After an incredibly mild start to winter across much of Western Europe, the region is now experiencing its first proper cold blast of the season.

The cold air has been in place across many parts of Central and Eastern Europe, but further west, there has been a constant feed of mild air rolling in from the Atlantic. That has now changed.

The warmer weather had almond trees in bloom almost a month early, and some of the bears in the Pyrenees Mountains woke up prematurely from their hibernation. Normal service has now resumed.

Warnings for snow and ice have been issued across the British Isles as temperatures struggle to reach 5 or 6 degrees Celsius. Cold northerly winds have pegged temperatures back across France, too.

That wintry blast has now reached much of Spain. The Spanish Meteorology Agency (AEMET) has issued orange alerts across northern and eastern coastal areas for snow, ice and strong winds.

An orange alert means that there is a 'significant risk' for intense weather conditions. Warnings extend from Castile, through the Basque Country down to Menorca and the Balearic Islands.

Madrid has seen overnight temperatures dipping below freezing recently. The next few days will remain very cold with highs barely reaching 6C (the January average is 9C).

Further north, the country has had its first major snowfall of the winter, and the cold weather is expected to continue right through the weekend.

There have already been a number of accidents on the slippery roads leading to some lengthy traffic jams.

Spain's Commission for Civil Defence and Emergencies has issued warnings that some northern areas can expect as much as 20cm of snow by the end of the weekend.

Motorists using the higher routes have been advised to always travel with snow chains or mountain tyres, ensure they have a full tank of petrol, along with a mobile phone with its charger.

Source: Al Jazeera