Cold weather warning adds to Europe’s gloom as it battles the energy crisis

Europe could suffer a colder winter with less wind and rain than usual, according to the European Weather Forecasts Agency, adding to the challenges for governments trying to solve the continent’s energy crisis.

Florence Rabier, director-general of the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), said early signs for November and December pointed to a high-pressure period over western Europe that would likely bring colder spells and less wind and precipitation, reducing renewable energy production becomes.

The forecast, which is based on data from ECMWF and several other weather forecasting systems, including those in the UK, US, France and Japan, is a potential problem for policymakers as they seek to combat rising energy costs for businesses and homes due to huge Cuts in gas imports from Russia.

“If we have this pattern, then it’s quite challenging for energy because not only is it a little colder, but there’s less wind for wind power and less precipitation for hydropower,” she told the Financial Times.

The EU has vowed to wean itself off Russian gas by 2027 by switching to more renewable energy and pursuing gas deals with other countries. Gas exports from Russia to the EU have already fallen from about two-fifths of total supply to 9 percent since Russia began invading Ukraine in February.

Rabier said recent hurricanes over the Atlantic could bring about milder, wetter and windier weather in the short term. But cooler weather later in the year would coincide with atmospheric conditions known as La Niña, a weather pattern inferred from the cooling of the Pacific Ocean’s surface, causing changes in wind and precipitation patterns in different regions.

Weather in Europe is usually difficult to predict, as conditions are determined by several distant factors, including winds in the tropical stratosphere and surface pressure over the Atlantic.

ECMWF, an intergovernmental organization supported by 35 countries, produces short and long-term forecasts. It also oversees the Copernicus climate change and atmosphere monitoring services, which track marine, land and atmospheric data.

By 2026, two new Copernicus satellites will be installed to monitor carbon emissions from space, allowing countries to improve pollution monitoring and refine their emissions reduction targets.

Rabier said Europe was already in a fragile state after experiencing one of its hottest summers on record, with August temperatures of 1.7C above the 1991-2020 average and particularly dry soil conditions. The share of wind and hydropower in electricity generation in Europe has declined this summer due to hotter and drier weather.

One of the hottest summers on record in Europe nearly dried up rivers like this tributary of the Loire in France © Stephane Mahe/Reuters

More extreme weather events caused by global warming, such as tropical cyclones and heat waves, are more difficult to predict, the ECMWF chief said.

Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s Minister for Energy and Spatial Planning, said on Friday that ministers called on ENTSO-E, the EU’s network of electricity system operators, to present its update on winter electricity security risks in October, a month earlier usual. Cold weather warning adds to Europe’s gloom as it battles the energy crisis

Adam Bradshaw

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