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Washout fear as more rain on the cards

THE weekend weather looks bad but the long-term forecast is even bleaker with predictions by solar scientists that the sun will go on strike leaving us with bitterly cold winters for the next 50 years.

Downpours and low temperatures are on the cards for tomorrow and Saturday but it is the prospect of Arctic winters for the next five decades which is the really depressing news.

Solar scientists at an international meeting in Mexico have described how the sun has moved out of its normal pattern and gone quiet.

It is supposed to be approaching a peak of activity in its 11-year sunspot cycle but instead has flatlined for the first time in decades.

The last time this happened in a spectacular way was during a 70-year period between 1645 and 1715 when there were no sunspots.

That brought long winters and shorter summer growing seasons and even caused the River Thames in the UK to freeze enough for ice-skating.

Three expert groups using different methods have all come up with the same prediction.

"This is highly unusual and unexpected," says Dr Frank Hill of the US National Solar Observatory.

He said the three groups match up in a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.

Prof Mike Lockwood of the University of Southampton, who is to publish new findings about this within weeks, has already established that low solar activity causes high- altitude jet stream winds to twist back on themselves during winter.

This means that bitterly cold Arctic winds and frigid winds from the Russian Steppes blow across northern Europe and on to Ireland.

Meanwhile, tomorrow will be bright but cool with the best of the sun in the morning. By afternoon, showers will give way to heavy downpours in some areas.

Sunday will begin dry with some sun in the north and east but the rain will come across by midday and spread to all parts with further showers on Monday, especially in the Midlands.

While temperatures will rise slightly next week, more rain is expected to spread countrywide during Tuesday.