May 28, 2023

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Meteorologists warn that we could have a tough winter in Europe. The gas in the warehouses could be insufficient

There is a “higher than usual chance” that Europe will face a significant cold snap before Christmas, according to a new long-term weather forecast by the international climate authority.

The warning comes as European countries continue to fill their natural gas storages, hoping to get out of the winter season without relying on much (or any) natural gas from Russia, according to Politico.

Analysts said there should be enough gas for a normal winter, but if temperatures drop, countries could be forced to ration access to gas, affecting industries and jobs.

The chance of a freeze this year — most likely in December — remains “very real,” Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), told POLITICO.

The “multi-system seasonal forecast” for October, issued Wednesday, is based on data from ECMWF along with six other national meteorologists.

European governments preparing for the first winter of the energy crisis should, however, be wary of the possibility of a pre-Christmas freeze that would put further pressure on gas supplies.

“We are coming off a hot summer. We know winters are getting milder. So we can think it will be a mild winter and we don’t have to worry,” Buontempo said.

“That may be the case, but the forecast we’re putting out today and our understanding of how the climate system works leads us to suggest that there is actually still a chance of a very cold winter this year before Christmas,” he added.

A cold snap would be linked to a so-called “blocking event”, when persistent high pressure leads to “anomalous” easterly winds and cooler temperatures over Europe.

Currently, climate conditions indicate that the likelihood of such an event occurring is slightly higher than usual.

If the current “La Niña” weather pattern of cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific persists into the New Year – not something that can yet be predicted with certainty – it would typically mean a second half of milder winters.

Another key factor in determining the weather in January and February – the polar vortex, a ring of high-speed winds encircling the Arctic – is not yet established, making any firm predictions about this period impossible.

Buontempo said it was important for European governments to use as much as possible existing data on climate conditions and likely weather patterns – not only to plan for cold snaps, but also to predict potential periods of low winds and low rainfall that could had an impact on renewable energy production.

“We have a huge amount of free and open data available,” Buontempo said.

“We have to use it properly because it has become so strategically important.”

Wednesday’s forecast still contains uncertainties, and energy markets typically pay close attention to the longer-term November forecast because by then most of the major factors shaping weather patterns for the second part of winter are in play, Buontempo said.

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