Undoubtedly, 2012 has seen some of the most extreme weather ever in the Balkans region. The year got off to a rough start, as blizzards at the beginning of January caused traffic disruptions and electricity, food and water supply issues. Snowdrifts of up to 3 meters (10 ft.) in height blocked more than 500 km of regional roads, prompting a state of emergency to be declared in parts of Serbia. Spans of very poor weather continued to occur throughout the month, leaving hundreds of households without power. The unprecedented amount of snow did some good only to the tourism industry.
February saw a further spread of snowfalls, with tens of thousands of people left completely cut off from the world. State of emergency was declared in entire Serbia. All schools in the country were closed for two weeks, as temperatures plunged to -30 °C (-22 °F), around 15 degrees below average. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, hundreds were left stranded on roads in a blizzard. Herzegovina region saw around half a meter (1.5 ft.) of snow, the largest amount in a century. Airports were closed down throughout the Balkans, with further problems in road, rail and river traffic. In Serbia, 22 people were reported to have lost their lives in the extreme cold.
The last week of February saw the situation in Serbia improve. The schools were reopened and the state of emergency was revoked. TGWF was told in an interview that the losses of Serbian economy due to the poor weather were estimated at around half a billion euros. The increase of temperatures, however, sparked a fear of floods. March saw the weather generally improve, with the only significant event being an unexpected blizzard in southwest Serbia because of which a bus was buried in snow.
April 1, however, saw yet another unusual weather event. Western Serbia, as well as parts of Croatia and Slovenia, saw snowfalls in mid-spring. While the amount of snow was not large enough to cause noticeable problems in towns and cities, rural areas, in which at the time some winter snow still remained, saw the situation deteriorate further. Even though the typical spring weather set in during the rest of the month, Croatian meteorologists said this April had been the warmest on record.
In the first week of May, Serbia experienced one of the warmest ever spells of weather in that time of year. Temperatures of up to 31 °C (88 °F) were classified as ‘significantly above the average’. The two-week warm spell ended abruptly, as the temperatures plummeted overnight by 15 to 20 degrees. The weather shift was accompanied with some heavy rain, which came after an extended period of dry weather. While the weather generally improved towards the end of the month, the last days of May saw extreme rain, and landspout, a form of tornado, was sighted in Belgrade.
Summer featured extreme weather too, with June declared the warmest in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 120 years, and the entire season the warmest on record in Serbia. A two-week heatwave at the beginning of July posed threat to crops and livestock, with the drought described as ‘strong to extreme’. The capital of Belgrade experienced 23 tropical nights (when temperatures exceed 25 °C/118 °F) in July, which is unprecedented. The final days of summer saw widespread wildfires, which left 16 people dead and 79 injured. Damage was estimated at around 30 million euros.
Fall was the only season which did not feature significant weather events in the Balkans this year. Temperatures remained mild and occasional rainfalls were recorded, but the measured values largely stayed within the average for the period.
Come December, the extreme weather returned. The beginning of the month saw some very heavy snow, up to half a meter (1.6 ft.) in parts of Serbia. The sudden snowfall caused an 11 km (6 mi) backup on a highway in the country’s north and people there were forced to spend a night in their cars. The Croatian capital of Zagreb saw the largest amount of snow in more than 50 years, while airports throughout the Balkans were closed down. Fortunately, weather returned to normal later on in the month.
Photo (C) Kurir/Beta