Snow joke - another bitterly cold winter could be on the way
The Westcountry can expect the same bitter winter and snowstorms as last year, according to a forecaster who claims to have accurately predicted 2009's big freeze.
Last year's winter was the coldest in 31 years across the region, with the lowest temperature of -16.0C recorded at Yeovilton on January 7.
The mean temperature for Devon was 3.33C, for Cornwall the figure was 4.4C, and in Somerset it was just 2.96C.
The maximum official snow depth was 11cm recorded at Dunkeswell on January 11, but for many it would have seemed far greater due to drifting.
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This winter, Jonathan Powell of Positive Weather Solutions (PWS) said the Westcountry should prepare itself for "more of the same".
He said: "It is very unusual to have two very harsh winters back-to-back, so most people would have expected a tamer and milder winter this year.
"But whatever the South West experienced last year, you can expect this year, although not perhaps to such extremes.
"We expect periods of disruptive snowfall similar to the snow we saw last winter, although periods of harsh weather will be broken up by milder conditions.
"And with a combination of snow, ice and bitterly-cold temperatures, we could well see another 'white-out' scenario as some areas of the country grind to a halt."
According to its website, PWS bases its forecasts on "a central computer program which searches a partitioned slice of historical data, looking for patterns and trends within it".
The UK's national weather service, the Met Office, no longer delivers long-term forecasts after it was criticised last year for predicting "odds on for a barbecue summer" and only a one-in-seven chance of a cold winter.
They now limit their public predictions to 30 days. PWS, which claims to have correctly forecast the 2009 washout summer and last winter's plunging temperatures, has continued to offer long-range forecasts.
But they are not always right. In mid-July, the group predicted: "August for all of the UK will be dry and warm." The month turned out to be dull, wet and the coolest since 1993.
The Met Office has vastly greater computational power than small-scale outfits, access to more data and more highly-trained meteorologists. Even with those facilities, however, it is still very difficult to predict the UK's weather because of its size and position in temperature latitudes, sandwiched between the Atlantic and Europe.