Dear readers,

UN chief António Guterres is a man of strong words. At the World Climate Summit he warned: “We are on the highway to climate hell – with our foot on the accelerator.” In the face of a report on the health consequences of global warming, he said: “The climate crisis is killing us.” And now, at the World Nature Summit, the began this week in Montreal, he warned: With the bottomless appetite for uncontrolled and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a “weapon of mass destruction”. The drastic words that Guterres chooses show how urgent the fight against the climate crisis is.

Many people are currently feeling this urgency. In Germany, attention is usually paid to climate issues, especially in summer. But this winter is different. On the one hand, this is due to the political calendar, in which the World Climate Conference is followed by the World Nature Summit. The many protest actions of the last generation also contribute to this.

And finally, the effects of global warming can also be clearly felt in these weeks: Autumn was very warm. And now that Christmas is approaching, many are wondering: Will it snow at Christmas? Can’t say for sure yet. But what is clear is that white Christmases are becoming increasingly rare, as Laura Beigel shows in this week’s fact check.

Fact check of the week

It’s been a while since the last nationwide white Christmas in Germany: In 2010 there was an extremely cold winter. Here is a picture from Dresden, taken on December 18th.

Will there be a white Christmas this year?

Nothing can be said about that yet. At the earliest ten days before the holidays, it can be estimated whether it will snow and whether the snow will remain, said DWD spokesman Andreas Friedrich. This is due to the “chaotic system that represents our atmosphere”. As a result, the weather can never be predicted exactly, but can only be modeled approximately. Basically, however, it can be said that white Christmases are becoming increasingly rare.

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Why?

Climate change is to blame. “The warmer temperatures mean that the average snow line is increasing,” says Friedrich. “This means that precipitation in the lowlands, in the mountain regions and at lower elevations is falling as rain more and more frequently and this means that the frequency of white Christmases continues to decrease.”

Compared to the years 1961 to 1990, the chances of a white Christmas fell by 52 percent in the period 1991 to 2020, as the DWD has calculated. The authority expects a mild winter again this time. According to initial model calculations, the average temperature could reach at least two degrees Celsius. This would make the winter one of the 33 percent of the mildest winters in the reference period 1991 to 2020.

Less snow, milder winters – what are the consequences?

The fact that the winters are getting warmer and white winter landscapes are disappearing has consequences for winter sports, for example. In order to be able to ski, artificial snow must be used on the slopes, which harms the environment. Snow also plays a role in the water balance: it replenishes the groundwater reserves, which are essential for drinking water supply and agriculture. And snow is also an important factor for the climate.

In what way?

The white snow cover has a high albedo, i.e. high reflectivity. Incident sunlight is therefore reflected by the snow, which ensures that the ground does not heat up as quickly. The smaller the snow cover, the lower the cooling effect.

Will there be no more snow at Christmas in the future?

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“Our children and grandchildren will experience a white Christmas again,” DWD spokesman Friedrich is convinced. “Maybe then only once or twice in their lives and not every ten years like now.”

Climate models such as those of the Alfred Wegener Institute predict that with global warming of two degrees Celsius in north-eastern Germany there would only be snow every 12 to 20 years for the holidays. With a warming of three degrees Celsius it would be every 20 to 50 years, with four degrees Celsius only every 50 years. If you then want to enjoy snow every Christmas day, you would have to travel to Norway, Russia or the Alps.

Infographic of the week

In almost all regions of Germany, snow falls significantly less frequently at Christmas than 50 years ago. Few exceptions prove the rule. A data analysis by the RND shows what it looks like in your region:

Consumer tip of the week

Every year we face the same problem: Christmas presents for loved ones have to come. They should bring joy – and ideally be useful. This year, rising energy prices are not only reducing the budget for gifts, but also providing inspiration. Talisa Moser has selected ten gift ideas that save energy.

The good news

"A small biological sensation": In the middle of Hanover, a real wild cat fell into a wild animal camera trap.

“A small biological sensation”: In the middle of Hanover, a real wild cat fell into a wildlife camera trap.

The European wildcat is considered to be almost extinct in Central Europe, and the population is only slowly recovering. However, hunters have now made an amazing discovery: video recordings from a camera trap show a real wild cat – in the middle of Hanover.

Current backgrounds

picture of the week

Events

Sunday, December 11, Japan: 25th anniversary of agreement to reduce greenhouse gases at the Kyoto climate summit: Delegates from 160 countries adopt an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases at the world climate conference in Kyoto, Japan. The Kyoto Protocol will come into force in 2005.

Tuesday, December 13, Kourou: The European space agency Esa wants to launch the new weather satellite Meteosat Third Generation Imager-1. It is the first of a new generation of weather satellites and is said to be significantly better at early detection and forecasting of rapidly changing weather conditions such as severe thunderstorms.

Tuesday 13 December, London: Prospective hearing in the case against two women who threw tomato soup at a van Gogh painting.

If you have any suggestions or criticism, please contact our editorial team directly: klima@rnd.de. We are looking forward to your feedback!

lasting greetings,

Anna Schughart and Laura Beigel

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