Severe snow storms in the U.S. and flooding in Britain is causing havoc for families and businesses, while Germany and France are enjoying exceptionally mild temperatures. Hayley Platt talks to meteorologists to find out what's behind the extreme variations and if this is the pattern we should get used to.
REPORTER: England's green and pleasant land - now under several inches of water. High tides and strong winds have caused severe flooding and there's more expected. Roads and rivers have merged as river banks burst, and people have been told to remain vigilant. Britain's Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
BRITISH ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY, OWEN PATERSON: "I would appeal to everyone to keep in very close touch with the warnings which are being put out on a regular basis by the Environment Agency, to pay heed to them as these floods and the coast will be dangerous."
REPORTER: Britain has been told to brace itself for another series of devastating storms. On Friday the UK's Environment Agency issued 10 severe weather warnings, indicating a possible risk to life. The exceptional weather conditions are also taking their toll on British businesses. Bad weather in the run up to Christmas has already been blamed for keeping shoppers away from UK High Streets. And according to MeteoGroup's senior meteorologist, Matt Dobson, it could become a familiar pattern.
MATT DOBSON, SENIOR METEOROLOGIST, METEOGROUP: "It's all down to a phenomenon called the jet stream, it's basically a narrow ribbon of strong winds, around 5-7 miles above the surface, and it's always there really, blowing across the Atlantic from America to the UK but it does vary in strength and direction and these changes and fluctuations in the jet stream affect our weather."
REPORTER: While the UK is being battered by floods, the U.S. is experiencing severe snow storms. Planes at Boston's Logan airport were grounded, disrupting travel for hundreds of passengers. In all, around 1,500 U.S. flights have been cancelled and almost double that delayed. The severe weather is also having an impact on energy prices. Canadian crude hit a five-month high on Thursday on concerns that production could be disrupted. And Nymex gas futures were 9 cents higher on Thursday, traders anticipating higher demand for heating as temperatures drop in the U.S. early next week. In contrast, energy prices were easing as the weather in parts of Europe such as Germany, France and Italy is much milder than expected.
MATT DOBSON, SENIOR METEOROLOGIST, METEOGROUP: "Because we've got this very strong westerly jet stream blowing across the UK, it's tending to draw a lot of warm air up from the Mediterranean and also from further afield such as the tropical Atlantic, so lots of warm air moving up across Spain into Italy and into parts of south eastern Europe."
REPORTER: While severe weather conditions are becoming more the norm there's little anyone can do to prevent them. And the current spate of bad weather could, according to the most pessimistic forecasts, last throughout the month.
It was 12.8° at 6.30am here in Le Havre this morning, exceptionally mild for January.