SPRING is just two days away, but Oxfordshire is facing more unseasonable snow this week.
Temperatures this month plummeted to 10C below the expected minimum for March, and another cold snap this week is set to bring more sleet and snow.
The average lowest temperature for Oxfordshire in March is 2.5C, but the Met station at RAF Benson recorded over-night temperatures down to -8.1C on Thursday.
And on Sunday, unexpected snow caught the county by surprise.
Met office spokesman Charles Powell said a cold air front from the north east will meet a band of wet weather from the west, bringing the chance of snow on Thursday or Friday.
Daytime temperatures in Oxfordshire are likely to reach 4C or 5C but will feel colder because of wind chill, and could drop to freezing overnight causing ice on roads.
Mr Powell added: “The weather will be very unstable, and we urge people to keep updated with the Met Office forecasts.”
The unseasonal weather is taking its toll on our native wildlife, according to experts.
Wendy Tobitt, of the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) said the cold weather had led a shortage of food.
She said: “We’re concerned that if this wet and cold weather continues for a long period there will be fewer caterpillars about for garden birds such as robins to feed to their fledglings.
“The birds are building their nests, and will continue to do so as long as there is any break in the snow.”
The RSPB’s Fen Gerry said: “When the canals and lakes freeze up it is hard for wildlife to find food and water.”
This week’s snow is the latest in a series of erratic weather patterns for the county.
In November and December traffic was brought to a standstill in parts of the county by flooding, with schools closing and businesses disrupted.
Tomorrow marks the vernal equinox – the first day of the year when daylight hours match night- time hours, making Thursday the first day of spring.
Last night, the county council revealed it spends £15,000 a year on detailed forecasts from the Met Office.
Council deputy leader Rodney Rose criticised the Met Office when the council’s gritting teams were left unprepared.
Gritters were sent out at 5am on Sunday after road sensors detected falling temperatures.
Mr Rose said the use of the service would be reviewed.
The Environment Agency has flood alerts in place on the River Ray down to Islip, the River Thame to Dorchester and the Thames from Buscot to Kings Lock. There are also alerts for the Thames around Oxford and Abingdon and the Cherwell from Lower Heyford to Oxford.