After a brief tease of spring-like weather, Europe was hit yesterday with cold temperatures and heavy snow. Keeping in mind that “cold” and “heavy snow” are relative terms — the storm was one of the worst of the season, not to mention among the worst in years.
Airports across the region were either closed, or had traffic reduced dramatically. And even the trains were stopped. In Germany, there was a car crash on the autobahn involving over 100 vehicles, though fortunately nobody died during that wreck.
In Paris, we had roughly 4 inches of snow — which may not sound like much, but for Paris it’s unusual, and it’s been like this for several years now (snowing when it shouldn’t). Earlier this season, we had about twice as much snow as last night, which was also a surprise. As I mentioned before, Paris is not equipped for snow — we just never get that much (or at least we didn’t) — so any snow that sticks will cause problems.
So what’s causing this weather? For starters, the melting Arctic ice is causing the North Atlantic to warm, which is bringing a lot more precipitation to the region. That means the miserable weather of northwest Europe has gone from bad to worse with even more rain and snow because of the warming seas. As the Arctic ice melts, the situation is likely to become worse.
In addition to the warming ocean, the jet stream is unusually far south at the moment, which means that the cold northern air is dipping to the south. The BBC has a great video that shows this in more detail.
Temperatures are due to warm to above freezing today in Paris, and spring temperatures should be back on their way by the weekend. For those of us who hate winter, the crazy weather of this winter may become the new normal.