The weather in Europe has been warming up after a fairly strong winter response, which was evident from mid-November to mid-December. The record-breaking temperatures of the first month in winter 2021/22 are expected to be broken, with extremely warm weather continuing into the New Year 2022.
The Christmas holidays this holiday year were originally predicted to have cold weather, but trends changed in the final days. It was generally warmer than normal for many people, even though it was quite wet in southern Europe. Right now, as we head into the New Year’s holidays, there is more warmth in sight.
An establishing textbook dipole climate pattern across Europe, the North Atlantic, and Europe has led to a much warmer, even record-breaking air mass spreading into most of Europe over the holidays. The flow between a deep Atlantic low and a powerful upper-level blocking ridge developing into the continent will push temperatures extremely high for New Year’s period.
This video animation shows the impressive weather pattern evolution over this weekend with a significantly warmer air mass advecting far North across the continent. Strong upper-level winds between Atlantic low and High will maintain a much higher air mass for several more days.
Now, let’s see further details on how the final days of 2021 and the early days of January will evolve, causing a dramatic increase in temperatures across the European continent. The main and most important reason for the extreme heat is the so-called heat dome.
WHAT IS HEAT DME AND HOW IT FORMS
We often use the term “record-breaking heatwaves” in our discussions on the summer heatwaves in Europe. Heat Dome. This feature is responsible for the emergence of extremely intense heatwaves in Europe and other parts of the globe. The heat dome was the dominant large -scale feature of summer 2021 across both North America, Europe, and Europe. Here is an example of such a phenomenon over Europe last summer.
A heat dome is formed when an upper-level pattern of ridges forms. This is known as the blocking high. The blocking pattern creates record-breaking temperatures in the region below. And it doesn’t matter in which season it develops, it can happen even during winter and work both ways, into very cold or very warm temperatures.
Heat dome is an area of high-pressure park that extends over a large region of the continent for several days or weeks. This is especially true during the summer and winter months.
The heat dome acts in a way that a lid would on a pot. The large dome, which is located over the continent, traps a very hot air mass at all levels in a large area beneath. It is often more defined at lower elevations.
The heat dome is well-known for creating stable weather, and often very dry air masses due to subsidence (subsiding mass). With low chances of precipitation, not clouds, the chances of heat dome creating stable weather are low. The heat dome’s center is a collection of air parcels that are slowly sinking towards the ground.
A heat dome is often blamed for delivering deadly heatwaves across the globe, but it can also lead to an increased wildfire risk, especially in summer or the autumn/fall seasons. The heat dome’s daily maximum and average temperatures are well above the normal, challenging all records.
The weather pattern that we are forecasting for this holiday weekend is a typical blocking High-weather pattern across Europe. It is expected that it will be a part a newly developed heat dome. This dome is expected to last several days, and will set new temperature records for parts of the continent.
VERY WARM AIR MASS ALREADY SPREADING NORTH, MORE THAN 25 °C IN SPAIN
The significant warmth is already advecting into the south, western and southwestern Europe this Thursday, expected to intensify through the last day of 2021 and peak on New Year’s Day, January 1st. Temperatures have reached the 20s in parts of southwestern Europe these days.
Temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday were the warmest in Spain, with the eastern parts topping into 24 to 27 °C during the peak time hours. Southern France also surged into the low 20s, with 14-17 °C in the northern parts, similar across England and Ireland. Italy in the upper 10s to 20 °C. The cold is still farther east and north.
Over the New Year’s weekend holidays, temperatures will be even warmer across western and central Europe. Many regions will experience about 12-15 °C warmer than normal, being extremely anomalous especially in the higher elevations. Those regions will also be challenged by the highest minimum and maximum temperatures records.
A POWERFUL BLOCKING HIGH STRENGTHENS IN EUROPE, DEEPLY LOW IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC
The developing blocking pattern over Europe is pretty well seen from Thursday’s satellite image, where we can see a large North Atlantic depression and relatively clear and stable air mass ahead of it. This indicates that the European continent has a lot of rising pressure. The dome is sinking, which means less cloud coverage.
This is a typical dipole weather pattern, where two large-scale, strong weather systems are fighting each other. The strong High is on the one side, and the low on the other. Between them, the windfield is broad and strong from the southwest, causing warm advection onto the continent. Within the next two-days, the blocking High will be stronger and will dominate most of Europe.
Today’s temperatures rose quickly beneath the heat dome, and they will continue to rise tonight and into Friday. Below is the 850mbar temperature anomaly forecast for Friday morning. It is approximately 1200-1300m above sea level. It is evident that there is not a single place in Europe with temperatures below normal.
The warmest air mass is located over Spain, France, and the Mediterranean. It is already moving into the UK, Benelux and Germany tonight. This is due to the strengthening and strength of the upper-level climate pattern. The ridge is becoming quite strong the next morning.
As you can see from the 500mbar chart below, the flow is circling the core of High, creating the shape of the Greek alphabet Omega. The wind flow moves from south to north on the western edge, then circles to the north, before turning to the east on the eastern side. This is what gives rise to the Omega blocking pattern term, which recalls the Greek alphabet.
