Europe Experiences a “Climate Change” Heatwave

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From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Record busting temperatures in Europe have given people a temporary reprieve from skyrocketing energy bills and the risk of blackouts.

European winter heatwave prompts calls for action on climate change

Record-high winter temperatures have swept across parts of Europe over the new year, prompting calls from activists for faster action on climate change while offering short-term respite to governments struggling with high gas prices.

Hundreds of sites have seen temperature records smashed from Switzerland to Poland to Hungary, which registered its warmest Christmas Eve in Budapest and saw temperatures climb to 18.9 degrees Celsius on January 1.

French tourist Joana Host said: “It’s like nice weather for biking but we know it’s like the planet is burning”.

“So we’re enjoying it but at the same time we’re scared,” she said.

Short-term respite from Europe’s energy crisis

The unusually mild temperatures have offered some short-term relief to European governments that have struggled to secure scarce gas supplies and keep a lid on soaring prices after Russia slashed deliveries of the fuel to Europe.

European governments have said this energy crisis should hasten their shift from fossil fuels to clean energy — but in the short term, plummeting Russian fuel supplies have left them racing to secure extra gas from elsewhere.

Gas demand has fallen for heating in many countries due to the mild spell, helping to reduce prices.

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Scientists say climate change has made unusual weather events such as the winter heatwave more likely.(Reuters: Jon Nazca)

Just a few weeks ago much of Europe was enduring an Arctic blast.

Weather tracker: what is behind Europe’s cold spell?

Lauren Herdman (Metdesk)
Mon 12 Dec 2022 22.34 AEDT

The current cold spell in Europe will persist this week as high pressure continues to stagnate over western Russia. The cold weather is linked to a weak, split polar vortex in the stratosphere, which allowed high pressure to build across Greenland last week. This in turn led to Arctic air flooding south across the UK on northerly winds. The polar vortex is due to strengthen, eventually helping to end the cold spell with low pressure to the west of the UK becoming dominant.

Much of western and central Europe, including the UK, will stay consistently around 5C below typical values for this time of year, with many places struggling to rise above freezing even during the daytime. Change is on the horizon, however, as low pressure systems begin to encroach into Europe towards the weekend. Latest forecasts show temperatures in western Europe returning to average by the start of next week, though in central and northern Europe extreme cold will persist a little longer. In contrast, Spain, which has experienced a record-breaking warm and dry autumn, will finally have some recognisably wintry temperatures.

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A person with his bicycle in snow-covered St James’s Park, London, as the cold weather continues. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

I’m glad our European friends are catching a break from unaffordable heating bills, but the season isn’t over yet. I have yet to see evidence of Western European Governments doing anything constructive to alleviate the risk of ongoing energy shortages.