Munich, Germany – December 4, 2023
The winter season in Europe has kicked off with a dramatic wintry blast, presenting a stark contrast to the unusually warm and snowless conditions of the previous year. As of December 4, 2023, large parts of the continent are grappling with record snowfall and bitter cold, affecting daily life and transportation.
Over the weekend, Munich, Germany’s third-largest city, witnessed a historic snowstorm, accumulating nearly a foot and a half of snow. This marked a December record for the city, surpassing levels not seen since early March 2006. The sudden onset of winter weather has impacted various European cities, including Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Geneva, with more snowfall expected, particularly in the Alpine region, Germany, and parts of Eastern Europe.
Flight disruptions have become a significant challenge, with hundreds of cancellations reported in Munich, Amsterdam, and other affected airports. Even cities with comparatively lower snowfall, such as London, have experienced delays due to the winter weather. Road closures and power outages have been reported in Cumbria, England, where up to a foot of snow fell, leaving vehicles stranded and around 13,000 customers without power.
Satellite imagery and ground observations highlight the extensive snowfall covering Europe, with traditionally snowy areas like the Alps experiencing above-average amounts. According to MeteoSwiss, Europe is likely witnessing its snowiest start to a meteorological winter since 2010. Temperatures in southern Germany have plummeted to levels typical of Scandinavia, reaching near or below zero degrees Celsius.
The Northern Hemisphere, as a whole, has seen near to above-average snow cover for the last eight weeks, driven largely by the abundant snow in Europe. Conversely, North America has experienced below-average snow cover during this period.
Extreme cold and snow have also gripped parts of Russia, including Siberia, where Moscow recently faced one of the most significant daily snowfalls on record, leading to flight cancellations and stranded motorists. Siberian temperatures have plummeted to exceptional levels, ranging from minus-60 to minus-70 degrees Celsius, an unusual cold for this early in the winter season.
Researchers suggest that early winter cold and snow in these regions could be indicative of severe winter weather in North America later in the season. The severe winter conditions in Europe are attributed to the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO), allowing frigid air from the North Pole to descend southward. While a gradual thaw is expected in Western Europe this week, Eastern Europe and Russia may experience less extreme cold by the following week.
Despite the harsh winter conditions in Europe, the rest of the planet continues to experience warmer-than-normal temperatures. Recent data indicates that November was Earth’s warmest on record, maintaining a trend of record warmth for the fifth consecutive month. As Europe grapples with winter’s grip, the global climate landscape remains a dynamic interplay of contrasting weather patterns.