Europe faces a higher-than-usual chance of a cold blast before the end of the year, but the overall winter is likely to be warmer than average, the continent’s long-term meteorologist said on Thursday.
This winter’s temperatures will be crucial for homeowners concerned about the record cost of heating their homes and for European lawmakers seeking to avoid energy rationing due to reductions in Russian gas supply.
“We see that the winter will be warmer than usual,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service which produces seasonal forecasts for the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).
“However, there is still a significant chance of a lockdown situation, which can lead to cold temperatures and little wind in Europe,” he told AFP as the service released a monthly update to its forecasts.
A so-called lockdown or lockout pattern in the winter can bring stable, often windless weather accompanied by sub-zero temperatures.
“This seemed more likely in November, but now it looks like a pronounced probability of a cold outbreak in December,” Buontempo added.
The ECMWF produces weather models using data from a variety of national weather services across Europe.
Their forecasts are based on indicators such as ocean and air temperatures, as well as wind speeds in the stratosphere, but they do not have the accuracy of short-term reports.
The models provide “the best possible information, to give a clue, to guide our decisions,” Buontempo said.
The European winter was expected to be warmer than usual due to the La Niña global weather phenomenon, which is linked to cooling surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.
“We know that in a La Niña year, the latter part of the European winter tends to favor westerly winds, which are so warm and humid,” Buontempo said.
The agency will update its winter season forecast next month when it will be more confident because “every driver for the winter will be more active,” he said.
Independent energy experts expect Europe to be able to withstand Russia’s gas cuts this winter, as long as temperatures stay in line with or above the long-term average.
Governments have almost filled their strategic gas reserves and consumers are urged to reduce their consumption.
The International Energy Agency, a Paris-based energy consultancy, believes temperatures around 10% below average during the winter would put pressure on Europe’s gas system.
He has also said that a late cold snap, when gas supplies are expected to be low, could be the “Achilles’ heel of European gas supply security”.