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Topsy-Turvy Weather in Europe, Middle East

By: Christopher C. Burt, 9:17 PM GMT on December 13, 2013

Topsy-Turvy Weather in Europe, Middle East

UPDATE No snow or sleet fell in the suburbs of Cairo, Egypt, just hail. However, snow did fall in portions of Israel and Jordan while record high temperatures occurred in northern Scandinavia this week. Once again, a convoluted jet stream (as we saw last week between Alaska and the contiguous U.S.) is causing topsy-turvy weather in the northern hemisphere.

The 500 mb heights analysis for 00 UTC on December 11th when record warm temperatures occurred in Sweden while snow began to fall in the Middle East.

The temperatures in northern Sweden have been on a roller coaster so far this month. One site, Nikkaluokta saw its temperature fall from 4.7°C (40.5°F) on December 3rd to -40.8°C (-41.4°F) on December 9th only to then rise to a maximum of 7.7°C (45.9°F) on December 11th, an amazing rise of 48.5°C (87.3°F) in just under 48 hours!

Temperatures for Nikkaluokta, Sweden so far this December. Note the extraordinary rise in temperature on December 11th, about 20°C (35°F) in just three hours late in the day. Graph courtesy of Michael Theusner, Klimahaus, Bremerhaven, Germany.

Many locations in northern Sweden measured their warmest December temperatures on record last Wednesday (December 11th) including a 9.5°C (49.1°F) reading at Umea, Vasterbotten which has temperature data going back to 1858 (previous record was 9.0°C/48.2°F in December 1932). Gunnarn/Stensele, Lapland smashed its previous December high with a 9.6°C (49.3°F) reading, former monthly record was 7.8°C (46.0°F) in 1953 (POR began in 1860).

Minimum temperatures in C° for Scandinavia on December 9th (top map) and maximum temperatures C° on December 11th (bottom map). An incredible turn around for the entire region. Map courtesy of Michael Theusner, Klimahaus, Bremerhaven, Germany.

Meanwhile, on the cold side of the ridge snow fell at low elevations in Egypt (Sinai), Israel, and Jordan among other Middle East nations. Hail fell in Cairo’s eastern suburb of Madinaty.

A photograph making the rounds on social media purportedly of the snow or sleet at Madinaty, Egypt (a suburb of Cairo) on December 13th. In fact, this was small hail not sleet or snow. Photographer not identified.

Cairo Airport reported rain and temperatures in the 40°s so far. Further north and east heavy snowfall has blanketed Jerusalem and snow was even reported at Haifa in Israel (the first in 22 years according to local officials). 30-50 centimeters (12-20”) has so far accumulated in elevated Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Gilo. However, snow has also been reported as low as 630 m (2000’) at Beit Horon.

Snowfall accumulation in a Jerusalem neighborhood on December 13th. More snow is forecast to blanket the region through Saturday. Photo by Israel Hatzolah.

Flash flooding has plagued Gaza and the lower elevations of Israel and Jordan including Tel Aviv. Rainfall of 121 mm (4.76”) has fallen over the past two days at Bet Dagan, Israel.

Media reports claim the snow on the outskirts of Cairo was “the first in 112 years” and that in Jerusalem “worst in decades” although both these statements are exaggerations and no sleet or snow fell in the Cairo area. In any case, it is unusually early in the winter to see such cold and snowfall at these locations (or hail near Cairo). The storm is expected to continue to impact the region into this weekend.

KUDOS: Thanks to Michael Theusner of Klimahaus, Bremerhaven, Germany for the Scandinavian temperature information and graphics.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Heat Cold Snow

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Thanks a lot, Christopher! I just tried to google the unusual warm temperatures in Sweden, and your new blog was what was shown first! Spares me a bit of work, lol.
Jet stream really isn't its former self? Greetings from Germany, Barb.
Once again, the newspapers reported a bunch of false news.
As we can see from the atmosheric conditions or from the photographs there was NO snow OR sleet at Cairo, but HAIL (small hail actually).
Second, NOTHING HAPPENED 112 years ago, as we can see looking at the original meteorological observations (available since late 700s and i have checked all them day by day). Another hailstorm blanketed the capital in January 1858. Snowflakes were recorded in the historical cold wave of February 1950 at Giza which is on a hill ,not at Cairo downtown anyway. It's not possible to know if that claimed snowfall of January 1639 was real snow or hail.
Third,biggest snow in 50 years at Jersusalem ? Not true. As I am writing its accumulation are HALF of that of February 1992,but it's still snowing and accumulation varies from quarter to quarter. That of Feb 1992 was a real historical cold wave which included a strong hailstorm in Tel Aviv, amazing snow accumulation at hill level in Israel, Jordan and almost at sea level in Lebanon and the national record low in Jordan. The problem is some people should have the decency to get informed before publishing those false news in the newspapers. It's like i pretend to be a surgeon without knowing anything about medicine: i will inevitably do one disaster after another.
A great quote -

There is growing evidence that the Arctic's new normal is driving changing weather patterns in lower hemispheres. “The Arctic is not like Vegas,” said University of Virginia ecologist Howie Epstein, another report contributor. “What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic.”

Here comes (from a Wikipedia discussion) when did events like this happened in Egypt.

Apparently, some flakes fell in Cairo in 1950, but little. But a snowstorm like this, we must go back to 1855 and before that only in 1639.

So, an event like this, is as rare as once in 200 years.

Quite a wild ride in Nikkaluokta there--more typical of Montana than a place in Sweden, so close to the ocean (though perhaps mountain screening to the west played some role.)
we had about 40-50 inches of snow in western parts of iran from this event!
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.