Chilly end to spring for much of Europe

  • A map showing the temperature anomalies (in degrees C) across Europe on 29 May 2013. Image: MeteoGroup

    A couple of days play at the French Open were disrupted due to rain. Image: Steve Mitchell/EMPICS Sport

    A mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia was cancelled due to snow and ice. Image: Adam Davy/PA Archive/Press Association Images

    The Duchess of Cornwall's visit to the Louvre Museum in Paris, France on Tuesday 28 May 2013 was not dampened by rain. Image: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

  • Chilly end to spring for much of Europe
    01.06.2013 14:39

    Now that June has arrived, the first official month of summer in the northern hemisphere, most of us will be hoping for better weather than we saw in May. However, the UK has not been alone in enduring a chilly end to spring. Many other parts of Europe have also experienced their coldest May since 1996. Western parts of Europe saw the most unusually cool temperatures, particularly across parts of Spain, France, northern Italy and Switzerland. Daytime temperatures were more than 10C below average towards the end of May in some of these areas, so it was not the best month for visiting the beach resorts in Spain and Southern France.

    Mean maximum temperatures for the whole of May at various Western European cities were well below what would normally be expected; 4.3C below the average in Lyon, France for instance. Paris also recorded mean max temperatures 2.6C below the average. France was not alone though, with the mean maximum temperatures 2.2C below the May average in Amsterdam, 3.1C below in Zurich, 2.1C below in Madrid and 2.5C below in Milan.

    The colder than average temperatures have also been accompanied by some very wet weather across parts of Germany, northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria and France. In fact some parts of northern Italy and south-east France saw three times their expected May rainfall; contributing to making this the wettest spring in at least 150 years over portions of north-east Italy. The wet weather caused flooding and landslides and interrupted a number of sporting events. A mountain stage of the Giro d’Italia cycle race was called off due to snow and ice and a couple of days of the French Open tennis tournament were disrupted due to rain.

    However, other parts of Europe have been experiencing some unusually warm weather. Much of Scandinavia has been under the influence of an ongoing heatwave with temperatures reaching as high as 29-31C; meaning daytime maximum temperatures were some 7-10C above the average towards the end of May. Western parts of Russia have also seen temperatures well above average.

    The reason for this contrast in temperatures in May, was due to a convoluted and weak jet stream, which was meandering southwards across Spain into north-west Africa, and then curving back northwards towards Poland and the Baltic. This persistent jet stream loop forced low pressure systems and cold air to move southwards across all of Western Europe, where they deepened and produced high rainfall totals. Meanwhile, a conveyor of unusually warm air spread north from north-east Africa to Russia and Scandinavia.

    Thankfully, it appears the weather patterns have now recognised that summer is technically upon us in western Europe too! High pressure from the Azores region of the Atlantic will move in from the west over the next few days, with the promise of warmth then spreading slowly northwards across many western European countries during next week.

    By: Gemma Plumb