Saturday, January 08, 2011

Europe to face nightmare floods from sudden snow thaw

Last month, the big chill  in Europe was the second worst in over 300 years. The culprit was a large area of high pressure formed over the Atlantic, blocking the warm Westerlies. One reason we have seen such large amounts of snow is the pressure is much lower than normal, allowing the air to rise and form deeper clouds, therefore producing heavier showers.

Now comes the sudden thaw in parts Europe as milder Atlantic air overcomes this block. The thaw, after a period of severe winter weather, comes as a relief - but one that has its own risks and challenges. With several days of steady rain the continent is bracing itself for unprecedented winter flooding. The cold has frozen rivers and the risk that rivers could flood is high as an unsettled Atlantic weather system moves in, bringing with a rapid rise in the temperature and heavy rainfall. It is the rains coinciding with thaw that ups the risk of nightmare floods. How nightmarish the floods could be will depend upon the intensity of rain on one hand and the rapidity of the thaw on the other.

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