Throughout the course of the new year, parts of Europe experienced record-high winter temperatures, sparking calls for swifter action against climate change while giving governments struggling with high gas prices a little reprieve.
From Switzerland to Poland to Hungary, which recorded its warmest Christmas Eve in Budapest and saw temperatures rise to 18.9 degrees Celsius on January 1, hundreds of locations have had temperature records broken in recent days.
Warmest New Year’s Eve ever
Temperatures reached nearly 25C in the southwest of France, where the 30-31 December night was the warmest on record. At the same time, normally busy European ski slopes were empty due to a lack of snow on New Year’s Day.
Meteorologists did not record such a mild start to the year in Germany since records began in 1881, according to the Weather Service, where temperatures were over 20C.
Climate change caused nature’s awakening
Some trees in private gardens were beginning to blossom, Czech Television reported. Switzerland’s Office of Meteorology and Climatology issued a pollen warning to allergy patients from early flowering hazel plants, both organizations were reporting.
The airport in Bilbao, Spain, recorded a temperature of 25.1C. People lounged in the sunshine as they strolled along the River Nervion or sat in front of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum.
Eusebio Folgeira, an 81-year-old resident of Bilbao, said it always rains a lot, it’s quite chilly, and it’s January, but it feels like summer right now.
It’s like wonderful weather for biking, but we know it feels like the planet is burning, remarked a French tourist.
So, people might enjoy the mild weather, but it is fighting at the same time.
Scientists blame climate change but are not sure
However, the mild weather in January aligns with the longer-term trend of increasing temperatures brought on by climate change. Scientists have not thoroughly investigated the precise ways that recent high temperatures are a result of climate change.
According to Freja Vamborg, a climate scientist at the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, rising global temperatures are causing European winters to get warmer.
It comes after yet another year of catastrophic weather conditions, including deadly heatwaves in Europe and India and flooding in Pakistan, which scientists said is due to global warming.
According to Dr. Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, human-caused climate change increased the likelihood of record-breaking heat over Europe over the new year, just as it is doing so now with every heatwave.
Temperature increases can also rouse animals from hibernation or force plants to begin growing earlier in the year, leaving them vulnerable to being wiped out by subsequent cold spells.
While temperatures peaked from December 30 to January 2, according to Robert Vautard, director of France’s Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute, the warm weather has continued for two weeks and is still going strong. It turns out that this is a really lasting event, he added.
Where is the snow?
The French weather bureau Meteo France to a mass of warm air flowing into Europe from subtropical regions attributed to the abnormally warm temperatures.
Due to the fact that it occurred during the busiest ski season, there were vacations canceled and the slopes were empty. Since the Christmas holidays, resorts in the northern Spanish provinces of Asturias, Leon, and Cantabria are closed due to a lack of snow.
On Jahorina Mountain, which is located above Sarajevo, the Bosnian city that hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, it should have been one of the busiest weeks of the entire year. Instead, they remained still over the lush slopes. One guesthouse restaurant was empty except for a couple dining by themselves.
The weekend of January 7-8’s planned ski jumping competition in Zakopane, southern Poland, is not going to happen.
While specific effects of climate change are already inescapable, Karsten Smid, a climate specialist with Greenpeace Germany, said we need immediate action to stop even more extreme global warming.
According to Smid, the current situation is exactly what climate experts warned us would occur 10, 20, or more years ago, and it is no longer possible to stop it.
It is gas crisis relief but climate change is not a good news
The unexpectedly warm weather has provided some temporary relief to European governments that have been struggling to secure a tight gas supply and control rising prices after Russia reduced fuel imports to Europe.
Despite their assurances that the current energy crisis will hasten their switch from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, European governments are hurrying to obtain additional gas from other sources in the short term due to diminishing Russian fuel supplies.
Due to the warm weather, gas demand has decreased heating in several nations, which has helped to lower prices.
The benchmark front-month gas price was at its lowest level on Wednesday morning since February 2022, just before Russia invaded Ukraine, at 70.25 euros per megawatt hour.
If the warmer temperatures help keep gas costs low, the head of Italy’s energy regulator forecast that the country’s regulated energy bills would decline this month.
However, a statement from Eurointelligence issued to countries warned against becoming complacent about Europe’s energy situation as a result of this.
While it will provide countries more economic leeway in the first half of this year, it is clear that tackling Europe’s energy issues will require significant effort over a number of years. Nobody should think that this is already over.