UK weather: Britain is set for unseasonably hot weekend

Forget any dreams of a white Christmas – but it could well be a nice day for a walk.

Temperatures could climb as high as 12C (54F) on Christmas Day in the south, forecasters say, although it is likely to be cooler in the north where the maximum is set to be 10C (50F).

Richard Miles, of the Met Office, said: ‘On Christmas Day, conditions will probably be ok for most places.

‘It will largely be dry and quite cloudy, although anywhere could get the odd shower.’

Boxing Day is also set to be overcast and mostly dry, although Mr Miles said there could be a risk of some drizzle in northern England. 

The last official white Christmas was in 2010, when snow was widespread across Northern Ireland, Scotland, parts of Wales, the Midlands, north-east and far south-west England.

People go for a sunrise swim at Helen’s Bay in County Down, Northern Ireland, to celebrate the winter solstice today

People gather for sunrise at Newgrange in Co Meath today as the winter solstice begins, marked by pagan celebrations

The Met Office said conditions were ‘extremely unusual’ because there was snow on the ground at 83 per cent of weather stations – the highest amount ever recorded.

It comes as rail passengers are faced with more strike misery, while roadworks and engineering are also set to disrupt festive travel.

Guards at Northern Rail and South Western Railway have staged further walkouts in their long-running dispute over drivers taking responsibility for opening and closing doors.

Management accused the RMT rail union of ‘ensuring the maximum misery is inflicted at what should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment’.

More strikes have been called at South Western Railway on December 27 and 31, and at Northern for the next five Saturdays to come.

Newgrange is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, consisting of a large circular mound with a stone passageway

Both train companies said the strikes were unnecessary because they have given guarantees to retain two members of staff on every train.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said the union ‘will not be party to the dilution of safety culture’.   

The ‘benign’ conditions follow unsettled weather over the weekend, according to the Met Office, although it could also bring similarly mild temperatures for the time of year. 

It comes after the shortest day of the year was marked on Friday with events and activities across Ireland. Visitors gathered at the Neolithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange in Co Meath to celebrate the winter solstice. 

In clear conditions, the dawn sunlight illuminates the inner chamber of the 5,000-year-old tomb. It has been a central ritual in the pagan belief system for thousands of years. 

The mostly dry and cloudy Christmas weather follows an unsettled spell with showers, some heavy and squally.

Over the weekend, including tomorrow, there are likely to be bands of showers moving across the UK and some sunny spells 

An unsettled spell with showers, some heavy and squally, will be seen on Friday – ahead of a dry and cloudy Christmas

Mr Miles said: ‘Over the weekend, there are likely to be bands of showers moving across the country and some sunny spells.’ 

The settled conditions through Christmas itself is set to continue into the second half of the week and up to New Year, although northern areas could have showers or longer spells of rain.

Frosts are also possible in the north where there are any breaks in the cloud.  

Technically, 2015 was also a white Christmas in the UK with 10 per cent of weather stations recording snow falling, however none reported any snow lying on the ground, the Met Office added.

The shortest day of the year was marked today with events and activities. The sun sets in London this afternoon at 3.35pm

In its long-range forecast covering the beginning of January, the Met Office is predicting a north-south divide.

Drier conditions are set to prevail in the south, but more unsettled weather is likely further north, including some snow on hills.

Its forecast said: ‘At the start of this period it is most likely that southern parts will be mostly dry, whilst further north it should be more changeable with spells of rain.

‘The weather will probably turn more unsettled for a time during early January. Showers or longer spells of rain, along with strong winds, are likely to affect most parts with some hill snow in the north.

‘Further into January, there is an increased chance of a colder but drier than average spell, with the potential for snow across many areas.

‘Despite this, some milder, wetter and windier interludes remain possible throughout the period.’

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