Record-high winter temps in Europe affect tourism, natural ecosystems
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that several countries in Europe saw recently record-breaking heat, and scientists say heatwaves are becoming more common throughout the year.
The recent days have seen an "extreme" warm winter in Europe amid record-breaking temperatures for January across the region, as per experts.
While temperatures are rising globally due to climate change, heatwaves and spells of warmer-than-average weather are becoming more common throughout the year, according to scientists.
After the searing summer heat and the unprecedented drought, a wave of warm weather across Europe has melted the snow in the Alps and the Pyrenees, where temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) have been witnessed even in normally-freezing central regions.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that several countries in Europe saw record-breaking heat on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Commenting on this winter heatwave, Freja Vamborg, the Senior Scientist at Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), said it is an "extreme" heat event in terms of how far temperatures have deviated from what is actually expected at this time of year.
"On the 1st of January there was strong flow of air from the southwest across the affected area, which would have brought warmer air further north and penetrated unusually far east, reaching even to Belarus. Minimal snow cover was very probably another relevant factor," Vamborg said, answering a question about the causes of this event.
"The circulation of any given weather situation and climate change are not two independent things. Climate change itself also has an impact on the circulation, and will also impact how warm those moving air masses are. This is what makes it so complex to disentangle just simply a weather event, from the level to which climate change influenced such an event," she added.
Regarding how climate change is involved, she said that "heatwaves and warm spells are becoming more frequent and intense," pointing out that "this is not restricted to the summer months," as "winters are also becoming warmer as a result of global temperatures."
To explain, she said that "Northern Europe has warmed more strongly in winter than in summer."
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These high winter temperatures have definitely an impact on tourism and natural ecosystems, Vamborg said.
While warm temperatures during winter mean "less need for heating of housing and other infrastructures, low snow cover affects the winter tourism industry," she noted, adding that "possible impacts on natural ecosystems, include early return from hibernation, which may have negative impacts if followed by much less mild/freezing conditions."
"The overall impact will be different depending on the longevity and intensity of the event."
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