Daily Archives: December 20, 2010

Sweden in ‘coldest December in 100 years’

thelocal.se | Dec 17, 2010

Power outages, traffic accidents as well as train and flight delays have left Swedes reeling from Thursday’s snowstorm, which forecasters say isn’t over yet.

“Slippery conditions will continue across the country. There is already a lot of snow on the roads,” SMHI’s Elin Torstensson told the TT news agency.

She explained that Sweden has experienced more cold days and more snow than is normal for December.

“There were a number of days in a row with below-freezing temperatures, so called ice days. And that we have that before Lucia (December 13th) hasn’t happened in more than 100 years,” she said.

In Örnsköldsvik in eastern Sweden, 2,300 customers of the Vattenfall power company were without electricity for several hours overnight. As of 7am Friday morning, about 1,000 households remained in the dark.

And an additional 1,000 homes lost power in Västerbotten in northern Sweden in the wake of the storm, which dumped a blanket of thick snow on much of the country.

However, according to Vattenfall spokesperson Magnus Örvell, the outages were likely caused by the storm’s heavy winds.

The fierce winds and continued snow also caused problems at many of Sweden’s airports, according to airport operator Swedavia.

Passengers are encouraged to contact their airlines for the latest information about possible delays.

Rail service was also affected by the storm. In Skåne in southern Sweden, trains traveling between Malmö and Lund were replaced with buses, and other trains were redirected via the Lommabanan route, according to the website of the Swedish Transit Authority (Trafikverket).

Trains traveling between Ängelholm and Båstad in western Sweden are experiencing 25 minute delays because of switching problems, while track problems have resulted in buses replacing trains between Karlskrona and Emmaboda in southern Sweden.

Swedish motorists also had trouble dealing with the wild winter weather. A long-haul truck slid off of route 56 north of Heby in central Sweden. While no one was injured, the road was blocked as crews struggled to clear away the trucks spilled load of gas canisters.

Outside of Luleå in northern Sweden, a school bus collided with a logging truck on Thursday, sending eight children to hospital for observation.

In Skåne, around 35 accidents were reported on Thursday, five of which resulted in injuries.

Meteorology agency SMHI has issued a class 1 warning covering all of northern Sweden due to the large amounts of new snow, combined with the strong winds.

The agency also forecasts that the snow will continue throughout much of the country on Friday.

Snow showers are expected to continue throughout the weekend over parts of Götaland and southern Svealand in central Sweden, with light flurries forecast for the north of the country.

“We’re expecting about five centimetres of new snow,” said SMHI’s Torstensson.

Temperatures on Saturday are expected to range from a few degrees below freezing in Götaland to -25 Celsius in the far north, before cooling somewhat on Sunday when temperatures in the northern Sweden may dip down to 35 degrees below zero.

Coldest December since records began as temperatures plummet bringing travel chaos across Britain

Treacherous: A motorist struggles through thick snow in Cardiff today. Up to 10 inches is predicted

Millions begin the big Christmas and New Year getaway early as the AA urged motorists to beware of the ‘worst driving conditions imaginable’

Daily Mail | Dec 18, 2010

Swathes of Britain skidded to a halt today as the big freeze returned – grounding flights, closing rail links and leaving traffic at a standstill.

And tonight the nation was braced for another 10in of snow and yet more sub-zero temperatures – with no let-up in the bitterly cold weather for at least a month, forecasters have warned.

The Arctic conditions are set to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond and as temperatures plummeted to -10c (14f) the Met Office said this December was ‘almost certain’ to become the coldest since records began in 1910.

The latest snowfall carpeted large swathes of Britain today – with up to 5in falling in places – paralysing roads and rail, and forcing airports and schools to close.

Forecasters warned the worst was still to come over the next 24 hours as the heaviest December snowfall for 30 years tightened its grip on the nation once more.

The South is expected to be worst hit with up to 10in falling during the course of tomorrow. By the start of next week temperatures are set to fall to as low as -15c (5f).

Met Office forecaster Barry Gromett said the average mean temperature for the first two weeks of this month was -0.7c.

The coldest ever average for this time of year – recorded in December 1981 – was 0.2c.

He said: ‘A significant amount of snow will fall over the next 24 hours, particularly across southern England.

