Ski slopes close as Europe enters 2023 with record January warmth

European gas prices down as temperatures exceed 20°C in Switzerland

A lack of snow in Switzerland and Austria has affected ski slopes in the Alps. AFP
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European gas prices fell and Alpine ski resorts closed due to a lack of winter snow after much of Europe greeted 2023 with unusually warm weather.

The new year was less than two hours old when a Swiss weather station measured 19.3°C near Delemont, a January record for the north side of the Alps.

After that night-time high, attributed to an unusual wind pattern, temperatures rose further during New Year’s Day and passed 20°C in parts of Switzerland and its neighbour Liechtenstein.

The mild temperatures in the middle of winter were more typical of what might be expected in July and August, the Swiss weather service said.

Parts of Germany, Austria and Poland also saw unprecedented temperatures on New Year’s Day.

The Polish capital, Warsaw, easily beat its 24-year-old January temperature record with a new high of 18.9°C.

Some parts of Poland beat their record for the whole winter, in what the weather service called a “one-day thermal summer”.

“The thermal anomaly is over 15°C. This is an unprecedented situation in our climate,” it said.

Forecasters said the mild spell was due to warm air coming from the south-west.

The top of the slopes at France's Le Semnoz ski resort on December 27. AFP

In Switzerland, several Alpine resorts were shut due to a lack of snow across large swathes of the mountain range. French slopes have suffered from the same problem in the Alps and Pyrenees.

European gas prices, meanwhile, extended a three-week drop as the mild weather reduced demand.

Benchmark prices were at their lowest since February 21 last year, three days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Weather forecasts are being closely watched by policymakers as they try to make Europe’s squeezed gas supplies last the winter.

Germany’s weather was expected to remain mild for several days, while temperatures up to 17°C were predicted for the Austrian Alps.

It came after several countries reported that 2022 was the warmest or one of the warmest years on record.

The UK’s Met Office said provisional figures showed 2022 had the highest average temperature since records began in 1884.

All 10 of Britain’s warmest years on record have come since 2003, a fact attributed to the effects of climate change.

Switzerland said 2022 was both its warmest and sunniest year ever and was 1.6°C above the norm of even the past three decades.

In Germany, it was a virtual tie between 2022 and 2018 for the warmest year on record.

“The record warm year of 2022 should be a renewed incentive for all of us to finally move from talk to action on climate change,” said Tobias Fuchs, a climate spokesman for the German weather service.

“So far we haven’t managed to step hard enough on the greenhouse gas emissions brake. Global warming is advancing almost unchecked.”

Updated: January 02, 2023, 10:42 AM