Snow and bitterly cold weather in March - is this normal?
The weekend came early for children across Staffordshire today as heavy snow overnight forced more than 200 schools to close.
A number of roads are shut and buses have been disrupted by a blanket of snow several inches thick.
As Staffordshire prepares for further snow this evening and overnight, we ask – how does this spring weather compare historically?
According to forecasters, Britain is in the clutches of what could be the coldest March in 50 years. The average temperature is currently around 3C, but it should normally be nearer 6C in March.
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Despite a brief respite earlier this month when temperatures hit 15C, The Weather Channel said it was confident this March would be the coldest since 1996 and most likely since 1962, which saw a mean temperature of 1.9C.
It could be colder than the more recent March of 1987, with its mean temperature of 3.3C.
And the chilly weather is in stark contrast to the unseasonably warm conditions enjoyed by much of the UK this time last year.
The UK mean temperature was 2.3 °C above the 1981-2010 average, ranking third-warmest in a series since 1910 and the warmest March since 1957.
More remarkable still was a maximum temperature anomaly of +3.2 °C, narrowly setting a new record for March.
Aboyne in Scotland saw temperatures hit 23.6C.
A Met Office spokesman said: “This time last year the UK was under the influence of high pressure.
“This gave us clear skies, plenty of sunshine and with a light southerly breeze, temperatures that were well above average.
“This year, with a strong easterly wind bringing cold air from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, we have quite the opposite with eastern parts of the UK in particular seeing snow, ice and temperatures around 20C lower.”
The UK also enjoyed some fine spring weather in the second half of March 2011. And the March previous was “a month of two halves”, the Met Office says - the first two weeks were dry and fine, but the second half more changeable with rain at times.
It ended with strong winds and snowfalls in the north.
Temperatures for February 2013 were below normal, continuing the 'cold but not particularly so' theme of December and January, the Met Office says.
The UK mean temperature was 2.8 °C, which is 0.9 °C below the 1981-2010 average.
March 2013 has been colder than both this winter's December and January.
But as unpleasant as it may be, we have become accustomed to seeing a flurry of the white stuff in spring. What is uncommon, forecasters say, is how drawn out the snow and cold weather has been.
Matt Dobson, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, said: “It’s not unusual for it to snow in March; in fact we are far more likely to see snow at Easter than at Christmas.
“What is unusual is how persistent the cold weather and snow is.”
This was echoed by Will Lang, Chief Forecaster at the Met Office, who said: “While it is not unusual to see snow in March, the cold weather we have seen has been quite prolonged”.
And despite Wednesday’s spring equinox, which signals the days will be longer than the nights for the next six months, we’ll need our coats for some time yet. Forecasters say the cold could hang on until the end of March.