Europe’s deadly cold snap should ease from next week, UN agency says

A park on the banks of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, covered entirely in ice. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

7 February 2012 – The current cold spell that has paralyzed much of Europe and reportedly killed almost 300 people over the past week should start to ease slowly from next week, a senior official at the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today.

Omar Baddour, the chief of global climate monitoring at WMO, told reporters in Geneva that the current “negative Arctic Oscillation” – a weather phenomenon which leads to cold conditions in Europe and relatively warmer conditions in the Arctic – should shift into a more neutral pattern within the next two to three weeks.

“So, based on this indicator, we might expect – it’s not a deterministic forecast – [but] we might expect the changing of the current cold wave might start easing slowly from next week to the end of the month,” he said.

Extremely low temperatures have been recorded over much of Europe in the past week, with Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Belarus and Latvia among the countries most affected. Substantial snowfalls have also been reported in numerous countries, including as far south as Algeria and Italy.

In an update issued today, WMO said the low temperatures have by and large not set records.

“The long duration of the cold period, its relatively late onset and the extent of the cold area are noteworthy but not exceptional,” the agency stated.

WMO said a very stable high pressure system originating in Siberia in eastern Russia in mid-January had allowed a continuous flow of cold air to persist and also prevented milder temperatures and maritime storms from moving from the Atlantic Ocean eastwards into Europe.


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