While the US East coast is preparing for an intensifying Sandy (Jeff Masters has all the info you could possibly want), Europe is being struck by a very early cold snap. According to German meteorologist Christoph Hartmann such early snows in Germany occur every 30 to 40 years (link).*
Bulgarian news ageny Novinite has some short info about the rest of Europe:
The early first snow for the new winter has already fallen in Central Europe, tragically claiming three lives in Poland.
The three victims of deadly frostbite are men aged 50-60, one of them being a homeless person.
The heavy snowfall in southern Poland has obstructed communications, and some 70,000 people have remained without power.
The situation in neighboring Czech Republic is similar, with trains delayed, roads blocked by wet snow, and trees felled.
Northern Italy and Switzerland have also been affected by the phenomenon, caused by the so-called Cassandra cyclone.
Snow has also fallen in the northern areas of southerly Croatia on the Balkan Peninsula, with the snow cover expected to reach some 20 cm by Sunday evening.
The two images above show snow cover, the two images below show the anomaly. The snow in Central Europe is caused by a combination of frigid air from the Arctic and Cassandra, the cyclone in the Mediterranean pushing mild and moist air northwards. This seems to be confirmed by the National Weather Service of Switzerland, as explained in this swissinfo.ch article:
It said that in a few locations the record for the amount of snow in October had been broken. This included the capital, Bern, where records have been kept since 1931. It had received eight centimetres by Sunday morning. Bern’s previous record for October dates back to 1939, with seven centimetres.
The snow started on Saturday, and has continued to fall. The Swiss plateau received about ten centimetres overnight. In some places above 500-600 metres there had been up to 20 cm, MeteoSwiss said.
It explained that the air masses that reached Switzerland on the night of Saturday to Sunday had lain over the Arctic Ocean only four days before.
On this Uni Koeln SLP map we clearly see a large low-pressure area over the Novaya Zemlya region. This cyclone - that is obviously playing a big role in the early snows in Europe and western Russia - has been stationary over this area for a couple of days now. Like Wayne Davidson wrote the other day in the first winter weirdness blog post:
Lately over the Arctic Ocean cyclones have been hanging over open water. In 2 to 3 major regions. This is no accident, they are fed in a quasi stable thermal dynamic state. This prompts the creation of adjoining Anticyclones to the South of the Arctic ocean, where ideal conditions exist, especially over snow laden lands, in particular Siberia, and Northern Canada. Highs distribute higher pressure stabilizing air towards the Cyclones (by winds) in order to fill the stubborn persistent Lows. With thicker multi-year ice Cyclones had no chance to persist long, and moved quicker wherever there was lower pressure path, a dance of moving Highs and Lows ensued. Now the Lows hang out steady well "fed" by a lot of sea energy.
This animation of SLP maps from the Danish Meteorological Institute shows how the cyclone formed, weakened and reformed in the past 10 days over the Barentsz and Kara Seas (on the lower right, blue):
And on the DMI SST anomalies map we see the power source:
The waters in the Kara and Barentsz Seas are anomalously warm, and the reason they're warm is because of the retreat at breakneck speed of sea ice this melting season, adding several weeks of solar energy to be absorbed by the dark waters. These waters are now too warm to freeze over and so release heat and moisture to the atmosphere, continuously feeding the cyclone that is pushing the cold out into Europe and Western Russia.
It's not even winter yet, and we might already be seeing some of that weirdness Kevin McKinney and I warned about in August: Why Arctic sea ice shouldn't leave anyone cold. But let's not jump to conclusions and see what else happens. What starts weird, doesn't have to stay weird.
* I don't know on what data the German meteorologist is basing this average on. MeteoSchweiz has some more detailed info for the lower lying parts of Switzerland (translation by me):
Extensive snowfall in October in the lowland is a relatively rare occurence. The last two times it happened, haven't been long ago though: in 2008 and 2003. But for previous events one has to look far back into snow statistics: 1974, 1959 and 1939. The long-term average for first snow in the lowland is in the second half of November.