Ireland may soon be facing the worst winter in decades.

Forecasters are predicting an Arctic blast that could rival the Big Freeze of 1963, when icy-sub-zero blizzards covered the country with up to five feet  of snow. At least 500 deaths were reported in Europe due to the cold.

Weather experts are warning that Ireland could see up to five feet of snow this year with daytime temperatures hovering around zero/32°F and overnight lows down to -15C/5°F.

The Irish Mirror reports that forecasters say a “colossal” area of “much colder than average surface water in the Mid-Atlantic could affect the Gulf Stream, leaving Ireland and the UK exposed to a prolonged Siberian blast from northerly winds.”

“This is of quite some significance as the Gulf Stream effectively acts as a heat machine for our shores, in particular, during our winter months,” says forecaster James Madden.

“Without the influence of this vital heat source, we can expect a horrific winter to develop with frequent blizzards/strong winds and extremely cold conditions.

“During the winter period of 1962/63 the famous big freeze took a hold of the country from around Christmas until the spring of the following year because of a similar situation.

“We could be looking at a very similar time-frame and scale of events this time around,” he says.

“I don’t like saying this but the factors are there for an extremely cold spell in January which will possibly extend into February.

“Snowfall will be significant with up to five feet in places and it is going to stay on the ground because of the low temperatures.

“People should certainly be prepared – it’s really important to have enough fuel to heat your home.”