Warm autumn upsets Europe

GENEVA - Alpine ski resorts are churning out artificial snow, daisies are flowering by the Kremlin in Moscow and retailers are fretting that Europeans are simply too warm to go Christmas shopping with a record mild winter.

Butterflies have been seen in Denmark, some Nordic golf courses - usually frozen for the winter - have reopened and many farmers worry that crops are sprouting far too early and could be killed by frost.

One historian says that Europe has just had its warmest autumn in 500 years while experts say the mildness may be just a natural freak or due to greenhouse gases.

Whatever the reasons, a recent dusting of snow has been welcome at Alpine resorts, now gradually opening after long delays.

"Everybody is happy it has snowed. The whole atmosphere is more relaxed, it feels less stressed although the conditions are not perfect yet," said Joerg Romang, head of communications for the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.

Temperatures may rise again but the snow is easing fears that Christmas skiers may have to spend a snowless holiday hiking or at a spa.

In Russia, record December temperatures have kept bears from hibernating and flowers such as daisies and violets have been seen in and around the capital.

- REUTERS

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