‘Further snow showers are likely to hit Wales and the west before moving eastwards on Sunday.

‘It is going to remain very cold right through to the middle of next week with widespread overnight frosts and ice.

‘Temperatures are likely to drop into the minus teens in places, with towns and cities as cold as -8c (18f).

‘It’s going to stay like this throughout Christmas and New Year, but by the middle of next month things will slowly return to normal and we could perhaps see the beginning of the end.

‘Nevertheless, this December is almost certainly going to become the coldest since records began in 1910.

‘It’s already a lot colder than the previous record which was set in 1981.’

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Two die on Hong Kong’s coldest December night for 11 years

monstersandcritics.com | Dec 17, 2010

Hong Kong – Two elderly street sleepers were found dead in Hong Kong Friday after the coldest December night in the sub-tropical city for 11 years.

Temperatures plunged to as low as minus 3 degrees Celsius on high ground early Friday and 5.8 degrees Celsius in urban areas, the lowest December temperatures since 1999, meteorologists said.

One of the men was found dead in a park while another was found dead in a street, according to a police spokeswoman. Their causes of death were being investigated.

Average December temperatures in Hong Kong are between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius.

Cold weather turns UK gas demand up to record levels

Gas consumption hit an all-time high of 465.8m cubic metres today. Photograph: Jeffrey Blackler/Alamy

Increased gas consumption will add about £10 to the average household’s energy bill this week

guardian.co.uk | Dec 20, 2010

by Tom Bawden

Britain’s gas system is under unprecedented pressure after cold weather pushed demand to a new record today.

Gas consumption hit an all-time high of 465.8m cubic metres today as people opted to work from home instead of braving the icy roads to the office, and turned the heating up a notch or two, according to initial estimates by National Grid, the network operator.

The increased gas consumption will add about £10 to the average household’s energy bill this week. Each one-degree drop below the typical temperature for the time of year adds 29p a day in extra heating costs, according to the National Energy Action charity.

The jump in demand also pushed the wholesale price of gas to its highest level for over two years, which could potentially feed through into higher costs per unit for some consumers if the freeze persists.

Anticipating the surge in gas use, National Grid issued a “gas balancing alert” – warning of pending shortages – yesterday. This is the sixth such alert since the code was introduced in 2005 and the first to be issued as early in the winter as December.

The continuation of unseasonably high demand for gas is testing Britain’s supply network, which relies on imports for about half of the gas consumed – a far cry from just 10 years ago when the North Sea satisfied the UK’s entire demand.

The loss of gas independence has made the UK far more susceptible to global fluctuations in demand and left the nation competing with emerging markets such as China for some supplies.

Britain is Europe’s largest consumer of gas, getting through about 100bn cubic metres a year – a third of the country’s total energy consumption. Residential uses such as heating and cooking account for about half, with power generation accounting for much of the rest.

“Our system hasn’t been tested in this way since we’ve become much more dependent on imports. The supply of the gas market has changed a lot in the past two years, but we will get the gas in,” said Edward Cox, of the London-based energy information and consultant ICIS Helen.

“It is very early to get this high level of demand for gas – we’ve never had a December where demand for gas has been this high,” Cox added. He said he did not expect Britain to run out of gas, before adding: “There is always scope for something unplanned, like a big issue at a terminal and if you are already a bit pushed, there is less scope for things to go wrong.”

Far more likely, Cox said, is that the sustained cold weather could eventually see us “paying significantly more” for gas.

In the past two years the UK’s use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) – which is brought into the country by ship, heated up and pumped into the grid – has gone from virtually nothing to account for about a fifth of total gas consumption.

In contrast to supplies from Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands, which are delivered through an interconnector linking Britain to mainland Europe, the UK must compete globally for supplies of LNG. Countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan, the US, Brazil and Argentina are using increasing quantities of LNG, leaving it open to potentially significant price rises if other sources of gas fail to satisfy demand, analysts said.

The so-called spot price of gas hit 71.5 pence per therm today, the highest level in at least two years and nearly double the level of 38p it was at this time last year.

National Grid today insisted that Britain was well prepared for the continuing cold snap.

Chris Train, National Grid’s network operations director, said: “Increased demand for energy is an inevitable consequence of the cold weather as Britain shivers. However, we remain well supplied with gas and electricity.”

