January 2017 European cold wave

January 2017 European cold wave
P za d Aracoeli, ghiaccioli alla fontana P1130785.jpg
A frozen fountain in Rome on 7 January 2017
TypeCold wave
Formed5 January 2017[1]
Lowest temperature−45.4 °C (−49.7 °F) in Oparino (ru), Russia[2]
Areas affectedEastern Europe, Central Europe, Italy

A period of exceptionally cold and snowy winter weather in January 2017 occurred in Eastern and Central Europe. In some areas, flights and shipping services were suspended, and there was major disruption to power supplies and other essential infrastructure.[3] The weather was the result of stationary high pressure over western Europe, resulting in strong winds circulating from Russia and Scandinavia towards eastern Europe.[1][4] On 9 January, the Continental Arctic (cA) air mass extended from Germany across the Balkans, resulting in deep snow in Greece and strong bora winds affecting Croatia in particular. In addition, heavy snow in central and Southern Italy was the result of cold air flowing across the warmer Adriatic Sea.[5] At least 61 deaths were attributed to the cold wave.

Affected areas

During the first week of 2017, 46 (mainly homeless) people died from the cold in Poland,[6] when temperatures fell below −20 °C (−4 °F).[7] Free public transport was provided in Warsaw, Kraków and Kielce because of the smog caused by the cold weather.[8] Wrocław was also affected by smog with air quality in the area dropping to critical levels. Seven cold-related deaths were reported in Italy as of 9 January, mainly of homeless people,[8] and parts of the country experienced exceptional falls of snow, high winds and freezing temperatures. Several airports were closed, including those in Sicily, Bari and Brindisi.[8] Ice formed on the Adriatic Sea,[3] and schools in the south of the country were closed.[7][9] On 10 January, shipping was halted along a 900 km (560 mi) stretch of the Danube in Romania, Croatia and Serbia, because of the icy conditions.[10]

The frozen Danube in Budapest on 9 January

Eight deaths from the cold were reported in the Czech Republic, mainly of homeless people.[8] The bodies of three migrants were found near the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.[3][8] Médecins Sans Frontières raised concerns about the risk to migrants, especially around 2,000 people living in Belgrade.[8] The Bosphorus was closed to shipping after a snowstorm that also affected services in Istanbul, Turkey, where more than 650 flights were grounded.[3][7][8] Blizzards affected Bulgaria and also parts of Romania and Ukraine,[4] and shipping on the Danube was suspended.[3][8]

Heavy snow in Bucharest causes major disruption to the traffic (11 January).

Temperatures fell to −20 °C (−4 °F) in Greece, where the National Observatory of Athens referred to the weather phenomenon as Ariadne (after the goddess Ariadne).[11] Greek authorities decided in 2016 in Greece to name extreme weather phenomena starting from January 2017; Ariadne was the first weather phenomenon to receive a name.[12] The whole country was blanketed by unusually heavy snowfall, causing huge problems in transport. Snow even fell in Athens and Santorini. One migrant died of cold, and many migrants on islands in the Aegean Sea were moved into heated tents as the area was covered in snow.[8] The authorities opened three Athens Metro tube stations to homeless people to help protect them from the cold.[13] Road and public transport in the country were also disrupted. On 10 January, it was announced that in Thessaloniki in the province of Macedonia only 130 buses out of 480–500 operated by Thessaloniki Urban Transport Organisation were in operational condition.[14] The islands of Euboea, Skopelos and Alonnisos declared a state of emergency after serious power failures and collapse of traffic due to snowfall.[15]

Deaths were also reported in Russia and Ukraine. Temperatures in some parts of European Russia fell to below −40 °C (−40 °F), setting records across the region.[8] About 100,000 residents of settlements in Moscow Oblast such as Lyubertsy, Lytkarino, Dzerzhinsky and Kotelniki lost electricity due to extremely harsh temperatures.[16] On 11 January, the cold wave reached Albania, with temperatures reaching −22 °C (−8 °F) and supplies being flown in by army helicopters, mainly in the city of Gjirokastër and the nation's capital Tirana.[17]

On 16 January, it was reported that the electricity prices in Europe were at their highest since 2008 as a result of power outages and increased demand. Romanian Energy Minister, Toma Petcu, suggested that, if coal consumption remained high, reserves held by the country’s two major producers would only last for four days.[18]

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