Everybody is talking about global warming - but in Germany and also in many other countries around the world people are currently fighting with the adversities of extreme cold. And indeed: "The year 2010 will be the coldest for ten years in Germany," said Thomas Globig from the weather service Meteo Media talking to wetter.info . And it might even get worse: "It is quite possible that we are at the beginning of a Little Ice Age," the meteorologist said. Even the Arctic ice could spread further to the south.
It is already clear: the average temperatures in Germany this year (8.1 degrees Celsius) were 0.2 degrees below the long term measured average of 8.3 degrees. "I fear we will end up still significantly lower by the end of the year", said Globig. The long-term average is actually the average of all German stations from 1961 to 1990.
Coldest December in 100 years
In Berlin, there was an absolute cold record in early December, "For 100 years it had not been as cold as in the first decade of December," said Globig. This also applied to other regions. But why is it so cold just now? Might it have anything to do with climate change? "I'm very sceptical", replied Globig. A few years ago when we had a period of mild winters many climate scientists warned that winter sport in Germany's low mountain ranges would soon no longer be possible anymore because of global warming. "Now they are saying: the cold winters are a consequence of global warming - a questionable implication," according to Globig.
"Unbelievable amounts of snow" in Berlin
Globig appeals to our long-term memory - and recalls a prolonged period of extremely cold and snowy winter in the 1960s and 1970s. Half a meter of snow fell in Berlin in early March 1970, in Potsdam even 70 centimetres. "From today's perspective, these amounts were unbelievable."
Then followed a period of milder years, and „probably the impression spread that there will be no more real winters in Germany", said Globig. "That was a misjudgment." People became careless, and as a result the authorities run out of grit in a very short time last winter and this year the airport operators lacked de-icing fluid for airplanes. In the Berlin the S-Bahn traffic came to a halt because of the cold and the high-speed trains did not run either. "Our modern, high-tech world was completely overwhelmed with the winter situation" said Globig.
Even the last winter was extremely hard
Many had succumbed to the delusion that the usually mild winters of the past ten years would continue. But already the winter 2009/2010 - with its long periods of frost and snow well into spring – was an eye-opening event for many. "This eye-opening experience could be even bigger this year," predicts Globig.
Globig sees two main causes for the significant cooling: First, the cyclical changes in the big air currents over the Atlantic, and second, the variations in solar activity.
"Everyone has heard about the high over the Azores and the low over Iceland," said Globig. The most important question for weather forecasts for many years was: "What are the air pressure differences between the two regions, how stormy will it be - and how much mild air is being shovelled sequentially from the Atlantic to Europe?"
"Both pressure areas do not exist right now," explains Globig. On the contrary, over the Azores there is lower air pressure and a high over Iceland. "The weather over the Atlantic is upside down," said Globig. Now cold air from the polar region has lots of space to flow to Europe - and that is what is happening.
"Normal" fluctuations with large currents
"These changes in the so-called 'Atlantic Oscillation' are totally normal - just hard to predict in detail," explains Globig. The storm "Kyrill" in 2007 was the peak of the flow activity from the Atlantic to Europe. "Since then it has grown quiet over the sea," the meteorologist said. The lows over the Atlantic have become weaker and weaker.
This effect has taken place in previous years, but at irregular intervals. Science does not yet know much about it, says Globig, „but here lies the key to a better understanding of the seasons".
The low temperatures could very well go on a few years, maybe decades. Even more icy cold could be possible. „It has happened before, and can be explained with natural climate variability," said Globig. We could even be at the beginning of a Little Ice Age, "the probability is at least given."
This is also supported by the current development of solar activity. Solar activity has passed the zenith of a nearly 200 years continuing phase of high activity and will decline in coming decades. Around the years 2040/2050, scientists expect a new so-called solar minimum, with very little supply of solar energy into the Earth's atmosphere.
Spread of the Arctic ice?
"I think it is even conceivable that the Arctic ice spreads significantly in the years to come," said Globig. The impact of solar activity on climate has been criminally underestimated for a long time.
The last two weeks have been the coldest in England since the second-to-last solar minimum, many hundreds of years ago. "What actually will happen depends on the next five to ten years," believes Globig. But one thing now appears to be very likely for the weather expert, "We will have to abandon some climate forecasts. “
(transl Philipp Mueller)