Europe Winter Forecast: Less Snow for Most; Ample Snow for Winter Games
By By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist.
November 03, 2013, 11:38:16 PM EST
Much of Europe will experience drier and warmer-than-average conditions spanning December, January and February. Areas from the Mediterranean Sea to the Balkans will be much less stormy, when compared to last winter, but ample snow is forecast for the mountain venues of the XXII Olympic Winter Games.
The storm track affecting part of Europe during late October into early November will shift.
According to AccuWeather Europe Weather Expert Alan Reppert, "The main storm track will set up farther to the north and east than what we typically see during most of the winter and will have a significant effect on temperatures and precipitation."
With most storms tracking to the north this winter, areas from the United Kingdom and France to Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy are likely to experience temperatures averaging near to above normal.
From Poland to Romania, the rather frequent storms will displace the cold air and generally prevent it from lasting very long.
For Spain, Portugal and western France, the coldest part of the winter, relative to normal will be the first part.
“Chilly waters off the coasts of Portugal, northern Spain and western France will result in a cool December, but as the waters trend toward average later in the season, so will the Iberian Peninsula trend warmer,” Reppert said.
Compared to last winter, the number of rain and mountain snowstorms from Italy to Greece and the Balkans will be lower. Storms in general in the region will less intense.
The northeastward skewed storm track will tend to limit snowfall throughout much of Europe. The elevation at which snow falls will generally become higher than average from the Pyrenees to the Alps and Carpathian Mountains as warmer air moves in.
“Some ski resorts in the Alps could struggle to get enough snow over the winter, especially those at lower elevations or at the bases of the larger resorts,” Reppert said.
Unsettled weather is most likely to occur during the beginning and end of the winter from central France to Germany and much of Poland, with a dry mid-season.
The wettest part of the winter for the United Kingdom and Ireland is likely to be later in January and February.
“Even with a projected stormier end to the winter, rain and snow should be no more than average for the British Isles,” Reppert stated.
Areas most likely to have near- to above-average snowfall will reach from Scandinavia to part of western Russia.
“The coldest part of the winter relative to normal for northeastern Europe, including western Russia is likely to be December into early January, which should contribute to more typical snowfall for the region, relative to other areas,” Reppert said.
Expected (Dec. Through Feb.) Snowfall for a Few Cities
In much of southwestern Russia, including the Caucasus Mountains, snowfall is likely to be a little shy of average.
The city of Sochi, Russia, is the host city of the XXII Winter Olympics, scheduled for Feb. 7 to 23, 2014. Sochi is located on the northeastern shores of the Black Sea with the Caucasus Range to its back to the northeast.
According to AccuWeather World Weather Expert Jim Andrews, "The winter climate is a little similar to the coastal areas and Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest in the United States."
Despite the presence of palm trees in the city, temperatures can dip to freezing. In terms of precipitation, it can also snow a bit once in a while at the resort city.
Skiing, sledding and boarding events for the games will take place at the Krasnaya Polyana Mountains, within the Caucasus Range. Between 40 and 50 inches of snow is forecast to fall this winter near the base of the mountains, with much heavier snow at intermediate and high elevations. The majority of the snow for the season should have already fallen on the mountains by the time the games begin.
“Snowfall in the nearby Caucasus Range varies greatly and increases with elevation, so even in a winter season where slightly below average snow is forecast, there should be plenty [of snow] on the slopes," Andrews said.
There is the chance of a cold wave invading western and northern Europe late in the winter.
Such an event might be tied in with sudden warming of a high altitude layer of the atmosphere known as the stratosphere. Temperatures in the stratosphere are a reverse, or mirror-effect, of the lower atmosphere.
According to AccuWeather Long Range Weather Expert Paul Pastelok, “Sudden stratospheric warming events cannot be predicted in advance, but when they do occur, a week to ten days later, they signal a southward release of cold air in the lower part of the atmosphere.”
When a stratospheric warming event occurs, there is the challenge of figuring out where the compensating main thrust of cold air will go. It is likely to bring an arctic outbreak to part of one or two continents: North America, Europe or Asia, but never throughout all three.
AccuWeather Meteorologists Jason Nicholls and Eric Wanenchak contributed content to this story.
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