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WEATHER

Europe set for unusually warm winter but faces cold blast in December

Europe faces a higher-than-usual chance of a cold blast of weather before the end of the year, but the winter overall is likely to be warmer than average, the continent's long-range weather forecaster said Thursday.

Europe set for unusually warm winter but faces cold blast in December
(Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

Temperatures this winter will be crucial for homeowners worried about the record cost of heating their homes, and for European policymakers seeking to avoid energy rationing due to cuts in Russian gas supplies.

“We see the winter as being warmer than usual,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service that produces seasonal forecasts for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

“Nevertheless there is a still a significant chance of a block situation, which can lead to cold temperatures and low wind over Europe,” he told AFP as the service issued a monthly update to its forecasts.

A so-called block or blocking pattern in the winter can bring stable, often wind-free weather accompanied by freezing temperatures.

“This was looking more likely in November, but there now looks like a pronounced probability of a cold outbreak in December,” Buontempo said.

The ECMWF produces weather modelling with data from a range of national weather services around Europe.

Its forecasts are based on indicators such as ocean and atmospheric temperatures, as well as wind speeds in the stratosphere, but do not have the accuracy of short-range reports.

The models provide the “best information possible, to give a hint, to guide our decisions”, Buontempo said.

The European winter was expected to be warmer than usual because of the “La Nina” global weather phenomenon, which is related to cooling surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.

“We know that in a La Nina year, the latter part of the European winter tends to favour westerly winds, so warm and wet,” Buontempo said.

The agency will update its winter season forecast next month when it will have greater confidence because “all the drivers for the winter will be more active”, he said.

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WEATHER

‘Winter is starting’: Italy braces for snow and storms as cold snap arrives

Northern Italy woke to freezing temperatures on Friday while Vesuvius was dusted with snow as long-delayed winter weather arrived in Italy.

‘Winter is starting’: Italy braces for snow and storms as cold snap arrives

A cold front arriving from northern Europe brought temperatures as low as minus 18 degrees Celsius in the eastern Alps in the early hours of Friday, while minus 14 was recorded in Garfagnana, and minus 5 in Milan, Turin and inland Sicily.

Snow also fell at higher altitudes in the south overnight, with local residents capturing images of Vesuvius covered in a dusting of snow.

“Winter is starting,” Claudio Cassardo, climatologist at the University of Turin, told newspaper La Repubblica on Friday.

“We will return to normal seasonal temperatures. However, we’re no longer used to the cold and snow”.

While the north in particular shivers in freezing temperatures and snow was forecast for many areas, including at lower altitudes, central and southern regions were warned to expect heavy rain and stormy conditions from Friday and into the weekend.

Italy’s Department for Civil Protection issued a lower-level alert for storms on Friday in parts of five southern Italian regions, including Basilicata and Calabria, and a medium-level amber alert for Campania, where the agency warned of a risk of hailstones and flash floods.

Showers, strong winds and thunderstorms are expected to spread further across the centre-south and to the Adriatic coast by Saturday, when temperatures are again forecast to drop below zero in inland parts of the centre and north.

Weather website Meteo3B predicted temperatures would drop to 0-1 C across much of the north overnight and in the early morning on Saturday.

Forecasts showed the mildest temperatures in the coming days would be in the southeastern region of Puglia and along the southern coasts of Sicily and Calabria, where a steady 8-10 degrees Celsius is expected over the weekend.

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