Dec 2, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Winter starts frigid in western Europe amid energy crunch

Picture of projected temperature anomalies, some look green and some look red

Projected temperature anomalies through early December. (

Across a large swath of Europe, from Scandinavia to the U.K. south into France, Spain and Germany, temperatures have been unusually cold as winter gets underway, and they're about to plunge further.

Why it matters: The cold snap is the opposite of what policymakers have been hoping for, given that Europe entered the 2021-22 winter season with the least amount of natural gas on hand in at least a decade.

  • The colder-than-average weather has further raised energy prices and put a spotlight on the flow of Russian natural gas into Western Europe.

Details: Scandinavia lies at the epicenter of the cold snap, with temperatures dipping as low as -35°F in Sweden. Computer model projections show the cold intensifying into the weekend, with reinforcing waves spilling south and west, affecting more heavily populated countries.

Yes, but: There are some signs, however, that by mid-to-late December, temperatures will moderate back to seasonable levels.

Context: According to S&P, citing data from Gas Infrastructure Europe, gas storage sites in the EU and U.K. were just 68.5% full as of Nov. 29, compared with a level of almost 89% at the same time last year.

What they're saying: "Given that the overall level of storage was low going into the withdrawal season, this is a really bad sign for Europe," Nikos Tsafos of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Axios via email. "A mild winter has been our best hope to avoid a tight situation this winter."

  • "If this trendline continues, we are headed from a crunch to a crisis."
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