Climate change heats up European winter

Europe has experienced its second-warmest winter on record, according to data published by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The average temperature in Europe from December to February was 1.4 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average for the Boreal winter season, which ranks as Europe’s joint-second warmest winter on record, exceeded only by the winter of 2019-2020.

Europe actually experienced an unseasonal heatwave in late December and early January, when record-high winter temperatures hit countries from France to Hungary, forcing ski resorts to close because of lack of snow.

Poland experienced daily highs in the double digits Celsius — or more than 50 Fahrenheit — during the period.

Indeed, temperatures in France at the end of 2022 were the warmest for 25 years, according to national forecaster Meteo France.

It was a similar picture in Switzerland, where a weather station in the Jura range saw a record daily average of 18.1C on New Year’s Day.

Copernicus also pointed to other climate-linked extremes, including Antarctic sea ice, which last month dropped to its lowest level for any February in the 45-year record of satellite data.

“These low sea ice conditions may have important implications for the stability of Antarctic ice shelves and ultimately for global sea level rise,” said C3S deputy director Samantha Burgess.

Publishing analysis for February, Copernicus also found that:

  • February 2023 was the fifth warmest globally
  • Most of Europe had above-average air temperatures, particularly northern Norway and Sweden, and the Svalbard region
  • Above-average temperatures occurred in the eastern United States, northern Russia, and in Pakistan and India
  • Below-average temperatures were experienced across the Iberian Peninsula, Türkiye, the western United States, Canada, northeast Russia, and northern Australia