Australia swaps summer for Christmas snow

Snow and ice covering buildings and cars at Mount Hotham as snow fell in Australia

AFP | Dec 20, 2010

SYDNEY — Snow fell in Australia on Monday, as the usual hot and summery December weather was replaced in parts by icy gusts sweeping up from the Southern Ocean, giving the country a taste of a white Christmas.

Snow has fallen in parts of east coast states New South Wales and Victoria, leaving ski resorts — some of which are usually snow-free at this time of year — with dumps of up to 10 centimetres (four inches).

“It’s white, everything is white,” Michelle Lovius, the general manager of the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel at Charlotte Pass told AFP.

“First thing this morning everything was just very still, very peaceful and every single thing was just blanketed in a thick cover of white.”

Lovius said such an amount of snow was unusual for early December, normally the peak of the wildflower season in the New South Wales mountain region.

“We’re hoping that it (the cold) stays in for five days and we get a white Christmas,” she said.

Further south in Victoria state, Mt Hotham had 10 centimetres of snow on Sunday and Mt Buller up to five centimetres, Victorian Snow Report spokeswoman Maureen Gearon said.

“It is a blanket of white, which is beautiful at this time of year. People are out in their Santa hats taking photos in the snow,” Gearon told Australian news agency AAP.

The cold blasts carried through to Sydney, where the temperature fell to 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit) early Monday, and dipped to 9.8 Celsius in the city’s west while winds of up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) an hour are forecast for much of the state’s coastline.

It was a different story on Australia’s west coast, where the worst flooding in 50 years isolated the town of Carnarvon, 900 kilometres north of Perth.

Weather experts said it was not unusual for Australia to experience chilly weather in eastern states in early December, as cold winds from deep in the Southern Oceans sweep upwards.

“It’s not uncommon to get a dusting of snow along the higher peaks of New South Wales and Victoria every couple of years (at this time),” Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Grant Beard told AFP.

Gearon agreed, saying that in previous years, those on the Victorian snowfields had been “having cocktails in the sun one day and skiing the next”.

England braces for coldest night EVER of MINUS 26C as big freeze destroys travel plans for millions

Big chill: A solitary figure braves the snow-covered beach in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, today. Experts believe the mercury may hit sub -26C tomorrow

England set for coldest ever night of MINUS 26C as big freeze destroys travel plans for millions

Daily Mail | Dec 21, 2010

By James White

With England in the icy grip of the coldest December for a century, the temperature is set to drop to a record low, with more snow forecast in the coming days.

Last night, the temperature in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, fell to -19.6C, and experts believe a combination of snow-covered ground, clear skies and the shortest day of the year could produce a sub -26C thermometer reading tomorrow.

The previous record low of -26.1C, set in Shropshire in January 1982, could be eclipsed at an inland area that does not benefit from the warming effect of the sea.

The potential for records to fall comes as the freezing conditions crippled Britain’s transport hubs, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at Heathrow and at the Eurostar terminal where flights and trains were cancelled in droves.

At St Pancras International station in London, there were reports of seven-hour queues for Eurostar trains and Salvation Army volunteers handed out hot drinks to passengers waiting in -3C conditions.

‘I’ve been standing outside for hours, it’s freezing, there are no blankets and heaters. They knew this would happen,’ said Marie Lovecchio, a 25-year-old student returning home to Brussels for Christmas.

Eurostar staff said the service was operating on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, and warned passengers not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
‘We expect ongoing weather conditions to result in speed restrictions and delays on our routes.’

Domestic trains into London were also operating an emergency timetable, and in many areas buses were unable to replace them due to blocked roads.
South West Trains operated a reduced timetable while all routes on Southeastern suffered disruption.

Seven of the 11 Tube lines suffered disruption during the morning peak due to weather conditions and signal failures.

The misery came as Southeastern commuters who suffered the brunt of last week’s snow were told they will not receive any compensation for the disruption after train performance for the year beat the 82 per cent threshold by 0.04 per cent.

At Heathrow, only one of the two runways was open today as BAA relaxed rules on night flights in a desperate bid to allow passengers to reach their destinations before Christmas.

In the West Country, motorists were left stationary on the M5 as heavy morning snow brought the motorway down to one lane between junctions 24 and 31, from Bridgwater in Somerset to Exeter in Devon.

