Europe Winter Forecast 2019-2020

Written by on November 2, 2019 in Rest of Europe, United Kingdom & Ireland with 2 Comments

Welcome to my 10th annual winter forecast for Europe. This marks the 10th anniversary of the greatest winter of my lifetime and my greatest long range forecast. 2009-10 was a true old fashioned winter and a winter which will be firmly entrenched in my mind forever.

It was a winter of frequent and often big snowfalls and penetrating frosts. Temperatures somewhere in the UK dropped below -18C (0F) each of the three meteorological winter months as well as March.

According to several sources, for the UK as a whole, the winter of 2009-10 was the coldest since 1962-63. For Scotland, it was considered worst since official records began in 1914 and for England and Wales, coldest since 1982-83.

Scotland records coldest winter since 1914

CREDIT: Deadline Press & Picture Agency
NB: pics courtesy of “NEODAAS/University of Dundee”
By Michael MacLeod
THE extent of Britain’s winter whiteout is revealed in a stunning picture from space, received yesterday (Thurs) by scientists in Dundee.
The nationwide blanket of snow and ice came as temperatures dipped to as low as minus 18.
The image, sent by NASA’s Terra satellite, shows the UK framed by cloud sweeping in from the East.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond declared it Scotland’s worst winter in 50 years, while forecasters said the country faces another ten days of freezing conditions.

It was a winter which froze inland lochs for months and even iced up the shores of salt water sea lochs such as Loch Ryan at Stranraer.

Snow depths in the Campsie Fells just north of Glasgow exceeded knee deep.

Credit: Mark Vogan

Of course the following winter opened coldest for the UK in over 100 years. While November and December of 2010 was extremely cold, the second half of winter 2010-11 turned out very tame.

Following the record mild period of 2006 and 2007, winter began to fight back during the second half of winter 2008-09 with record snowfall and very cold weather crippling southern Britain marking the start of a string of colder winters.

There’s a clear link between solar cycles and winter. Following the solar maximum of 1994, the late 1990s saw a series of warm, stormy winters like we then repeated in the late 2000s and most recently late 2010s ahead of a severe winter which hit right on a solar minimum (2000-2001, 2009-10… 2020-21?)

What’s interesting is that each solar cycle we’re experiencing is considerably weaker than the previous and therefore begs the question that if winter 2009-10 was colder than 2000-01, are we likely to witness colder with this even lower solar cycle scheduled to reach a minimum next year?

Some of our warmest winters appear to occur just after a solar maximum (2006) and just prior to a solar minimum (2007-08) and most recently, 2018.

So could the winter which falls on the solar minimum (likely next winter) but worse than 2009-10 I’ll explain why it’s far from that simple!

While the sun may control our earth’s thermostat over centuries, it’s not the only game in town. Our oceans essentially control our earth’s thermostat in a decadal, even multi-year period.

Though the sun may be weaker now than in 2009 despite us not reaching the minimum yet, our planet’s oceans are much warmer than they were at this point in 2009, particularly over the North Pacific and Atlantic.

Late October 2009

Credit: NASA


Credit: NASA

About every 8 to 10 years or so we get a strong to super El Nino develop in the Pacific which releases an enormous amount of energy in the form of water vapour into our atmosphere. As a result, the global air temperature rises. Super El Ninos are typically followed by a cooling La Nina 12 to 24 months following a super El Nino which then drives our atmosphere’s temperature back down.

However, since the super El Nino of 1997-98, earth’s temperature has reached new heights and the world’s oceans have continued warming due to decadal and multidecadal cycles. However the benchmark of heat continues to rise.

In essence our sunspot cycles are growing weaker but earth’s ocean and atmosphere appears to continue rising.

In my opinion we have a major test coming up over the next 24 months as we are about to witness a new solar minimum with a warmer base temperature in both ocean and atmosphere. The test shall be, can we see earth’s oceans cool, resulting in a cooler atmosphere at the hands of this next solar minimum or do we remain warm?

An additional positive to a colder winter is that sudden stratospheric warming events are also more likely during low solar years.

What can we expect for Winter 2019-20?

Based on my own personal understanding, I believe the next 2 maybe 3 winters could be challenging.

What we do know is that our sun is nearing but not AT a solar minimum that is 40-50% weaker than cycle 24 but our earth’s oceans ‘overall’ are warmer than they were 10 years ago and therefore our earth’s atmosphere is warmer. HOWEVER it is cooling quite sharply now following the hot summer of 2019 with record cold affecting large swathes of North America as well as  NW Europe and Asia.

Here are some key points to remember.

  1. The sun is NEARING a minimum.
  2. October snow cover wound up above average.
  3. The northern oceans are much warmer than normal.
  4. The ENSO is near neutral so there’s no El Nino nor La Nina.
  5. It’s been a very wet summer and autumn for the UK and Northwest Europe.

Focus of wettest compared to normal was over England and Wales. Actually drier than normal for Scotland.

Credit: Met Office

The nearing of the solar cycle minimum coupled with a warm North Atlantic (especially surrounding Greenland) and above normal October snow coverage for the Northern Hemisphere all promote high latitude blocking which can if aligned correctly, bring prolonged periods of cold and snowy weather.

Credit: Rutgers University

Dr Judah Cohen’s graphic nicely illustrates how snow cover can aid high latitude blocking.

Credit: Judah Cohen

Another positive for particularly the UK and Scandinavia is that it’s been a very wet autumn. There is evidence which suggests that where the wettest conditions compared to normal take up residence in autumn, that can indicate where the cold may go that winter (Joe Bastardi).

Credit: Simon Cardy

So, my conclusion? I’m confident in saying that this winter WON’T be as mild as last but I don’t think we’ll get a repeat of 2009-10 in terms of persistence and longevity of the cold. That may occur next year when we bottom out with solar cycle 25.

With the help of a frequent negative Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation I believe we will have SEVERAL spells of snow and cold of which could be quite severe with relatively brief interludes of milder, wetter, windier Atlantic influence.

The wet September and very wet October along with cold I believe is a hint at a harsher winter ahead and this could hit not long into December.

Timing certain types of weather conditions this far out is of course impossible but I believe we shall see a spell of wet and windy to commence December but as the month progresses, high latitude blocking may quickly develop reversing our winds from Atlantic to more of a Scandinavian or Russian direction. This could happen in the run up to Christmas.

Christmas and New Year has potential for disruptive snow and the new year could open very cold indeed. Into January and I expect the cold to pull out with the return of Atlantic influence but late January and through much of February I believe old man winter may make up for the lack of winter it’s delivered over recent years.

As you can see, this forecast has no model charts on it. The reason? Their hideous and change almost daily.

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  1. Tor Christian says:

    Do you see a more northern path for the lows? I’ve been noticing more wet and milder low pressures when they come in from a more southern latitude

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