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

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: Temperatures in Switzerland set to plummet

Depending on where in Switzerland you live, you might have been enjoying the last of the mild autumn. But those days are likely over, as ‘polar’ weather may be on the way.

Weather: Temperatures in Switzerland set to plummet

Blame it on the low-pressure system called “mega polar vortex,” which has hit parts of the United States in the past days and is now heading towards us from – where else – but Siberia.

“If the polar vortex pushes cold air north, it could reach us as well,” said Roger Perret, a meteorologist at the MeteoNews weather service.

This is what the situation is currently:

How cold could it get?

The temperatures could drop to 0 C, though heavy snowfall is not expected before the beginning of December.

While this is the most likely scenario, weather is, after all, unpredictable.

The current forecast will hold true only if the polar vortex is undisturbed on its path.

But if “it stays in the east and mild air currents arrive in Switzerland from the Atlantic depression, it will be warmer again,” Perret said.

In other words, be prepared for the cold, but hope for the clement weather to continue a little bit longer.

READ MORE: Will the warm autumn affect the ski season in Switzerland?