“It looks like summer”: warm winter breaks temperature records in Europe

  • Ski slopes deserted for lack of snow
  • Activists call for faster action on climate change
  • Pollen warning issued as plants bloom early
  • Governments get short-term respite on gas prices

LONDON/BRUSSELS, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Record winter temperatures swept through parts of Europe in the new year, prompting calls from activists for faster action on climate change while providing respite to short term to governments struggling with high gas prices.

Hundreds of locations have seen temperature records broken in recent days, from Switzerland to Poland to Hungary, which recorded its hottest Christmas Eve in Budapest and saw temperatures soar to 18.9 degrees Celsius (66.02°F) on January 1.

In France, where the night of December 30-31 was the hottest since records began, temperatures soared to nearly 25C in the southwest on New Year’s Day, while European ski resorts normally busy were deserted due to a lack of snow.

The weather service in Germany, where temperatures of over 20C have been recorded, said such a mild year change had not been seen in the country since records began in 1881.

Czech television reported that some trees were starting to flower in private gardens while the Swiss office of meteorology and climatology issued a pollen warning to people with allergies to early-flowering hazel trees.

The temperature reached 25.1°C at Bilbao airport, in the Spanish Basque Country. People bask in the sun sitting in front of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao or strolling along the Nervion River.

“It always rains a lot here, it’s very cold and it’s January (but now) it’s like summer,” said Eusebio Folgeira, 81, a Bilbao resident.

French tourist Joana Host said: “It’s like the weather is good for cycling, but we know it’s like the planet is burning. So we’re enjoying it, but at the same time we’re scared. “

Scientists have yet to analyze the specific ways in which climate change has affected recent high temperatures, but January’s warm spell is part of the longer-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change d human origin.

“Winters are getting warmer in Europe due to rising global temperatures,” said Freja Vamborg, a climatologist with the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

This follows another year of extreme weather events that scientists believe were directly linked to global warming, including deadly heat waves in Europe and India and flooding in Pakistan.

“Record heat across Europe in the New Year has been made more likely by human-induced climate change, just as climate change now makes every heat wave more likely and hotter,” the report said. Dr. Friederike Otto, climatologist at Imperial College. London.

Temperature spikes can also cause plants to start growing earlier in the year or bring animals out of hibernation early, making them vulnerable to death by later cold snaps.

Robert Vautard, director of the French Institute Pierre-Simon Laplace, said that while temperatures peaked from December 30 to January 2, the warm weather lasted two weeks and is still not over. “It’s actually a relatively long event,” he said.

EMPTY TRACKS

France’s national weather agency Météo France attributed the abnormal temperatures to a warm air mass moving towards Europe from the subtropics.

It hit during the busy ski season, leading to canceled trips and empty slopes. Resorts in the northern regions of Spain, Asturias, Leon and Cantabria, have been closed since the Christmas holidays due to lack of snow.

On Jahorina Mountain above the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, which hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, it should have been one of the busiest weeks of the season. Instead, the chairlifts hung lifelessly above the grassy slopes. In a guest house, a couple dined alone in the restaurant, the only customers.

A ski jumping event in Zakopane, southern Poland, scheduled for the weekend of January 7-8, has been canceled.

Karsten Smid, climate expert at Greenpeace Germany, said while some climate change impacts were already unavoidable, urgent action should be taken to prevent even more drastic global warming.

“What’s happening right now is exactly what climatologists warned us about 10, 20 years ago, and it can’t be avoided now,” Smid said.

WEATHER REDUCES GAS TENSION

Unusually mild temperatures have offered short-term relief to European governments that have struggled to secure scarce gas supplies and contain soaring prices after Russia cut fuel deliveries to Europe.

European governments have said this energy crisis should accelerate their shift from fossil fuels to clean energy – but in the short term, the collapse of Russian fuel supplies has forced them to rush to get additional gas from elsewhere. .

The demand for gas for heating has fallen in many countries due to the mild weather, which has helped reduce prices.

The gas benchmark price for the first month traded at 70.25 euros per megawatt-hour on Wednesday morning, its lowest level since February 2022 – just before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The head of Italy’s energy authority has predicted that regulated energy bills in the country will plummet this month, if milder temperatures help keep gas prices lower.

However, a note from Eurointelligence warned that this should not encourage governments to become complacent about Europe’s energy crisis.

“While this will give governments more fiscal space in the first part of this year, solving Europe’s energy problems will require concerted action over several years,” he said. “No one should believe it’s over yet.”

Reporting by Kate Abnett, Richard Lough, Alan Charlish, Krisztina Than, Louisa Ilie, Susanna Twidale, Riham Alkousa, Jason Hovet, Emma Pinedo, Kirsten Donovan, Federico Maccioni; written by Matthias Williams; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Mark Heinrich

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