Iceland will be warmer than parts of the Mediterranean this week as an icy blast from Siberia brings bitter cold to Europe along with the risk of travel delays and power cuts.
Very dry Arctic air from the east will drive weather conditions for the coming days after temperatures plunged to as low as negative 36 degrees Celsius (negative 32.8 Fahrenheit) in Finland — more than 40 degrees below levels in Iceland, forecasters said. Energy prices jumped, with U.K. day-ahead electricity hitting a decade-high for the time of year.
The biggest disruption is expected on Tuesday and Wednesday when “heavy and persistent” snow may cause rail and air travel cancellations as well as some power cuts, according to the U.K.’s Met Office. Two grid operators in England are already reporting disruption to electricity supplies due to the “severe weather.”
Power and gas prices for next-day delivery climbed as the coming days are predicted to be the coldest this winter, with parts of the U.K. braced for the chilliest weather since 1991. The freeze is being caused by a rare weather event known as a sudden stratospheric warming which allows a high pressure area to draw cold air from Siberia across to Europe.
European gas contracts last week surged by the most in almost a decade as demand soared. Russia’s Gazprom PJSC reported record levels of exports to Europe, with flows on Saturday beating the previous daily record in December by 2.4 percent.
Italy is on the lookout for extra supplies of liquefied natural gas cargoes after the Ministry of Economic Development declared state of early warning for gas on Friday.
Norway’s grid manager, Statnett SF, ordered some users in Oslo to reduce power use this week due to forecasts for high demand. In France, where homes rely on electricity for heating, consumption is expected to rise to 93 gigawatts on Tuesday. The national record was 102 gigawatts in February 2012.
Strong easterly winds will boost wind power for the northern European wind farms as well as bringing a strong wind-chill, Dave Reynolds, a meteorologist at the Weather Co., said by email.
How long the cold will last is what every trader wants to know. U.K. gas for delivery next month, a benchmark for Europe, slumped on Monday amid speculation the freezing weather won’t last long.
The southern half of Europe will return to more normal weather conditions by March 3 while the cold will hang on in Britain, Scandinavia and the Baltic States until mid-March, according to Radiant Solutions. The Weather Co. expects below-normal temperatures to last throughout March and into April, particularly for central and north Europe.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the low temperature in Finland in Fahrenheit. Negative 36 degrees Celsius is the equivalent of negative 32.8 degrees Fahrenheit, not negative 65 degrees Fahrenheit.