in Cumbria to freeze over.

By early afternoon, a new weather system had swept in from the west, bringing up to an inch of snow to parts of Northern Ireland, Wales, and south- west and central England. A second system was following, which forecasters warned would lead to more heavy snow showers last night and into today.

Paul Knightley, of the Met Office, said: "Many places could get a couple of inches of snow and there could be up to four inches in East Anglia, the East Midlands, north-east England and Scotland. It is going to be pretty awful in the Scottish Highlands as winds will be strengthening."

But by the end of the day, the thaw will have started with overnight temperatures at 2C in Scotland. During the day, parts of Wales will bask in 13C sunshine, and as the milder weather continues across the country tomorrow, New Year's Eve revellers are unlikely to freeze.

Yesterday, the RAC reported quiet roads as many people continued their Christmas holidays or worked from home. Some train services were disrupted and race meetings at Catterick and Newbury were called off.

Police fear that a man found dead on the steps of a town hall in freezing temperatures may have frozen to death.

The man, in his forties, dressed in a bomber jacket, shirt and jeans, was found by a passer-by in the doorway of West Bromwich town hall at around 10am on Wednesday.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) warned people to stay away from frozen waterways and to take care when sledging.

The British Trust for Ornithology said the freezing conditions meant food was in short supply for birds. It asked people to put out their Christmas left-overs, including turkey, along with drinking water.

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