World weather review: January 2018

World weather review: January 2018

Fri, 09/02/2018 - 11:05
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Whilst Spain and France experienced temperatures well above the seasonal average, Austria, Northern Italy and some parts of Eastern Europe experienced heavy snowfall for a few weeks in January.  Indeed, on the 5th January, heavy snow cut off a number of alpine ski resorts, including Cervinia in Italy and Adelboden in Switzerland. France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany suffered damage and suspended flights as a result of depression Friederike (not named by the Met Office/ Met Éireann) on the 18th January.

In the first days of January, more than 40cm of snow blanketed sand dunes across the small town of Ain Sefra, Algeria which is 1,000m above sea level and surrounded by the Atlas Mountains. It is only the second time snow has fallen there in nearly 40 years. A spokesman for the Met Office said: "Cold air was pulled down south in to North Africa over the weekend as a result of high pressure over Europe. The high pressure meant the cold weather extended further south than normal."

On the 16th, temperatures fell to near-record lows in the Russian region of Yakutia, one of the coldest places on earth. Temperatures plunged to -67°C.

Meanwhile, in Australia, a heat wave in Sydney and New South Wales brought temperatures well over 40°C – reaching 47.3°C in Penrith, Sydney on Sunday 7th January, the hottest temperature in the region in 79 years.

In California, heavy rainfall in early January caused mudslides in soil already weakened by wildfires. Burned vegetation and charred soil create a water repellent layer which blocks water absorption leading to an increased risk of mudslides and floods.

The East Coast of North America experienced a record-breaking freeze in early January, with snow falling as far south as Florida. In parts of US and Canada, temperatures fell below -29°C, with wind chill making it feel more like -67°C! The record-breaking cold came just days after a phenomenon described in US media as a “bomb cyclone" brought heavy snowfall and hurricane-force winds to parts of the US East Coast, as an arctic surge brought freezing air down from the North Pole. The iconic Niagara Falls also frozen over during the arctic blast.

Heavy snow affected the Tokyo metro area on the 22nd, with up 23 cm of snowfall falling.

The River Seine in Paris rose to four metres above its normal water level for the time of year, peaking at 5.84 m on 29th January, due to weeks of the heaviest rainfall in decades, with the country receiving almost double its typical rainfall for January. 

Drought conditions affected Cape Town in January, with water levels plummeting.

A week-long heatwave affected New Zealand at the end of January, breaking temperature records across the country and causing a nationwide shortage of fans. Temperatures have soared above 37°C in parts of the South Island, with records broken in Dunedin, Wanaka, Christchurch and many other cities and towns.