Europe cold wave deaths hit 200; low-snow winter for the U.S.

Brutal winter cold continues over most of Europe, where at least 200 people have died in a cold wave that began January 26. Hardest hit has been Ukraine, where the temperature bottomed out at -17°F (-27°C) at the capital of Kyiv this morning. It was the second coldest day of the cold wave, behind the -28°C reading of February 2. These temperatures are the coldest winter weather in six years in Ukraine, and at least 101 deaths are being blamed on the cold there. Also hard-hit has been Poland, where 37 people, most of them homeless, have died from the cold. Rome, Italy experienced a rare snowfall today, only its second day with snow during the past fifteen years. Very cold temperatures 10 – 20°C below average will continue for another seven days in Europe before gradually moderating late next week.


Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average as analyzed by the GFS model, for February 2, 2012. Remarkably cold air was present over Europe and western Alaska, while very warm air was over central North America and Siberia. This image is being generated experimentally by wunderground, and will be regularly available on our web site in the future.

Meanwhile, a snow drought for the U.S.
In the U.S., it’s been the opposite story, with temperatures 10 – 15°F above average continuing this week over much of the nation. January 2012 is in the weather record books as the 3rd least-snowy January for the contiguous U.S. since snow records began in 1966, and December 2011 ranked as the 11th least snowy December on record. With no major snow storms in the offing over at least the next ten days, it’s looking probable that the non-winter of 2011 – 2012 will set numerous record-low seasonal snowfall totals. The National Weather Service sends out a daily “Weather and Almanac” product for several hundred major U.S. cities that we make available on wunderground. I went through yesterday’s statistics for those cities that reported measurable snow this winter. Only nine cities out of 166 major U.S. cities in the lower 48 states reported above-average snowfall as of February 1; 157 cities received below-average snowfall. The big winner in the snow sweepstakes has been Alaska, which is boasting 8 of the top 10 locations for heaviest snowfall this winter. While the 27.75 feet of snow that has fallen on Valdez has gotten a lot of attention, more remarkable is the 18.8 feet of snow Yakutat has received. That’s more than 12.5 feet above what they usually have by this time of year.

The big losers in the snow stats for this winter are the cities along the lake effect snow belts on the Great Lakes. Most notably, Syracuse, New York is nearly four feet of snow below average for this time of year. Perhaps more exceptional is Williston, North Dakota, which has received just 1.8″ of snow this winter–more than two feet below their average for February 1.

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