Biting cold a warning of further extremes to come

One of the warmest falls on record has given way to the coldest December in about 40 years, a phenomenon that scientists fear is an indication of the extreme climatic fluctuations which are expected to become the norm in Greece. Last month’s low temperatures were a reason for concern, especially in light of the fact that the previous months were unusually warm, according to Dimitris Lalas, director of the National Observatory of Athens. «In each month from January to October 2001, temperatures were about two degrees higher than the average for 1960-1990. Then things changed dramatically, with temperatures plummeting in December,» he said. A seven-degree drop since last October is what is causing concern. «We don’t not know if there has ever been such a wide discrepancy in this country in the past. It is something the National Observatory is trying to find out,» said Lalas, adding that it could be an indication of the extreme weather conditions expected not only in Greece but around the Mediterranean. Meteorologist Dimitris Ziakopoulos, head of the National Weather Bureau’s forecasting service, told Kathimerini that last month in Kastoria, northern Greece, the mercury dropped to -22.8C, breaking the 1988 record of 18.6; in Florina it went down to -21 (previous record -17), in Trikala to -20.4, Larissa -20.2 and Thessaloniki to -9.8 degrees. In central and northern Greece, 1988 saw very low temperatures round the country, recalled Ziakopoulos. «The snow in Thessaloniki was a meter deep and the airport was closed for five days. «In Athens, last month’s weather was comparable to that of 1991, when it snowed eight times in the city. The last time snow settled in Athens was in 1992,» he said. As for the coming weeks, meteorologists say it won’t be possible to give a precise forecast for some time to come. Low temperatures will prevail until Monday at least, particularly in eastern and southern Greece, with strong northerly winds and continued snowfall, which will even reach southern coastal areas, where snow falls in January only once every three to five years. This even applies to the lower altitudes on Crete and the islands of the Dodecanese and Cyclades. Water board looking to fill reservoirs when ice melts The Athens Water Company (EYDAP) is now more confident that water shortages will be less acute, given that about 100 million cubic meters of water have flowed into reservoirs since December 1. EYDAP’s reservoirs now hold 447.53 million cubic meters of water, compared to 716.64 million in 2000 and 969.01 million in 1985. However, company officials told Kathimerini that unless the Evinos, Mornos and Yliki catchment dams receive another 400 million cubic meters – the average annual amount consumed, it was too soon to rest easy. EYDAP representatives say, nevertheless, that we are far better off than last year and hope that rain and snow will continue to fall around the catchment areas, particularly Evinos and Mornos, since the Yliki Dam loses huge quantities of water through swallow-holes if the water level rises above a certain point. Last year was the worst ever for inflows of water reserves to the catchment areas, which increased in volume by only 200 million cubic meters.