Hardy winter swimmers complain of warm temperatures as records tumble


While parts of northern Europe were battling with strong winds and floods over the weekend, the Czech Republic was basking in warm sunshine. In neighbouring Slovakia temperatures were so high that they brought bears out of their long winter sleep, and here there were reports of primroses coming into flower. David Vaughan reports on a weekend that saw records tumble.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK On Saturday the southern Czech town of Ceske Budejovice enjoyed the kind of weather you might expect in May, with warm sunshine and temperatures over 16 degrees Celsius. There was a similar story in much of the country, making it the warmest 8th January for well over 200 years. Just to put things into perspective, the average for this time of year is a frosty -1.

Seventy hardy swimmers in the town of Pardubice were less than happy with the weather when they gathered for their annual winter swim in the River Elbe. The problem is that usually the outside temperature is cold enough to make the river waters seem relatively warm. But that certainly wasn't the case on Saturday. While the outside temperature was about 13 degrees, the water itself remained - almost literally - freezing cold.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK In the village of Dvory nad Luznici the warm weather cost one ten-year-old boy his life, when he fell through the melting ice of the village pond. And melting snow is also causing problems in the Czech Republic's ski resorts. Luckily the snow held out for the annual 50-km cross-country race in the Jizera Mountains, but in the Beskydy to the east, most ski lifts have had to be stopped.

Fruit farmers are also concerned. If peach and apricot trees start budding too soon, there's a serious danger of them being frosted later.

So is all this the result of global warming? It's hard to say. But one thing is certain. Average temperatures in the Czech Republic have risen by over half a degree Celsius in the last hundred years.

Temperatures are set to stay warm this week, but with nothing like the extremes we saw over the weekend.