Wednesday, February 01, 2012

We are so lucky

… that we've had all this global warming. It is terrifying to think what it would have been like without it. And it's not just Norway. Alaska has suffered the coldest January on record in some part – although we can happily report that two ships going away from Nome have made it to open waters.

Elsewhere, it has been grim. Temperatures in parts of Ukraine fell to minus 16°C (3°F) during the day and minus 23°C (minus 10°F) in the night. Authorities opened 1,500 shelters to provide food and heat and closed schools and nurseries. More than 17,000 people have sought help in such shelters in the past three days.

In Poland, at least ten people froze to death as the cold reached minus 26°C (minus 15°F) on Monday. Warsaw city authorities decided to place more than 40 heaters in the busiest city transport stops to help waiting passengers keep warm.

City authorities in the Czech capital of Prague set up tents for an estimated 3,000 homeless people. Freezing temperatures also damaged train tracks, slowing railway traffic. In central Serbia, three people died and two more were missing, while 14 municipalities were operating under emergency decrees. Efforts to clear roads blocked by snow were hampered by strong winds and dozens of towns faced power outages.

And the "colleagues" will be looking forward to a bit of warmth (and Polish shale gas) as Gazprom reduces the flow of gas to Europe because of the cold snap. Supplies into Italy via the Austrian border have been reduced by ten percent compared with normal levels.

Although no one is panicking (yet), it is a timely reminder of how close to the brink supplies can get, when Europe relies on Russia for 30 percent of its gas.