The flow beneath the blocking High is very limited. There are also no temperature or pressure gradients. Farther west, the isobars – lines that connect the same pressure points, are closer together near the deep North Atlantic mid-latitude cyclone.
The frontal system that is associated with the low winds will push westward towards western Europe, specifically Ireland, and parts of the UK. While the majority of the most intense, possibly also hurricane-force winds, will remain close to the cyclone’s center.
Although the stronger winds are limited to the western Irish coast, any serious threats are not expected at this time. The strongest pressure gradient is located a few hundred kilometers to the west of Europe.
RECORD-BREAKING WARMTH FORECAST FOR THE NEW YEAR 2022
Coming into New Year’s Eve, the Omega blocking High will be even stronger as its center climbs farther north. The contrast between the Atlantic Ocean and European continent can be seen in the below surface pressure chart. The pressure will be much higher in the southern half of Europe, where the mid-latitude cyclone is deeper.
This results in a remarkable pressure difference between the two centers of the system, roughly between 975 mbar & 1027 mbar. That’s more than 50 mbar between them. Another large surface low continues to hover over northern Europe, keeping the colder weather in place and preventing any significant warmth from moving north.
The building is high in western, southwestern and central Europe. This is where the warmer air mass accumulates. There will be a strongly anomalous temperature on both Friday and Saturday in the lowest levels of the atmosphere, with nearly 10-15 °C warmer air mass than normal temperatures for a very large part of Europe.
The blocking High will remain in a similar position throughout the New Year. It will be the strongest event for the year. Its center will be over the northern Mediterranean and the Alps Saturday. Although it is normal to expect a strong winter ridge, it is not common to get it this strong. Temperatures are expected to reach near or even record levels.
The Atlantic depression is becoming deeper. This results in a stronger pressure gradient between the two, stronger winds, and therefore warmer temperatures across the continent.
In many parts of Europe, we expect the highest temperatures to reach Friday and Saturday. Those temperatures will be especially high in France, Italy, and the Balkan peninsula. Nearly 15 °C above normal near the ground is extremely warm in winter to say at least.
Scandinavia is the only region with colder than normal temperatures. This is because of the northwesterly flow that flows from the Atlantic into Norway/Sweden. The cold first day of New Year will bring the weather about 10-12 °C below normal, a proper winter time there continues.
The daytime temperature will rise to the 20s in certain areas due to the steady and warm low levels. Especially from France to Italy, even close to 25 °C is not excluded locally.
However, it is important to remember that a thermal inversion can often form under a strong blocking High. This means that warmer temperatures may not be found in the lowest valleys like we are used to seeing in summer but at higher elevations. Therefore, valleys will be trapped by moister air and prevent any significant warming during most of the day.
Locations between 300 and 1000m above sea level could experience a very warm January day, possibly setting new temperature records.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEXT YEAR?
The further northeastward progression of the deepening Atlantic high brings it closer towards Iceland, where it reaches its lowest pressure at 960 mbar. That’s about 70 mbar difference against the high-pressure system over southwestern Europe.
The surface high-pressure system will become more extended on Sunday. However, temperatures will rise to a much higher level than normal. The warmest air mass will move more east/northeast, southeast, and also towards the Baltic region. However, it will remain very warm above the Balkan peninsula.
The Atlantic low towards northern Europe is swept away by the southwesterly flow. However, the Atlantic low to its east pulls the Arctic air, which is colder, back to the Lapland area and Fennoscandia. Temperatures will be from -20 to even below -30 °C on Sunday there.
How the weather pattern will generally evolve after the New Year’s holidays weekend is rather not confirmed yet, as some models hint at finally colder air intrusion, while some keep the temperatures near or above normal.
The Meteogram forecast charts are used to better understand the intensity and potential evolution of the heat ahead. Below are Meteograms for Toulouse, France and Ljubljana in Slovakia. These are the forecast temperatures compared to the long-term average values at 850mbar (approx. 1300-1400 m above sea level
Both hint at how much warmer weather will spread this coming weekend, around 12-15 °C above normal temperatures for New Year. We can also see that the general cooling trend is predicted for the next week as both France, and the northern Balkan peninsula bring temperatures to around normal levels.
Ljubljana’s forecast is pointing to a strong cold front on Tuesday, the 5th of January (Wednesday next weeks), with significant precipitation and temperatures potentially leading to winter precipitation. It is still too far ahead to know the exact details, but it is being monitored for trends.
Both Meteograms indicate that the forecasts for mid-January are near normal, so any further warming is unlikely. We are monitoring the evolution further and will keep you updated – stay tuned!
The Severe Weather Europe team wishes everyone all the best for 2022! It is a pleasure to have you join us. If you are interested to see our future articles and updates, be sure to bookmark this page and connect through our social media channels.
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Images used in this article were provided courtesy of Windy and Wxcharts.
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Source: Severe Weather