PEOPLE in the UK are being blinded by the freak snowfall to the much more worrying Arctic heatwave that has caused it, an Oxford climate expert has warned.

Ian Curtis, of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, said the real weather story at the North Pole may have far more long-term significance for climate science.

He said: “The Arctic news is massively extreme: our media coverage has been all about our local weather but the really worrying thing is what’s going on there.”

The influx of warm air into the Arctic Circle last month pushed temperatures in Siberia up 35C above historical averages .

Greenland, meanwhile, has already seen 61 hours of temperatures above freezing in 2018, more than three times as many hours as in any previous year.

Although the cause is not yet understood, the fear is that global warming may have eroding the polar vortex – powerful winds which insulate the Arctic circle.

Mr Curtis, who works at Oxford University’s School of Geography and Environment, said: “The scientists who measure it are really shocked by it, although they can’t say whether it is completely attributable to modern climate change.”

However he and his team are also at the forefront of an entirely new science linking individual weather events such as this week’s freak snowfall to specific natural and manmade causes.

He said they may yet be able to say to what degree this week’s snowfall was directly caused by man-made climate change.

Mr Curtis’s team also recorded yesterday’s lowest March temperature in Oxford since 1965 – minus 6.1C

Speaking about the freak weather of the ‘Beast from the East’ he also warned it was a classic case which climate change deniers might use to argue against global warming.

He said: “This is a really classic example of misinterpretation of the forces of global warming.

“The key word is ‘global’: climate change is about global warming, not necessarily local warming, and you will get extremes.

“Climate change is about upsetting the norm.

“The specific weather we have at the moment is that something has warmed up at the North Pole fairly dramatically which has changed some of the wind circulation of the Arctic.

“That has caused a big load of cold wind from the east to sweep into us.”

The record low temperature recorded yesterday is just the latest in a series of local and national weather records in recent years.

In January, Nasa announced 2017 had been the second-hottest year on record, and the hottest year without the short-term warming influence of the Pacific Ocean El Niño event.

In July 2016, a student recorded the hottest night in Oxford in at least 50 years.