For days, something has moved in the east. Pieces of Eurasian’s complex atmospheric machinery are ‘conspiring’ to make it increasingly likely that the dreaded ‘Beast from the East’ will return to the charge. That’s what they say today the main weather models of the world. It is safe? No, not even close. It is probable? Increasingly Should we be prepared? Absolutely yes. We explain why.
What is ‘the beast from the East’? It is the popular name given to a very specific phenomenon: a large mass of very cold air that originates in Russia and descends towards Europe (and Spain) radically lowering the temperatures of the entire continent. It’s not very common, but it does happen, and when it does, the consequences can be historic. The winter of 1956 is still remembered as one of the coldest in history: the culprit was ‘the Beast’. If all the pieces finally fit together, it will be the great turning point of autumn-winter.
What pieces? What has to happen for? The ‘beast from the East’ needs at least three elements: that there is significant snow cover in Russia, that the atmosphere stabilizes and that a blocking anticyclone be installed in the Baltic Sea. The explanation is simple. In the same way that when the air stabilizes in summer over the peninsula, the process that we call “Iberian oven” begins; when the air settles in winter over the great snowy plains of Russia, the “Siberian Freezer” kicks in.
That is, a sandwich of air trapped between the snow and the high levels of the atmosphere, which the low solar radiation cannot heat. It only takes a corridor between the Atlantic and Mediterranean storms for all that mass of frozen air to spread over the continent and produce historical lows. That is what, according to the outputs of the deterministic models, is increasingly likely to happen during the first days of December.
The worst case scenario At worst, (that is, if you look at what happened in 1956) nothing good. That year, Spain spent more than 20 days in sub-zero temperatures and, according to testimonies at the time, the consequences were terrible for the population and the economy. The impact on the olive grove, for example, was historic (and it is worth paying attention to this just now that the olive tree is going through very low hours).
What can we really expect? However, it does not seem likely that we will repeat such an event. At least not for now. It must be remembered, in fact, that it is not even certain that it will occur. As we always say, such long-term predictions are fraught with uncertainty. It is good to have it monitored so that it does not catch us by surprise, but there are still many days and the situation can turn around.
Furthermore, among experts, it is considered more likely that the final scenario is more similar to that of the winter of 1984-1985. It was a very cold winter, yes; but it was far from the enormous impact of the cold wave of 1956. Be that as it may, the radical change in temperatures seems more assured every hour and we are going straight from a situation that is warmer than normal to one that is much colder than what we are used to. With the energy crisis that we are experiencing, all that remains is to cross our fingers.