Icy Blast Hitting Europe Sets Up Winter's Coldest Week

  • Rare weather pattern may extend chill to middle of March
  • Abnormal cold to test energy markets across continent

Pedestrians brave the cold on Waterloo Bridge in London

Photographer: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images

A last chilly blast headed for Europe is setting up the coldest week this winter.

Cold air flows from Siberia will send temperatures 10 degrees Celsius (18 Fahrenheit) below normal next week, when Germany, France and parts of Britain are expected to get the coldest temperatures this winter, weather forecasters said.

Coldest Week

Temperatures falling far below normal in northwest Europe next week

Source: ECMWF Forecast

Next week will be the “most important of the winter” with demand in France peaking on Tuesday, said RTE, the nation’s grid operator. France relies on electricity for most of its heating. Every 1 degree Celsius that temperatures drop below normal causes demand to increase by an amount equivalent to that used by central Paris.

The sudden shift toward cold conditions so late this winter took energy traders by surprise. U.K. natural gas prices for next-day delivery, a benchmark for Europe, are headed for the biggest weekly increase in a decade. French power prices for the week ahead traded at the highest levels for this time of year since at least 2008. 

“We have seen cold and dry springs before, but they aren’t so common,” said Andreas Myhre, head of power trading at Norwegian energy trader LOS Energy. 

Traders are now trying to determine if the cold snap will be limited to the start of next week or last into March, Myhre said. “More cold is seen in some forecasts, so it’s still a scenario.”

Stratospheric Warming

The cold-weather culprit is a rare weather event known as a sudden stratospheric warming. This is allowing a high pressure area to draw cold air from Siberia across to Europe, according to Matt Dobson, an energy meteorologist at MeteoGroup. At the same time, the U.S. Northeast is seeing record high temperatures for the season.

Freezing conditions in Berlin.

Photographer: Sven Hoppe/DPA via Getty Images

The freezing conditions will last through the first 10 days of March for Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia and could bring heavy snowfall, Dobson said.

Finland is already seeing the highest power demand this winter and expects even more consumption next week. The peak winter use is about a month later than normal this year and could reach a Nordic record next week, according to Finnish grid manager Fingrid Oyj.

“The weather forecast seems quite challenging and cold,” said Timo Kaukonen, an operational planning manager at Fingrid.

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