Snow and extreme cold for Eastern Europe.

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  • Minimum temperatures for Eastern Europe overnight from the 6th - 7th January 2017. Credit: MeteoGroup.

    ECMWF surface pressure forecast for Sunday 8th January, at 12:00 UTC. The developing Mediterranean Low is clearly visible. Credit: MeteoGroup.

    ECMWF derived fresh snowfall accumulation for the 96 hours from 00:00 on the 7th January, illustrating the dumping of snow expected from several further Mediterranean Lows. Credit: MeteoGroup.

  • Snow and extreme cold for Eastern Europe.
    07.01.2017 19:11

    Much of Eastern Europe has seen temperatures plummet during the past few days, as a frigid Polar Continental air mass from Siberia was advected south-westwards behind a cold front that surged southwards on the 5th January. This has brought successively colder temperatures to Eastern Europe over the past few days, with temperatures dropping to -29.0C (-20.2F) in north-eastern Belarus on Friday night. The cold air has plunged far south towards the Mediterranean, with Florina in Greece reaching a minimum of -12.5C (9.5F).

    The low temperatures have been augmented by lying snow in many areas, and as a result, temperatures have barely risen above freezing over the last couple of days. On the 6th January, much of Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and eastern Poland had maximum temperatures below -10C.


    The real source of the cold air has been in Siberia, however, and much of eastern Russia has seen minimum temperatures approaching -40C (-40F). Temperatures in Moscow dropped to -30C (-22F) on Friday night, and didn’t rise above -25C (-13F) during the day on Saturday. Temperatures this low are unusual, but not unprecedented here, with the average low temperature for Moscow in January being -9C (16F).

    As well as the extremely cold weather, the cold front has marked the boundary between a very cold Siberian air mass to the north, and a milder Mediterranean air mass to the south. As a result, an area of low pressure developed along the strong temperature gradient over Greece on the 5th January, and fuelled by moisture from the warm Mediterranean and Black Sea, brought a heavy snowstorm to Turkey, Bulgaria and parts of Romania and Moldova.

    Up to a metre of snow fell locally over the mountains of central Turkey, while Istanbul received up to 65 cm, which paralysed the city and brought transport to a halt. Bulgaria was also badly hit, with 20-30 cm of snow on the eastern Black Sea coast, and over 50 cm locally inland. The capital, Sofia, received up to 40 cm of snow, which brought heavy transport disruption and road closures. The snow was not all bad news, however, with many of the country’s ski areas receiving lots of fresh power for resorts which are already reporting a good ski season so far.

    At the time of writing (Saturday 7th January), a second area of low pressure is developing over Turkey and the Black Sea, giving further heavy accumulations of snow for central and eastern areas. Sub-zero temperatures are expected to persist across much of the country, as another Mediterranean Low is expected to develop tomorrow, and produce further blizzard conditions for parts of the country.

    Turkey can be prone to heavy snowfall in these weather set-ups, as orographic uplift over the mountains and upland areas of the country encourages heavy precipitation (snowfall if cold enough), from the moisture-laden air within these Mediterranean Lows.

    Looking ahead, it looks likely that temperatures will remain below average for Eastern and south-eastern Europe during the medium-term, as an area of high pressure builds over Eastern Europe, stagnating the cold air there. Towards the end of next week (12th - 13th January), a more progressive Atlantic flow is likely to introduce slightly milder temperatures, although it will still be rather chilly.

    By: Richard Martin-Barton