A ‘Polar Vortex’ May Be Lurking Above Europe in February

  • Western Europe seen warmer than normal amid low pressure
  • Spots of cold weather seen in Italy and Balkans, bringing snow

Europeans can expect some relief this month after the most ferocious cold blast in a decade, provided polar air masses stay at bay.

February should be warmer than average in western Europe as warm Atlantic air spills into the region, according to all five meteorologists surveyed by Bloomberg. While snow is set to melt across the continent and cracks form in frozen lakes and rivers, eastern Europe will likely see normal frosty weather for the time of year.

That could halt a bull run in gas and power markets that started at the end of last year as an unexpected cold snap that pushed some contracts to records. The winter may still have a sting in its tail, as an area of cold air swirling around the north pole could expand by the end of the month, bringing a second freezing blast.

“There is talk for the second half of the month of the polar vortex settling over northern Scandinavia, which could lead to another cold snap in Europe,” said Tyler Roys, a Pennsylvania-based meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. “But this is very uncertain.”

This winter has already been one of surprises. After forecasts for mild weather following the three warmest years globally in recorded history, Europe was caught off guard as temperatures in the Balkans, Greece and Italy plummeted to 11-year lows.

The freeze left Europe with fewer reserves of gas for power and heating. The U.K. has 35 percent of its normal volume of gas in storage for the time of year due to maintenance at its largest facility, while total European Union inventories are also below their five-year average. Nonetheless, the warmer weather outlook left European traders bearish for the past two weeks.

A trough of low pressure is forecast to keep the fringes of Europe, including the U.K., western Scandinavia and parts of France and Spain above seasonal averages, according to Matthew Dobson, a senior meteorologist at MeteoGroup U.K. Ltd. Forecasts from the Weather Co. show average temperatures in northwest Europe will peak at 8.1 degrees Celsius (47 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, more than double the 10-year average.

Skiers, along with those weary of the cold, may also find it’s a good winter for them. The Balkans and other southern countries could see some cold anomalies due to variations in air pressure over Europe.

“It appears likely that the Alps will see above normal precipitation and good snow over southern and western areas, including northwest Italy and the southwestern French Alps,” said Dobson. “While the German and Austrian Alps will tend to see less precipitation and snowfall than normal.”

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