Other routes to suffer major disruption included the A303, A358 and A38 in Somerset.

Across Britain, the disruption is set to cost the economy hundreds of millions of pounds in lost sales and productivity as travellers, shoppers and workers decide to stay at home.

Further atrocious conditions are set to cause rush-hour havoc in the south east of England this evening, with heavy snow forecast.

John Hammond, a forecaster at the Met Office, said: ‘The situation at the moment is a case of snow for parts of central and southern Wales, parts of west and southern England and down towards south-eastern England.

‘The snow band is making its way slowly but surely eastwards. There will be heavy outbreaks and risk of drifting in Wiltshire in areas such as the Salisbury Plain.

‘At the moment it’s as low as -8C in parts of Shropshire and even -6C in Blackpool.

‘Tonight will see another extremely cold period with temperatures of -18C or even lower in some areas.

‘Northern Ireland could see a new record low after the record was broken of -17.6C in County Tyrone last night.

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UK transport network remains paralysed by icy cold, ruining holidays for millions of families

Heathrow’s Terminal 3 became a huge dormitory with passengers forced to sleep where they could find floor space

Not our finest hour! Planes grounded, thousands of festive holidays ruined, roads ungritted, drivers stranded for hours . . . and all because it snowed

Daily Mail | Dec 20, 2010

By Arthur Martin, Colin Fernandez, Ryan Kisiel, Ray Massey and David Wilkes

Millions of Christmas travellers face further chaos today with an extra eight inches of snow expected to fall.

Much of the transport network is still paralysed – threatening to ruin the festive period for millions of families.

Temperatures plunged again overnight, with a UK low of -19.6c, recorded in Chesham, Buckinghamshire.

A record low for Northern Ireland was seen in Castlederg, County Tyrone, where the mercury plunged to -17.6c.

Severe weather warnings have today been issued for south west England and Wales, with the Met Office forecasting between two and four inches (5-10cm) of snow to fall in many places.

Up to eight inches (20cm) will land on high ground, with the snow due to reach London later this afternoon.

Freezing fog is also expected to hit areas of northern England.

Only about 20 flights were able to take off or land at Heathrow on Sunday out of 1,300 flights that usually go through the airport in a day.

The airport – Britain’s busiest – has today been running a ‘limited schedule of arrivals and departures’ from 6am but disruption is expected for days to come.

Those stuck at Heathrow would have felt bitterly cold temperatures of -9.4c overnight.

A British Airways spokesman said he did not yet know how many flights would be leaving today.

‘Most of our aircraft are still frozen,’ he said. ‘With incredibly low temperatures at Heathrow, it’s difficult to get anything moving.’

Furious airline passengers have launched blistering attacks on beleaguered transport officials for effectively closing Heathrow airport, creating a backlog which could last until the next expected dumping of snow on Thursday.

Singer Lily Allen was among those caught up in delays at Heathrow, writing on Twitter before her flight left: ‘Terminal 3 carnage. Apparently our flight is going today. Lots of tinfoil blankets all over the place. Departures is a ghost town.’

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has questioned Colin Matthews, the chief executive off Heathrow’s owners BAA, over the situation at the airport, asking if everything possible had been done to get the airport moving.

He said: ‘I stressed the huge economic importance of Heathrow. If there was a war on we’d surely be able to sort this out.

‘I also expressed my hope that they would pull out all the stops to ensure that the planes get moving again.

‘Most people realise that it has not snowed at Heathrow for some time so it is vital everything is done to get the aircraft and passengers moving again.’

Gatwick Airport – which is no longer owned by BAA – is open with operations ‘returning to normal’, but passengers have been warned to contact their airline before travelling as delays and cancellations are set to continue.

And there was anger felt by millions of motorists on gridlocked roads over claims councils were deliberately holding back grit to conserve supplies.

Police have launched a major incident in parts of Devon after blizzards and heavy snow hit the county overnight.

The main A38 and A380 roads which pass Haldon and Telegraph Hills are causing huge problems as lorries and cars have become stuck for hours in the snow.

Transport officials face tough questions over Britain’s ability to cope with wintry conditions during one of the busiest times of the year.

It is the second time this month and the third this year that the country’s transport systems have shuddered to a halt because of snow.

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