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WEATHER

Germany to warn of future floods with phone alerts

Germany will issue mobile phone alerts in the future to inform citizens of impending dangers, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Monday after deadly floods prompted a rethink of the country's warning systems.

Germany to warn of future floods with phone alerts
Wreckage in Bad Münstereifel after the floods in western Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Banneyer

“Not everyone has always been enthusiastic about the idea in recent months. But I’ve decided that we’re going to do it… There is no reasonable argument against it,” Seehofer said in parliament.

At least 180 people died when severe floods pummelled western Germany over two days in mid-July, raising questions about whether enough was done to warn residents ahead of time.

Some 70 people are still missing after torrents of water ripped through entire towns and villages, destroying bridges, roads, railways and swathes of housing.

READ ALSO: German floods death reach toll reaches 180 – and dozens still missing

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Government spokeswoman Martina Fietz last week said the country’s weather warning system and mobile phone app Nina had “worked” but admitted that “our experiences with this disaster show that we need to do more and better”.

Armin Schuster, president of the German civil protection agency (BBK), called for sirens to be reinstated in more areas.

He also said the agency was considering introducing mobile phone alerts, but “a number of issues” would need to be talked through first, including the costs and data protection concerns.

READ ALSO:

The alerts would be sent using a technology known as cell broadcast, which enables local authorities to send messages to multiple mobile phone users in a particular area at the same time.

The alerts are similar to SMS messages, but can be sent and received anonymously and have the advantage of still working when networks are overloaded.

The technology is not widely used in Europe, but is common in the US and Japan.

Seehofer on Monday called for a mix of analogue and digital warnings. “The warning app is of no use if you are asleep at night and don’t hear it. The siren, in turn, is of no use on its own because it doesn’t tell people: What should they do?”

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WEATHER

‘Clear indication of climate change’: Germany logs warmest year on record

Looking at data from 2,000 measuring systems around Germany, the German Weather Service (DWD) said that 2022 marked the warmest year on record through November.

'Clear indication of climate change': Germany logs warmest year on record

“Never since 1881 has the period from January to November in Germany been so warm as in 2022,” said DWD spokesman Uwe Kirsche in a statement on Wednesday.

The average temperature for the first eleven months of 2022 was 11.3C, according to the weather service in Offenbach. The previous high was set in 2020, at 11.1C for this period. 

The temperature average for autumn alone was 10.8 degrees – an entire 2C degrees higher than it was between 1961 to 1990, which is used by meteorologists around the globe as a point of reference. 

Clear indication of climate change

The period from January to October was already the warmest on record, with an average temperature of 11.8C. For meteorologists, autumn ends with November, whereas in calendar terms, it lasts until December 21st. 

It is “a clear indication of climate change;” that the warmest October months of the last 140 years all fall in this millennium, said DWD.

READ ALSO: ‘A glimpse into our climate future’: Germany logs warmest October on record

Autumn 2022 could have easily been mistaken for summer in some regions of Germany, it said. The mercury reached the highest in Kleve on the Lower Rhine on September 5th, where temperatures soared to a sizzling 32.3C.

weather Germany september

Beach goers in Westerland, Schleswig-Holstein on September 25th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Molter

Rainy regions

The mild weather extended into November, before temperatures took a dramatic dip in many parts of the country. 

In the Oberharz am Brocken, the mercury dropped all the way to -11.6C on November 20th, the nationwide low for this autumn.

READ ALSO: Germany to see first snowfall after mild November

But despite the early warm spells, autumn was also “slightly wetter than average,” according to DWD. An average of around 205 liters of precipitation per squar metre fell across Germany.

That was about twelve percent more than in the reference period from 1961 to 1990. Compared to 1991 to 2020, the increase was about eight percent.

The Black Forest and the Alps received the most rainfall. Utzenfeld in the southern Black Forest had the highest daily precipitation in Germany with 86 litres per square meter on October 14th. In contrast, it remained very dry in the northeast. 

However, there were also a fair few bright, sunny days for people to enjoy. According to DWD, the sun shone for a good 370 hours this autumn – almost 20 percent more than in the period from 1961 to 1990 and 15 percent more than in the period from 1991 to 2020.

The North German Lowlands saw the most sun, with residents there getting a solid 400 hours of sunshine over autumn. 

Temperatures to drop this week

Just in time for the start of the meteorological winter on December 1st, temperatures will drop significantly into the low negatives in many parts of the country.

On the weekend, there is a risk of permafrost in some regions of eastern Germany. The nights will also become increasingly frosty, with snow expected in many regions by the end of the week.

Roads are expected to turn icy, but with no major snowstorms, said DWD.

READ ALSO: Will Germany see more snow this winter?

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