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Early Spring Has Europe Worried

The stage is being set for powerful storms in Europe, due to the appearance of unseasonably warm weather there, similar to the unseasonable weather that triggered powerful storms across the eastern United States on December 16.

Europe is experiencing one of the warmest winters on record. Normal German temperatures would be around 37 degrees Fahrenheit at this time of year. Last week they reached 55 F in Berlin, the highest temperature since records started being kept there in 1908. Grenoble, France, reported a temperature of 70 F.

In Britain, flowers have opened and roses are blooming. Baby birds are being born out of season. The Royal Society for Protection of Birds said, "It is very strange for any birds to breed at the height of winter."

Strawberries are turning red in Austria. Ski resorts in France are empty. Moscow has cancelled plans to open an outdoor ice rink.

In Germany, people are not wearing their usual heavy winter coats. Birds can be heard singing in the trees, as if it was spring. At lunchtime, German workers picnic and sunbathe. In Berlin stores, winters clothes have been marked down to half price. A German TV weatherman, Jorg Kachelmann, said, "Many records that have stood for 200 years have been broken?What is most extraordinary is the length of time the warm spell has lasted."

Meanwhile, a powerful blast of cold air appears to be moving out into the north Atlantic, threatening Europe with a substantial release of atmospheric energy as it clashes with the warm air now hanging over the region. Current forecasting techniques make it impossible to tell if the warm spell will break violently in the next few days or weeks, but such an event is certainly possible.

In recent years, Europe has suffered some of its most devastating weather ever recorded, with 120 mile an hour winds sweeping the continent in 1999 and extraordinary floods occurring in Austria, Italy and Great Britain in 2000.

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