A bout of low pressure has sent temperatures plummeting all over Italy with snow blanketing Rome yesterday but Malta has been spared the worst of it even if temperatures were pushed below average here too.

Yesterday's chilly temperatures, a maximum of 12°C and a minimum of 7°C, were slightly below the February average.

The average maximum temperature for February is 15.5°C and the minimum is 9.3°C. "It could have felt colder because of the wind," a spokesman for the Malta International Airport's Meteorological Office said.

Observations at Luqa recorded the highest wind speed at 10.45 a.m. when the temperature was 9.6°C, which, according to the spokesman, would have felt as if it was 6°C. Today's maximum temperature is expected to hover at about 14°C with the night-time temperature dropping to seven.

Temperatures are forecast to gradually increase to a maximum of 18°C by Wednesday as warm air from the southeast sweeps over the island. Malta was only brushed by the low pressure system descending from the Arctic as it moved over the Adriatic Sea and the Balkans, the spokesman said.

But if carnival weekend is to be spared freezing weather, revellers and organisers may expect the occasional downpour with rain forecast for tomorrow and Tuesday as wind direction shifts to northwest. Meanwhile, the Colosseum in Rome was closed to tourists yesterday because of a three-centimetre blanket of snow that enveloped the city centre.

The last time the city had to contend with a similar snowfall was in 1986, when 23 centimetres of snow whitened Rome.

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