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Europe Set for Warmest January in Decades as Energy Crisis Eases

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(Bloomberg) — Europe is set for the warmest January in decades, easing an energy crunch that has hammered the region for months.

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Mild conditions are likely to persist across the region until the end of the month, with a strong polar weather system inhibiting cold outbreaks, according to forecaster Maxar Technologies Inc. While sparking climate concerns, the warm weather over the past couple of weeks has been a boon for nations as they struggle against a crushing cost of living crisis that has seen household energy bills and inflation surge.

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Temperatures are forecast to range between 2C to 5C above normal in France and Germany through Jan. 17, sending heating demand in Europe below the 10-year average, according to Maxar and the Weather Company. The UK, which had its warmest year on record in 2022, is likely to see the mild conditions persist this month, according to the Met Office.

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For Europe, “the first half of the month could rank among some of the warmest on record over the last few decades if things unfold as expected,” said Matthew Dross, a meteorologist at Maxar.

It’s a sharp turnaround from the freezing temperatures of early December that had raised concerns over natural gas reserves depleting too quickly. Governments and consumers spent much of the summer worried they would face blackouts after Russia’s sharp gas supply cuts following the war in Ukraine.

Also read: European Cities Break Temperature Records as Warm Winter Holds 

But stockpiles are now fuller than normal, with some nations even sending gas into storage in recent days as demand eases with the weather. Along with strong imports of liquefied natural gas, there’s increasing confidence that the continent can go through this winter unscathed. And high inventories at the end of the cold season will make it easier to replenish storage sites in time for next winter. 

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European gas futures on Wednesday closed at the lowest level since October 2021, while power prices have also declined sharply. They could ease further with Maxar’s Dross forecasting blustery conditions in the UK and continental Europe through to mid-January, which will increase wind power generation and in turn curb gas use.  

Still, governments are urging citizens to keep conserving energy because risks remain. A cold blast over the next few days could push temperatures in Finland, northern Sweden and Norway, Belarus and the Baltic states 3C to 5C below average levels, according to Olivia Birch, a meteorologist at The Weather Company. Britain could also see “some colder interludes,” said Nicola Maxey, a Met Office meteorologist.

“This will likely increase the heating and power demand in affected areas,” Birch said.

The weather pattern, however, is bringing concerns about climate change. The energy crisis has forced some governments to reverse emission policies. Germany is boosting its reliance on coal, while global consumption of the polluting fuel is rising. 

“Although it doesn’t mean every year will be the warmest on record, climate change continues to increase the chances of increasingly warm years over the coming decades,” said Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre.  

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