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Wet, Windy March Awaits Europe After Cold Weather Pummeling

Updated on
  • Prolonged rain, gales, slightly warmer weather forecast
  • February was milder than average after freezing January

Ready your umbrellas and your galoshes.

The last month of winter in Europe is forecast to bring windstorms, prolonged periods of rain and possibly one last cold snap, according to a Bloomberg survey of five meteorologists. While another freeze could lift power and natural gas prices, traders have been bearish on gas for three weeks as the region comes increasingly well-supplied with the fuel.

It’s a fitting end to a bizarre winter, marked by the coldest January in seven years and a February where temperatures reached as much as 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit) above the seasonal average.

“A series of low pressure systems are forecast to track into the West bringing widespread rain and snowfall to higher elevations,” said Rebecca Fuller, a Gaithersburg, Virginia-based meteorologist at MDA Information Systems Inc. “This troughing pattern could result in colder risks into the U.K. and portions of western Europe this week.”

The most unusual feature of this winter may be that its warm and cold extremes left the average temperature near the 30-year average. And with the Earth becoming increasingly hotter, there hasn’t been a “normal” winter in at least five years, according to Tyler Roys, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

The average temperature in northwest Europe so far this year is 3.6 degrees Celsius, while the 30-year norm is 3.2 Celsius, according to data from The Weather Co. In 2016, the average temperature over the same period was 1.6 Celsius higher than normal.

That’s meant heat and power producers that rejoiced as an unexpected cold snap in January caused benchmark U.K. gas prices to soar to a three-year peak and pushed German power prices to the highest in almost a decade, suffered the following month. Front-month U.K. gas fell 21 percent in February, the biggest decline since August.

No Turmoil

Even with a cold snap, another dramatic price jump is unlikely. The warmer-than-normal February gave Europe time to restock fuel supplies, while an active jet stream, the high-altitude ribbons of fast-flowing air that influence weather systems, will cause winds that can spin power-generating turbines. The overall forecast is bearish for European gas and power prices, according to Giacomo Masato, a meteorologist at London-based Marex Spectron.

“I do expect stormy weather to be the story of the month across western and central Europe,” Roys said. “With prolonged periods of wet weather.”

(Updates average temperature year-to-date in fifth paragraph.)
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