LONDON (AP) — The famous department stores and shopping streets are beautifully lit and decorated, but Christmas isn't exactly in the air in Britain, where unexpectedly mild temperatures are causing some daffodils to bloom and some ice rinks to suspend operations.
Forecasters at the government's Met Office say temperatures are expected to remain "exceptionally mild" in the run-up to Christmas. The prediction is that the mercury will approach 16 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) over the weekend — several degrees higher than what is normal at this time of year.
Rival forecasters at Metcheck go further and reckon there is a "good chance" temperatures could break the December record of 18.3 degrees on Saturday. They say a continuing high pressure system over Europe is mixing with an Atlantic weather system and that's bringing in warm air from the south and southwest.
The agency says December weather so far is 4 degrees above normal, with no obvious change predicted for the next 10 days.
The mild weather is having an impact on plant life cycles. At the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, senior horticulturalist Ray Townsend said plants that normally flower in early spring are making an early appearance.
"I have been here nearly 42 years and I have never seen this kind of flowering in December before," he said, citing the early arrival of daffodils, irises, snowdrops and others.
The weather forecast more or less dashes hopes of a white Christmas — and the warmish weather is causing problems for ski areas in Scotland and for the popular ice skating rinks in southern England and Wales.
Former competitive skater Alan Abretti, who is director of Cousins Entertainment, says the spring-like conditions have dampened the appetite for ice skating — and temporarily closed some rinks.
He said most of the ice rinks are functional, but skaters have been put off by the several inches of water — it's melted ice — collected on the surface.
Perhaps more importantly, he said, the unusual weather has prevented many people from focusing on winter sports.
"We've all been affected," he said Thursday. "It doesn't feel like Christmas."