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Get ready for the return of dreaded winter Big Freeze

DUBLIN and the east coast will see another long, cold, snowy winter with frigid temperatures.

That's according to Liverpool-based long-range forecaster James Madden of Exacta Weather, who warned that the Republic can expect to see plenty of wintry conditions from December through February, with border counties even seeing snow by Halloween or early November.

"There's going to be cold spells and long periods of heavy snow," he predicted.

However, a Met Eireann spokesperson poured cold water on the predictions today, stating that long-range forecasts are not reliable.

Mr Madden is adamant that the worst-affected areas will be the mid-west, the east coast, the southwest coast and parts of the northwest, he said, basing his predictions on his research into solar activity and changes in the Gulf Stream.

Radiant energy from the sun has a major impact on the earth's atmosphere and the oceans, he said.

As a result, low solar activity over the past couple of years has blocked jet stream patterns in the atmosphere, leading to more precipitation, while changes in the Gulf Stream have led to colder temperatures.

"Britain and Ireland are hit by prolonged periods of extreme cold and snow from the Arctic regions, as cold easterlies or north-easterlies develop.

"Huge, swirly low-pressure systems also offer the potential for widespread disruption from heavy snowfall across many parts," he predicted.

Last year's Big Freeze in late February and December brought much of the country to a standstill, due to snow and ice.

And while the National Roads Authority this week revealed that it has secured three years' worth of road salt in the event of another bad winter this year, Mr Madden said he believes harsh winters are here to stay.

"I think we could be headed towards that," he said. "I believe this is just the start of that cycle."

His predictions came as another forecaster, Jonathan Powell of Positive Weather Solutions, said the UK will face violent storms with 65mph winds and sustained, driving rain this autumn, followed by another "cold winter".

"We will have a cold and frosty autumn and it looks like it's going to be another cold winter. All the signs are there," he said.

A Met Eireann spokesman told the Herald today their forecasts cover seven to 10 days ahead and that while research is ongoing into seasonal forecasts, their accuracy "is still not very high".