Skiing in June in Europe’s Pyrenees Mountains… you usually can’t do that. But a resort there has just re-opened, after being closed since 1 April, as in normal years. The snow has hung on here; lately it’s had ideal ski temperatures. Today it was 1 degree Celcius.
Western Europe has been having a strangely cold and sunless spring. People in the south of France have had to adapt. Take this boutique owner, for example.
Jean Luc Recouderc, a ski shop owner in Porté-Puymorens, said: “Normally at this time we’re back in the valley. I work in fruit – peaches and nectarines. But they’re late, and the ski season is stretched out.”
While there’s snow on higher ground, rain in the valleys has swelled rivers and brought floods.
The water table is saturated; the ground won’t hold any more. This raises the risk of landslides, such as one in Bad Salzungen, in central Germany.
Klaus Bohl, the Mayor, said: “The landslide we have here is not directly connected to the high river levels. It was caused by the recent heavy rains. No incline can hold up under 70 liters per square meter.”
An expert at Belgium’s Royal Meteorological Institute, Corentin Fourneau, gave a simplified explanation for the odd conditions: “We have a low pressure zone that developed over central Europe. This opened the way for cold air to come down from the North Pole. That’s why it’s generally colder. Around this low pressure zone centred over Europe, the currents revolve in an anti-clockwise direction. This draws warmer masses coming from Africa towards Scandinavia. In Lapland they recently broke a record 29 degrees Celcius, which is ten above normal.”
In Lapland, part of Finland, it’s summer before its time. Around Rovaniemi, just five kilometres below the Arctic Circle, on Thursday, 18 May, in shallower water it was 18 degrees!
In Lulea, in northern Sweden, not far away, they’ve also been basking in the sun.
Resident Birgitta Lahti Nordstrom said: “I’m sitting here enjoying myself of course. Above all, I swim. That’s what’s so wonderful: to exercise first and then go for a swim. That’s what makes life enjoyable, and we can do it here now. We don’t have to go abroad – which is wonderful!”
That’s all very well if you can take your coat off. For the reindeer it’s tough. One month ago, it was business as usual for them – in the snow.