The Met Office has once again responded to reports that this winter could be the coldest ever after a rash of headlines warning of three months of record-breaking icy cold weather.
A number of newspapers this morning published articles warning of a 'killer three month freeze' that is expected to hit Britain in days. The reports also warned that the winter could be one of the 'worst in history'.
The reports cited a Met Office three-month contingency plan that states: “Indications are that December will most likely be colder than average.
“For December-January-February as a whole uncertainty is quite large but below-average temperatures are more likely than above-average."
But also quotes forecasters other than the Met Office suggesting that this winter could see record breaking cold weather. In a blog posted today the Met Office sought to distance themselves from the report and explain once again why three month forecasts are not accurate.
The furthest afield they can forecast is 30 days - but stressed that if there is any sign of significantly cold weather, they will update the information given to the public accordingly.
The Met Office blog post said of its most recent outlook: "Currently it says that after today, we'll see settled weather and fairly normal temperatures into December 1 before the chance of some colder, more changeable weather towards the end of the week. This may last a few days before giving way to milder and unsettled weather.
"For the mid to latter part of December, there are indications that temperatures are likely to remain near or slightly below average for the time of year, but otherwise fairly normal conditions for early winter are most likely."
In a previous blog the Met Office explained the complexities related to providing detailed forecasts over the long-term. The blog explains that our weather is a "classic example of what is known as a chaotic system" being influenced as it is by a range of tiny factors that could have a huge impact.
They quoted one scientist as saying "one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather forever". Hence atmospheric 'chaos' means that long range forecasting is paritcularly difficult.
The blog goes on to state: "Speculative forecasts appearing in the media and claiming to accurately and definitively forecast UK weather months ahead are therefore doomed to failure when analysed over a long period of time."
Despite various experimental methods aimed at long-term forecasting it remains an inexact art. As for this winter the Met Office is saying that as things stand, December is set to be "fairly normal".