Europe Winter Forecast: Harsh Cold to Bypass London and Paris; Storms to Frequent Southern France to Italy and Alps

By By Eric Leister, Meteorologist
October 19, 2015, 2:57:26 PM EDT

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A dominant storm track featuring storms moving west to east across Europe will result in a stark contrast between cold air building across Scandinavia and milder air masses entrenched near the Mediterranean.

While areas from central France and northern Spain through the Alps and into eastern Europe will experience a high number of storm systems, northern France and much of the United Kingdom will be spared the worst of winter’s vengeance.


JUMP TO: Winter to Lack Extreme Cold, Bring Fewer Storms Across England to Northern France and Western Germany | Late Winter Cold Shots Target Germany, Poland and Baltic States | Storms to Bring Strong Winds and Flooding from Southern France to Italy and the Alps | Mild Winter for Mediterranean; Strong Thunderstorms a Concern

Winter to Lack Extreme Cold, Bring Fewer Storms Across England to Northern France and Western Germany

High pressure to the north of the United Kingdom for much of the winter season will result in a very typical winter for parts of northwest Europe with stretches of tranquil weather and overall near-normal temperatures.

While the winter will not be free of cold air masses and powerful wind storms, much of the season will pass with near-normal temperatures and only occasional storms.

The greatest threat for damaging wind storms in the United Kingdom, Ireland and northwest Europe appears to be through December as storms approaching from the Atlantic will push into western Europe.

As the winter progresses, this storm track will press farther south and limit the threat for any damaging wind events, resulting in periods of tranquil weather from England into northern France and western Germany.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert, “The United Kingdom and Ireland look to avoid the worst storm impacts as most of the storm systems track to the south across France and northern Spain.

Extreme cold is also expected to be limited for northwest Europe as the core of the cold air builds over Scandinavia and then is unleashed southward with only brief periods of below-normal temperatures reaching northwest Europe.

The one exception will be Ireland and Scotland where colder-than-normal water temperatures in the North Atlantic will keep high temperatures below normal for much of the winter. Overnight low temperatures will still be near normal.


Late Winter Cold Shots Target Germany, Poland and Baltic States

While northwest Europe evades much of winter’s cold air, areas from Denmark and Germany eastward through Poland, Belarus and the Baltic States will not be as fortunate.

The first half of winter will only feature brief glimpses of cold air as the core of the cold continues to build over Scandinavia.

During the second half of winter, this cold air will make frequent pushes southward, bringing the coldest air of the season to Berlin, Warsaw and Minsk.

With storm systems providing occasional moisture from the Mediterranean Sea and cold air pressing southward from Scandinavia, there will be an elevated threat for snowfall events during the second half of winter as well.

Wind storms will be less of a threat this year as the strongest storms take a southerly track across Europe with less potent storms tracking from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea compared to last winter.


Storms to Bring Strong Winds and Flooding From Southern France to Italy and the Alps

The primary storm track for the winter season in Europe will feature Atlantic storm systems moving from northern Spain and southern France eastward through northern Italy and the Alps before advancing farther east across the northern Balkans and into Ukraine.

“This storm track will bring a higher-than-normal risk for strong wind storms to northern Spain and western France,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys.

Another result of this storm track is an elevated concern for flooding events in southeast France, northern Italy and the northwest Balkan Peninsula.

Unlike previous winters which featured slow-moving storm systems that brought several days of heavy rain to Italy and the Balkan Peninsula, storms will generally be fast-moving but moisture-loaded. This will result in numerous short-duration but heavy-precipitation events.

Moisture from the Mediterranean will fuel these storm systems and cause heavy rainfall and high-elevation snow in the Alps.

“The high frequency of storms moving through the heart of Europe will favor above-normal snow in the Alps and a good season overall for skiers,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

While the storms will bring frequent snow to the Alps, milder-than-normal air may still result in some poor slope conditions during the first half of winter.

Farther east, snow will also become a bigger threat during the second half of the season from Slovenia and Croatia into Hungary, Slovakia northern Romania and western Ukraine as cold air from Scandinavia presses southward and interacts with storms approaching from western Europe.

While low-elevation snow is expected to be less than last year, the higher elevations such of the northern Dinaric Alps and Carpathian Mountains will still see frequent snowfalls.

Mild Winter for Mediterranean; Strong Thunderstorms a Concern

A primary storm track from France through the Alps and into eastern Europe will favor a mild winter for areas farther south.

Above-normal temperatures are expected for long periods of time across Portugal, Spain, Italy and much of the Balkan Peninsula.

“While France and northern Spain will see rounds of unsettled weather, southern Spain and Portugal may struggle to see much rain at all with a warm and dry pattern in place for most of the winter,” according to Reppert.

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Warm air combined with plenty of moisture from the Mediterranean Sea will also allow for several strong to severe thunderstorm events to unfold. Areas at greatest risk for thunderstorms, capable damaging winds, hail and flash flooding, include Spain, southern France and Italy.

Roys added, “An above-normal number of severe weather events are also expected in the southern Balkans due to extended periods of unseasonable warmth.”

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