How well is Germany getting through the winter this year? Is the gas enough? The German weather service is now expecting a comparatively mild winter and speaks of a good forecast quality. But how good are such seasonal climate forecasts really?

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Models predict a mean temperature of 2 degrees

the Model calculations by the German weather service DWD show: This winter could get warmer than 2 degrees in Germany on average. For comparison: An average temperature of only 1.4 degrees has been measured in the past 30 years. But even if it stays milder on average in the coming winter, it can get colder on individual days or weeks, according to Dr. Andreas Paxian from the German Weather Service.

The red colored map of Germany shows the climate forecast of the German Weather Service: A warmer winter is to be expected throughout Germany.  (Photo: SWR, SWR Aktuell BW)

The DWD models calculate milder temperatures across Germany for the coming winter compared to the average winter temperatures between 1991 and 2020.


SWR current BW

In fact, climate change is not only causing rising temperatures, but also a higher climate variability, i.e. stronger short-term ⁠climate fluctuations.⁠ The climate is becoming more unpredictable. At the same time, the models that simulate the earth’s climate system on the computer are also becoming more precise. So how reliable are the climate forecasts?

Green light for the winter forecast

The German Weather Service has been publishing since October 2021 seasonal climate forecasts – with traffic light system. The maps show temperature and precipitation trends for the whole of Germany, but also regionally and for individual cities. The traffic lights shown indicate the forecast quality: red means bad, yellow means medium and a green traffic light stands for a relatively good forecast quality.

“It is very important that we always transparently connect the forecast with the quality (…) With the current winter forecast we see a green traffic light.”

But even a relatively good quality of climate forecast is currently not as good as that of weather forecasts, according to Paxian. And so the forecasts are mainly about probabilities: 50 percent of the winter will be warmer than in the past 30 years, the probability of a cold winter is only 18 percent. For an average winter, the probability is given as 32 percent.

Dr Andreas Paxian from the German Weather Service in his office.  (Photo: SWR, SWR Aktuell BW)

dr Andreas Paxian has been researching climate forecasts, regional climate models and climate change for years.


SWR current BW

Computing power limits the possibilities of climate modelling

Inaccuracies lie, among other things, in atmospheric processes that take place in the smallest of spaces. They fall through the grid of the climate model, which, for reasons of computing capacity, can only calculate the climate development at discrete intervals on the earth’s surface and in the atmosphere. With new supercomputers, however, the grid is getting finer and finer and the forecast is getting better.

Illustration by the Max Planck Institute: A globe is covered with a 3D grid.  The climate is simulated at each grid point.  (Photo: SWR, SWR Aktuell BW)

A climate model simulates the earth in a computer. Atmospheric processes and interactions between meteorological variables such as pressure, air humidity and temperature are described using mathematical formulas. This results in an enormous computational effort, which is why the model only performs these calculations at discrete grid points. The finer the grid, the more accurate the calculations.


SWR current BW

“Frugality is the order of the day, even when the temperatures are milder.”

Even if the climate statements are currently based on probabilities, they already have a social benefit: A warm winter is currently the most likely scenario throughout Germany. This could help in the energy crisis this year. The Federal Network Agency also looks at the DWD’s seasonal climate forecasts. In a milder winter, it would be easier to sustain the necessary 20 percent savings in gas consumption, says Klaus Müller, President of the Federal Network Agency.

Saving energy consumption is still required. Because some days can get cold despite the milder average temperature. Then the energy stores empty, warns Müller.

Source: swr

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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