Remember when talking about the weather was relegated to the boring and the desperate? Lately, the weather has become, for want of a better word, interesting, although not usually in a good way.
From earthquakes and floods to extremes of temperature, it seems that natural cataclysms are becoming the new normal around the globe, and Europe is no exception.
In the last several years, we have seen images of frozen fountains in Trafalgar Square, tourists swimming in chest-high water in Venice’s St. Mark’s square, and floods in Central Europe so severe that river cruise lines lost millions of dollars last spring to canceled cruises.
Is all this mayhem from Mother Nature enough to change the way visitors plan their trips to Europe?
In the case of temperature extremes, probably not. Travelers who love wandering London and Paris off-season will likely not be deterred if all they have to do is pack an umbrella or throw on another layer of clothes.
In cases of disruptions in services, obviously, the problem is more serious.
Probably the most egregious example of recent weather upheaval was the series of volcanic eruptions from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 that created an ash cloud so pervasive and unpredictable that the impact to air travel throughout Europe was devastating. Thousands of flights were canceled, and Heathrow airport, in particular, came under fire from airline executives who protested what they perceived as precipitous closures. Meanwhile, travelers that depended on air travel to get home were stranded in Europe for days and even weeks. The subsequent eruption of Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano, which grounded several hundred flights in 2011, gave rise to concerns that we haven’t seen the last of the volcanic activity.
Fast-forward to December 2013, and we saw volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna, creating an ash cloud significant enough to force the closing of Catania airport in Sicily. Catania obviously doesn’t play as key a role in European air travel as London, but the unpredictability of the eruptions could be cause for concern, as are predictions of an unusually cold winter on tap in in Europe for at least the early part of the season.
What’s a travel agent to do in the face of ongoing climate change?
“We recommend that all clients, regardless of their destination, purchase travel insurance,” said Judi Lazoff, a Europe specialist at Travel Detailing, a travel agency in Reisterstown, MD. “In this climate, speaking figuratively and literally… it's a must.”
As to predicting the weather, “we subscribe to several weather services, and we monitor the weather happenings via TV, and the internet,” she said, adding: “… insurance companies will also have areas on their websites where you can get updates.”