Europe could suffer a colder winter with less wind and rain than usual, according to the European weather forecasting agency, adding to the challenges for governments trying to solve the continent’s energy crisis.
Florence Rabier, director-general of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), said early indications for November and December were for a period of high pressure over western Europe, which was likely to bring with it colder spells and less wind and rainfall, reducing the generation of renewable power.
The forecast, which is based on data from the ECMWF and several other weather prediction systems including those in the UK, US, France and Japan, is a potential problem for policymakers as they try to battle soaring energy costs for businesses and households owing to huge cuts in gas imports from Russia.
“If we have this pattern then for the energy it is quite demanding because not only is it a bit colder but also you have less wind for wind power and less precipitation for hydro power,” she told the Financial Times.
The EU has vowed to wean itself off Russian gas by 2027 by diversifying into more renewable power and pursuing gas deals with other countries. Gas exports from Russia to the EU have already dropped from around two-fifths of total supply to 9 per cent since it launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.
Rabier said recent hurricanes across the Atlantic could cause milder, wetter and windier weather in the short term. But cooler weather later in the year would be consistent with the atmospheric conditions known as La Niña, a weather pattern derived from the cooling of the Pacific Ocean’s surface, which drives changes in wind and rainfall patterns in different regions.
Weather in Europe is typically difficult to predict as the conditions are dictated by several remote factors including winds in the tropical stratosphere and surface pressure across the Atlantic.
ECMWF, an inter-governmental organisation backed by 35 countries, provides short- and long-term forecasts. It also oversees the Copernicus climate change and atmosphere monitoring services which tracks marine, land and atmospheric data.
Two new Copernicus satellites to observe carbon dioxide emissions from space should be in place by 2026, allowing countries to improve monitoring of pollution levels and refine their emissions reduction targets.
Rabier said Europe was already in a fragile state having experienced one of the hottest summers on record, with temperatures over in August 1.7C higher than the average from 1991 to 2020 and particularly dry soil conditions. The share of wind and hydro power in Europe electricity generation declined this summer as a result of the hotter and drier weather.
More extreme weather events brought on by global warming such as tropical cyclones and heatwaves were harder to predict, the ECMWF chief said.
Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s minister for energy and spatial planning, said on Friday that ministers were calling on ENTSO-E, the EU’s electricity grid operators’ network, to present its update on risks to the security of winter electricity supply in October, a month earlier than usual.