Skiers’ Delight as Wet Start to 2017 to Bring Snow to Europe

  • Heavy snow expected in the Alps late January, early February
  • Europe set for a mild winter with cold spells in the east

Where Should You Ski This Winter?

Heavy rain that risks causing flooding at lower altitudes in late January and early February is expected to bring snow to Europe’s pistes and potentially boost reservoirs for electricity generation.

Rivers will likely flood in northern Spain and southern Germany, according to Accuweather Inc. There will be more snowfall in the Alps, boosting cover that will probably be thinning amid warmer-than-usual temperatures at the start of the skiing season, Tyler Roys, a meteorologist at AccuWeather in State College, Pennsylvania, said by phone.

Last year was the warmest on record for Europe, with almost no snow on sunny slopes in the northern Alps below 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) in December. The poor precipitation caused hydroelectric output used for most of Switzerland’s power to slump to the lowest for the month since 2009 while the mild weather left Europe’s stores of natural gas near record-high levels, damping prices.

Temperatures in central and western Europe will be about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in the three months to February, Roys said. December is expected to be particularly mild, with average temperatures from 10 degrees to 15 degrees Celsius. That compares with 8.8 degrees in December last year, according to Weather Co. data on Bloomberg.

In countries in the center and east of the region there is more risk of cold spells, with temperatures possibly dropping 2 degrees below normal, Roys said. Over the three-month period, the area will also be warmer than usual, he said.

British Storms

The winter period is forecast to be stormy in the U.K., bringing strong winds, according to AccuWeather. Temperatures in the nation will be milder than normal in December, similar to the previous five years, the forecaster said. The U.K. last had “substantially” below-normal temperatures in December in 2010.

SSE Plc, one the the U.K.’s six biggest utilities, expects a drop in operating profit for the six months to October due to “significantly lower output” from its wind assets, it said Sept. 28. The company owns 1 gigawatt of onshore turbines, the equivalent of a nuclear power plant, which sometimes need to be turned off to prevent damage during strong gusts. 

Gas inventories are lower in the U.K. after Centrica Plc in June halted injections into Britain’s biggest facility, Rough. Even if the U.K. does get colder weather, record exports from Norway and Russia, as well as liquefied natural gas imports, should help ease the shortfall.

The first cold spell of the season made its way into Europe this week, boosting power and gas demand, according to Marex Spectron Group Ltd. Average temperatures in northwest Europe are forecast at 9.2 degrees Celsius on Thursday, 2.3 degrees below the 10-year average, according to Weather Co. data on Bloomberg.

There is uncertainty about the potential effect of La Nina, a weather phenomenon that tends to warm Europe. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center last month dropped its La Nina watch and lowered the odds it will form to 35 to 45 percent from 75 percent in June.

“How cold it gets depends on how La Nina turns out,” Roys said. “La Nina over the central Pacific, which has typically led to a warm and wet pattern, would put any cold period on hold.”

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