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Will we still have winter in ten years’ time?




Photo: Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI)

Yes, we will continue to have winter in Germany, even in ten years’ time. We live at latitudes that receive significantly less sunlight during the winter months. Climate change will not alter this fact. It is only possible to make very imprecise forecasts for a ten-year period – and there is no way of saying what the winter temperatures will be in ten years’ time, as such long-term weather forecasts are not possible and the projections made in climate models are only suitable for statistical statements on periods of at least 30 years. The reason for this uncertainty is that the earth’s climate varies greatly and brings about very different types of winter. This was the case in the past and will remain so in the future. (Further information, including a forecast of the number of freezing days from 2011 to 2040, is available in German here.)
The winters have been particularly cold in Central Europe in recent years as a result of higher temperatures in the Arctic. Large areas of Arctic sea ice melted during the summers, thus making the Arctic Ocean warmer. As there is no ice to block the flow, this warmth is transmitted into the atmosphere and leads to higher temperatures in the Arctic during the autumn and winter. In turn, these conditions create patterns of air pressure that bring cold Arctic air to Central Europe. (You can find further information here.)

Dr Barbara Hennemuth of the Climate Service Center (CSC) answered this question.