Europe's weather mix: Record high pressure, cold and Storm Gloria

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By  Rafael Cereceda with Euronews  with AP
Europe's weather mix: Record high pressure, cold and Storm Gloria

Extreme weather has come to western Europe. A powerful anticyclone is breaking records for high pressure across Belgium, France and the UK, while Storm Gloria, pushing the anti-cyclone south, is causing heavy rain, winds and even rare snowfall in Spain.

It has broken France's record with 1049.7 hectopascals (hPa) in Abbeville, northern France, and Belgium's record of 1049.9 hPa.

In the UK, levels unseen since 1957 have been measured, with up to 1050.5 hPa. The British national record, from 1902, is 1053.6 hPa.

It has caused the deterioration of air quality, and very high pressure can also cause health problems.

The current British weather is actually the highest pressure since measurements began more than 300 years ago, in 1692, with 1049 hPa recorded at Heathrow Airport.

The clear skies across the UK, Belgium and France observed in the last days is a typical effect of anticyclonic weather.

The London sky looked completely clear on Sunday night:

London on Sunday, January 19 - modified data from Copernicus Sentinel

What are the effects of extreme high pressure?

The most immediate effect of the anticyclone is clear skies and dry air. This time it has come with intense cold.

The British authorities have issued warnings for the risk for people with respiratory and heart problems.

High pressure and cold make it difficult for body tissues to expand. The effects of atmospheric pressure on blood pressure have also been proven.

The British Met Office warned over the weekend that some people might experience discomfort in the ears.

Studies indicate that high pressures favour some health problems such as cerebral haemorrhage due to aneurysm rupture.

MetOffice experts have also said that this extreme weather could cause problems in receiving radio and television signals.

It will also affect air quality.

Europe to brace for anticyclone and Saharan dust

The concentrations of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide are expected to increase in the atmosphere especially in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

The director of the Copernicus European Atmosphere Surveillance Service, Vincent-Henri Peuch, told Euronews that these are typical winter conditions.

"There is not a big difference in terms of air quality between 1040 hPa or 1050 hPa", he said, but what is more worrying is that this situation will last for several days.

"In addition, the cold increases energy demand. Houses use heating more and private vehicles are used more", he said.

Although the exceptional anticyclonic situation will increase the concentration of some pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide in the air, alert thresholds as set by European regulations should not be reached, Alberto González Ortiz, Air Quality expert of the European Environment Agency, told Euronews

In this type of circumstances, pollution remains close to the source that emits it, Vincent-Henri Peuch said. Higher levels of pollution will, therefore, be recorded in British, Belgian and Dutch cities, known for their high emissions. It is also expected that pollution will be stagnant in the Pó plain, south of the Alps.

Nitrogen dioxide forecast on Thursday / Copernicus Atmosphere

In addition to the anticyclone, dust from the Sahara desert will travel to the east of the Iberian Peninsula, which is being hit the hardest by Storm Gloria.

The weakening of the storm favors the entry of these particles in the air, scientist of the European Atmosphere Surveillance Service of Copernicus Mark Parrington told Euronews.