The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Europe braces for more cold weather as Siberian cold front marches south

With hundreds dead, lines of transport cut off and fuel supplies rationed, the whole of Europe is at war — with the weather. Since the end of January, the cold front has claimed over 500 lives in Europe; the Weather Underground rates it as Europe’s coldest outbreak since at least 1991.

By contrast, the U.S. is experiencing above average winter temperatures.

Last week, Mike Halpert with the National Weather Service said the mild winter is caused by something called the “Arctic oscillation,” which moves the jet stream north and south. Acting as a dividing line between cold and warm air, the jet stream keeps colder air to the North and warmer air to the South. Milder than usual U.S. temperatures will likely continue as long as the jet stream stays north of its normal position, Halpert explained.

However, this is not the case with Europe.

“In Europe, the jet stream has dipped far to the South, allowing frigid arctic air to pour across the continent, subjecting Europe to its deepest freeze in decades,” said Halpert, according to BBC. “More than 400 people have died. In Hungary they’re burning bricks of shredded money to stay warm. Homes in Poland are frozen solid.”

The extreme temperatures are having their most deadly effects in poorer European countries. Ukraine, the second poorest country in Europe, remains the hardest hit with over 135 fatalities. Most of Ukraine’s dead were homeless people who froze to death as temperatures dropped below minus 30 degrees Celsius, or minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Declaring a state of emergency, Ukraine officials set up heated relief tents to house the homeless and prevent further fatalities, according to BBC.

As rivers freeze and dams and water pipes burst, bizarre conditions all over Europe are becoming the norm.

The Croatian city of Split saw a spike in bone fractures in recent days as hundreds of people slipped on icy roads, according to AFP.  Struggling to keep up with the injuries, Split’s hospital ran through a two-year supply of plaster for splints and casts in just five days.

Mayor Zeljko Kerum enraged Split’s residents when he failed to manage the crisis as he was out of country on a private business trip. Kerum fueled Split’s outrage further when he suggested that high taxes on footwear explained why residents couldn’t afford proper winter boots.

Elsewhere, in Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk asked local authorities to waive the ban on the admission of inebriated individuals to homeless shelters as the national death toll rose to 53, Polish Press Agency reported. Perhaps one of the more wide-reaching effects of the cold front is the paralyzing effect it has had on water transportation.

Sections of the Danube River’s 1780 miles from Austria to its mouth on the Black Sea are frozen solid and partially iced over. While specialized boats attempt to break up the ice, the ten countries whose economies depend on the Danube remain crippled.

There are a few countries that are faring better than others, however.

Some, like Zoltan David, a New York City Cinematographer and Budapest-native, felt that the cold front presented little more than an inconvenience.

“You know, the usual things like very slow traffic because Budapest got around two feet of snow,” David said to the Guilfordian. “Delays everywhere, shortage of fresh food supplies, higher heating costs.”

While Hungary didn’t feel the impact of the cold weather as much as neighboring countries did, schools and businesses were still shut down due to the snow.  Since buildings in Hungary and most Eastern European countries are made of brick and concrete with no insulation, they are under-heated in the severe cold, David explained.

David goes on to say that the Russians shutting down the natural gas pipelines was the biggest problem for Hungarians, as Russia is the number one gas exporter in Europe.

“Anytime a natural catastrophe strikes, the poor, the old and sick people suffer the most,” said David. “I believe this was the case here, too.”

He also emphasized Europe’s troubled financial and economic conditions, highlighting the invisible role that it has played in the devastation of the cold front.

“In any well-functioning society, it is much easier to overcome a natural disaster, but Europe is in turmoil,” David said.

As the deadly Siberian cold front continues to wreak havoc on Europe, meteorologists contend that relief from sub-zero temperatures may not arrive until the end of February. In fact, Steven Keates, a weather forecaster at Britain’s Met Office, said the severe wintry conditions were expected to spread to other areas.

“It will still be very cold — maybe not quite the exceptional temperatures we’ve seen this last week — but still very cold,” said Keates to Reuters.

And for those skeptics who say: ‘Take that Al Gore and your global warming theories,’ they might consider freezing that thought, according to David.

“(The) last thing I would mention is the global climate changing,” he said. “Winter in Europe has warmed up significantly in the last 20 years, therefore the population is not used to the severe cold temperatures anymore.”

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • B

    Bob DoleFeb 16, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Take that Al Gore and your global warming theories