The lack of snow in Bulgaria so far in January 2014 has mixed implications for the country, meaning losses on some fronts but savings on others.
Weather forecasters are describing this January as seeing the least snow in a decade, while the weekend of January 11 and 12 saw temperatures records set in places such as Plovdiv, which at close to 17 degrees Celsius matched a daytime high for the day last seen in the 1920s.
Because of the dry winter, more than 50 villages in Bulgaria are subject to water restrictions, local television station bTV said on January 12.
The same day, metereologist Daniel Penev told Nova Televizia that snow might be expected after January 20, especially in the mountains.
The implications of the lack of snow and rain for agriculture are a matter of divided opinion.
The unusually high daytime temperatures and lack of snow have provoked concern about the prospects for winter wheat.
Agriculture professor Nikolai Tsenov said that concerns about the relatively high temperatures were unfounded. A good harvest could be expected, he said.
But on January 10, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television quoted grain producers in Plovdiv as saying that the comparatively warm weather and lack of rain were putting crops at risk.
The industry was wary of a repeat of the 2007 situation when because of drought, nearly 70 per cent of the funds invested in the harvest were lost.
On January 11, weather forecaster Valentin Kazandzhiev told local media that the gloomy forecast was that the snowless period this winter would continue, as it had in 2006-2007.
The most optimistic forecast was that, according to a medium-term forecast, rain would begin at the start of the week of January 20. Should there be enough rain in spring and early summer, this could offset losses in the development of autumn crops, he said.
“If we get precipitation in the spring, we will quickly forget the dry winter.”
However, a January 9 report quoting professors of agriculture warned that the lack of rainfall was putting wheat and barley at risk. There was a danger of the drying out of the surface layer of soil, and these crops had a shallow root system, meaning that they did not tolerate either drought or humid conditions.
The implications of the weather for Bulgaria’s winter tourism industry are being watched particularly carefully.
On January 12, Nova Televizia said that the lack of snow was leading to closures of shops in Bansko, one of Bulgaria’s top three winter ski resorts.
Traders in Bansko were reporting earnings two to three times lower than in January 2013, according to the report.
At all major resorts – Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo – machines are being used to generate artificial snow on the ski pistes.
According to Roumen Draganov, head of the Institute for Tourism Analysis, the lack of snow had not interfered in meeting resorts’ obligations to secure normal skiing and snowboarding conditions.
“The tourism sector should highly appreciate the efforts made by the people who work in the winter resorts as their efforts are really great – in the physical, professional and financial sense,” he told local media.
Draganov told news agency Focus that the maintenance of ski runs and paths cost a lot in terms of electricity, water and labour and as the prices of services had not increased, this would be felt by the companies in the sector.
On the roads, the lack of snow has meant a saving of money on cleaning services, estimated at 8.5 million leva. However, Road Infrastructure Agency management board head Stefan Chaikov said on January 8 that payments to road cleaning maintenance companies to be on standby added up to about 15 million leva.
This saving came not only from the snowless weather but also because the official road cleaning season started later, on November 15 instead of November 1.
Should the winter continue to be mild, more money would be saved, and this would go in part towards repairing potholes in the spring, according to Chaikov.
(Photo, of Pamporovo in early January 2014: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)