Britain bid farewell to the late blast of summery weather today as an Atlantic cold front brought torrential downpours along with thunder and flood warnings amid a marked shift towards autumnal conditions.
After basking in warmth and sunshine in recent days, the UK endured a wet start to the week as a band of heavy rain pushed towards the east, leading to a miserable Monday morning in parts of Scotland, England and Wales.
BBC forecaster Simon King admitted this morning that it was a 'pretty grim start to your new week' as forecasters warned of a 'very unsettled' outlook over the next few days amid entrenched wet and windy weather.
Highs of 55F (13C) to 60F (16C) are expected in the North this afternoon and 59F (15C) to 64F (18C) in the South - following a beautiful weekend that brought temperatures of 74.3 (23.5C) yesterday and 75F (23.9C) on Saturday.
The change in the weather is down to a shift in the position of the jet stream, with a cold front associated with a low pressure system in the North Atlantic spreading eastwards today.
It comes as a US forecast agency said Britain could be in store for a colder than normal winter in 2021, threatening to spark even greater seasonal demand for gas and keep prices high as panic buying of petrol continues.
Today will see a wet start across Scotland, England and Wales, although it will be sunny in Northern Ireland. The rain should mostly clear by early afternoon, but showers will linger over the North Sea coasts and western areas.
The worst of the rain today will be in Scotland amid torrential downpours, sparking flood warnings in some areas.
The UK could be in store for a colder than normal winter this year, forecasters say, which threatens to spark even greater seasonal demand for gas and keep prices high.
Early weather-pattern modelling by the US forecaster DTN points to a colder winter for Britain and northern Europe this year, with signals of a weakening of the polar vortex, a circulation of winds up in the stratosphere.
When the polar vortex weakens, the jet stream lower down in the atmosphere also tends to weaken, allowing more frequent northerly or easterly winds which bring very cold air from the Arctic and continental Europe.
Although it is too soon for official forecasts, DTN said there was 'certainly a greater than normal risk of a cold winter for the UK', with February earmarked as 'the coldest of the three winter months'.
Experts fear that a long, cold winter will expose the UK - which has some of Europe's lowest gas storage capacity -to the risk of gas shortages and severe market shocks.
Kim Fustier, an analyst at investment giant HSBC, told the Observer that, with European gas stores at levels well below normal, a particularly cold winter could drive prices to record highs. Gas prices would likely remain high until 2023, she said.
'A colder-than-average winter could push storage levels to dangerously low levels, raising risks of price spikes and/or shortages in some countries,' she said. 'The UK's situation is more precarious than its European neighbours because of its very limited storage capacity.' Britain has only enough gas storage to