Record-breaking winter temperatures warm Europe

Europe has seen "extreme" warm winter weather in recent days, experts have said, with 2023 already posting record temperatures for January across the region.

Record-breaking winter temperatures warm Europe
A hiker walks past a stopped chairlift at Le Semnoz ski resort, near Annecy on 27th December 2022, as the resort had to close temporarily due to the lack of snow. Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

As temperatures rise globally because of human-caused climate change, scientists say heatwaves and spells of warmer-than-average weather are becoming more common throughout the year.

After experiencing searing summer heat and a drought unprecedented in centuries, a wave of warm weather across Europe this winter has melted the snow from ski slopes in the Alps and Pyrenees, and seen temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) even in normally-freezing central

Several European countries saw record-breaking heat on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Hundreds of weather stations across Europe have recorded all-time highest daily temperatures for the months of December or January, it said this week.

Freja Vamborg, Senior Scientist at Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), said the current winter heatwave is an “extreme” heat event in Europe in terms of how far temperatures have deviated from what is expected at this time of year.   

Here Vamborg answers some key questions about the heatwave:

What caused these high temperatures?

“On the 1st of January there was a strong flow of air from the southwest across the affected area, which would have brought warmer air further north and penetrated unusually far east, reaching even to Belarus. Minimal snow cover was very probably another relevant factor.”

“The circulation of any given weather situation and climate change are not two independent things. Climate change itself also has an impact on the circulation, and will also impact how warm those moving air masses are. This is what makes it so complex to disentangle just simply a weather event, from
the level to which climate change influenced such an event.”

How is climate change involved?

“With increasing global temperatures, heatwaves and warm spells are becoming more frequent and intense — this is not restricted to the summer months.”

“While the warming trend in Europe is on average stronger in the warmer seasons, winters are also becoming warmer as a result of global temperatures.”

“Northern Europe has warmed more strongly in winter than in summer, while in the south the warming trend is more apparent in summer.”

What is the impact of these high winter temperatures?

“A couple of things can be mentioned for warm temperatures during the winter months. While it means less need for heating of housing and other infrastructures, low snow cover affects the winter tourism industry.”

“Possible impacts on natural ecosystems, include early return from hibernation, which may have negative impacts if followed by much less mild/freezing conditions.”

“The overall impact will be different depending on the longevity and intensity of the event.”

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Get ready for Pentecost: Denmark’s weekend weather forecast

As the long Pentecost weekend draws near, many Danes are hoping for favourable weather conditions to engage in outdoor pursuits. Here's what the meteorologists say.

Get ready for Pentecost: Denmark's weekend weather forecast

If you were hoping to enjoy a nice walk or to spend the Pentecost weekend – or Whit Monday – outside, you’re in luck.

The next three days will be characterised by sunny weather and nice temperatures, according to Mette Zhang, the on-duty meteorologist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

“This Friday, some will experience a lot of sunshine, while others not as much, and they may get some more clouds… During the course of the day, we expect the skies to clear up nicely so that everyone will at least get to see the sun,” Zhang told TV2 ØST.

While the last working day of the week will be full of sunshine, slightly cooler temperatures will prevail over the weekend, the meteorologist believes.

“The temperature might not be super high. It looks like it will be at 13C-18C, but on the West Coast, it will probably be a little cooler because of onshore winds,” she said.

Saturday forecast: Mostly sunny

Saturday looks to be the best day of the weekend in terms of weather, with lots of sunshine and temperatures of up to 20 degrees.

“It looks like it will be a nice sunny day with temperatures of up to 15C-20C. However, along the coast with onshore winds, it will probably be a little cooler,” Zhang said.

On Sunday, the sun will be less prominent, and people should be braced for cloud cover apart from in northern Denmark.

Opportunities for walks on Sunday

On Whit Sunday, sunny weather will grace the northern parts of the country, while the rest of the country will probably have to put up with a little cloud – and in some places, even a bit of rain.

“On Sunday, it looks like North Jutland has the best chance (for nice weather) from the morning, but you can also get out and have a nice walk either out in the forests or by the water during the day in the rest of the country,” Zhang said.

Sunshine and pleasant temperatures ranging from 13C to 18C are expected to return on Whit Monday, along with light to fresh winds from the north and northwest.

You can find the latest forecasts for your area on the webpage of the Danish Meteorological Institute.

As a lot of people use the Pentecost holidays for a cabin getaway or trip with family or friends, you should expect increased traffic on the roads, which could lead to congestion and queues in certain areas.

Therefore, it is advisable to consult the traffic forecast provided by the Danish Road Directorate to plan your travels accordingly.