As Arctic winds whip northern Europe into a freezing frenzy, prevailing over the usual Gulf stream, vast swathes of the continent have experienced record cold temperatures, sustained snow and blizzards and scores of casualties as people have frozen to death. And forecasts indicate that more cold weather is on the way.
The severe cold snap affecting Europe has obstructed flight schedules at airports and stranded passengers in the UK, Germany, France, the Irish Republic and Bulgaria (mainly due to external factors – foreign airports), the Netherlands and many others. The unusually severe winter comes as many scientists say we are in the midst of global warming.
Germany saw temperatures fall below -10C on January 7 2010 with worse to come. Poland is one of those hardest hit with temperatures reaching -27C in places, world media reported.
The United Kingdom is blanketed by snow and temperatures have plummeted to a record -21C, according to the Daily Telegraph. In southern England, about 4000 people were left without electricity after snow brought down power lines. In Scandinavia and in the north of Sweden, in particular, temperatures plummeted to a staggering -40.8C, the BBC reported on January 8 2010.
Dozens of flights were cancelled or severely delayed in many major UK airports, as well as Orly airport in Paris, Dublin International Airport, Amsterdam and countless others.
In spite of the Arctic onslaught, which has advanced as far afield as Spain and southern France, Bulgaria is experiencing record warm temperatures. The mercury touched 17C in many places with temperatures in Sofia on January 7 2010 soaring up to 14C at a time when the country should be blanketed by snow and well below zero.
The abnormally warm weather in Bulgaria has already seen flowers blossom at the beginning of January. Ski resorts are reeling as business suffers. The 2300m high Vitosha mountain, next to Sofia, should be under 1.5m of snow in the upper parts with temperatures down to -20C and skiing should be in full swing. Instead, spring is in the air.
And while the cold snap across most of Europe is expected to last for at least another week to 10 days, with more heavy snowfall and temperatures falling further, Bulgaria will remain warm, at least for the moment.
The Bulgarian Meteorologic Service says that on January 8, most of Bulgaria will be covered by clouds, but largely without precipitation. Temperatures will remain between 10C and 15C on average across the country, in places reaching 17C, while Sofia should be at about 12C.
The Bulgarian Mountain Rescue Service has warned skiers and mountaineers that conditions in the mountains are not ideal. Fluctuating temperatures and strong winds are not suitable for mountaineering while the snow, which has layered with different density, is highly prone to avalanches. Skiers must remain at designated slopes.
Along the Danube Valley in the north, temperatures will be between 1C and 7C but, once again, devoid of snow or rain.
Southwesterly winds in the mountains will intensify and by the late afternoon they are likely to reach storm intensity, the report says. At 2000m elevation across most Bulgarian mountains, temperatures will hover around an unseasonable 4C, instead of the usual (for the season) -20C.
Along the Black Sea, the weather will be mild and predominantly cloudy, with southeasterly winds and temperatures from 11 to 17C. This warm spell in Bulgaria is expected to last for several more days; according to different reports, the cold snap will not arrive until January 13-14.
Although Sofia Airport is dry and visibility is good, flights arriving from northern Europe are likely to be delayed at take-off. For further information, consult the airport website at: www.sofia-airport.bg