To help businesses in the U.K. and Ireland better plan and prepare for the upcoming season, we recently released our 2021-2022 winter weather outlook. Together, our trusted team of top-rated, long-range weather forecasters and knowledgeable industry experts have broken down the essential details in a handy report. Read on for key highlights.
With the start of winter upon us, there are a few things to note about how the season is shaping up for the U.K., Ireland, and broader Europe, along with a few key business implications of the outlook.
In short, the forecast is calling for a cold, dry, and calm winter for much of the region. Across Europe, the most significant chance for below-average temperatures will be in the west, specifically northwestern Europe.
Due to more persistent blocking in northern Europe, precipitation and wind will be below average. However, it’s worth noting there will be more wintry precipitation days than usual because of the colder temperatures. The wettest weather will tend to be in southern Europe and across the Mediterranean region. It is more likely to be consistently wet in the southeast and more variable in the southwest. We expect northeastern Europe to be a little more volatile, often wet and cold, but a bit more changeable month to month.
All eyes are on the forecast as market conditions around fuel, energy supplies, and labor could magnify potential challenges this winter. With colder-than-average temperatures forecast, home heating demand could be higher to significantly higher than average.
Given the current situation and elevated wholesale energy prices, accurately predicting weather-driven consumer behavior is critical. This winter’s conditions can have a more significant physical impact on assets and related support. In colder weather, active freeze-thaw processes are typical above and below the surface, requiring more resources to maintain the network’s integrity. Additionally, the lower temperatures can increase chances for line icing, boosting maintenance demands. Read more.
As we look ahead to the season, it shares some strong similarities to several recent winters, which helps set the benchmark for what we can expect. Many industry professionals may recall the winter of 2010 and its sudden late-season turn of events. Despite a warm start, sharp, cold spells began erupting in January. The frigid temperatures put operations under immense strain as the industry scrambled to procure and restock salt supplies. Despite greater resiliency today, transport professionals could still face salt restocking challenges this season if there is prolonged gritting due to cold and snow.
When combined with other concerns, such as the reported lack of drivers in the national labor market, the season’s expected challenges may be magnified. Aside from the impact on road maintenance crews, the driver shortage will likely also affect the delivery of salt and fuel, making it even more difficult to balance road safety and operational efficiencies.
This season, snow could result from cold snaps coming out of the polar vortex, particularly later in winter. Respite may come from warmer, winder weather in between these events. However, that also brings road safety challenges as any snow melts, increasing flood risks.
Cold spells and prolonged low temperatures may spawn drive-hour challenges, which will be exceptionally difficult given the labor shortages and increased risk of snow and ice events. Advance planning will be vital to supporting front-line needs with resources like additional drivers, blowers, and plows during winter weather events. Read more.
As air travel continues to rise above 2020-levels, and as demand for air cargo skyrockets, winter conditions will create added challenges for this increased volume. While the start of the season should be relatively benign, more extreme events will occur toward its end. The primary focus will be on blocking, which will result in periods of cold with significant fog and low stratus clouds, creating air traffic issues at airports.
Flight planning and routing will likely be impacted by these low-visibility events, with restrictions limiting aircraft movement, contributing to capacity constraints, and delaying departures and arrivals. With ceilings of around 1,000 feet being a regular possibility this winter, you must prepare for more frequent instrument flight rules (IFR) operations and the need for planes to carry extra fuel to support routing to alternate airports.
The weak polar vortex will provide additional challenges through colder-than-average temperatures and late-winter storms with the potential for strong wind shear and disruptions at major hubs. Read more.
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