Record high winter temperatures have swept into the new year in parts of Europe, prompting climate activists to call for faster action on global warming while offering a short-term reprieve to governments grappling with high gas prices.
Temperature records have been broken in hundreds of locations, from Switzerland to Poland and Hungary.
In France, temperatures soared to almost 25°C in the southwest on New Year’s Day, while normally busy European ski resorts were deserted due to a lack of snow.
The weather service in Germany, where temperatures in excess of 20C (68F) were recorded, said such a mild change of year had not been seen in the country since records began in 1881.
Scientists have not yet analyzed it in any specific ways climate change may have influenced recent high temperatures, but January’s warm weather fits a long-term trend of rising temperatures due to man-made global warming.
“Winters are getting warmer in Europe as global temperatures rise,” said Freja Vamborg, a climate scientist at the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
The record temperatures will follow another year of extreme weather which scientists concluded was directly related to global warming, including deadly heat waves in Europe and India and floods in Pakistan.
Temperature spikes can also cause plants to start growing earlier in the year or bring animals out of hibernation prematurely, leaving them vulnerable to being killed by later cold snaps.
France’s national weather agency, Meteo France, attributed the abnormal temperatures to a mass of warm air pouring into Europe from subtropical regions.
It hit during the busy ski season, resulting in canceled rides and empty slopes. Resorts in the northern Spanish regions of Asturias, Leon and Cantabria have been closed since the Christmas holidays due to lack of snow.
On the Jahorina mountain above the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, where the 1984 Winter Olympics took place, it should have been one of the busiest weeks of the season. Instead, chairlifts hung above grassy slopes. In a boarding house, a couple ate alone in a restaurant as the only guests.
A ski jumping event in Zakopane in southern Poland that was scheduled for the weekend of January 7 and 8 has been cancelled.