Cold air has made its way across much of Europe over the past week bringing snow to many parts. The snow was probably most welcome when it made its way across the Alps, finally allowing the long awaited ski-season there to get underway.

The wintry weather has since dug further south. It now extends across the Balkans into Greece, Turkey and the Hungarian Plain.

There has been widespread travel disruption in Greece with snow forcing the closure of several roads, especially in the north and over the central mountains. Athens hasn’t been as badly affected, but there has been a healthy dusting of snow across the nation’s capital.

The chilly conditions set in on Monday prompting the National Observatory of Athens to issue coldness alerts. Since then temperatures have struggled to reach 5 Celsius by day with overnight lows around 2 degrees.

Athens usually has top temperatures nearer 15 Celsius in December. Night time values normally fall back to around 8 degrees.

The number of people living on the streets has increased by around 25 per cent in the last two years due to the economic crisis and government austerity policy. This extreme cold has prompted the Greek government to open 24-hour heated shelters for the homeless.

The cold snap, which has also brought gale-force winds to the north of the Ionian and Aegean seas, is expected to begin abating by the start of the New Year. Temperatures should creep back up to around 12 or 13 degrees by the weekend.

Source: Al Jazeera