Glacier Alert: snow and wind

By meteomorris on 20 October 2014 · 0

I just grabbed the first sentences of yesterday's forecast. 'Let's start the season with some warnings. This is the first significant dump for the northern Alps. There is no base at all and even on the glaciers the snow is scarce. This is a low pressure area that will pass rapidly, with lots of wind and a high pressure area right after it.' And the wind will kick in. Big time. Check out this link for an animation of the wind (Earthschool is another amazing project to see what's possible with data) or check out this image.

Force 11 and higher!

There will be a storm in the Alps. Force 11 and more on the highest peaks. The wind will kick in in the main alpine ridge and south of it between Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning. You can expect gusts of wind of 130 km/h and higher. Now that's what we call wind. This is the result of some teamwork between former hurricane Gonzalo and storm depression Noa a and a fast advancing high pressure area from the Azores. The isobaric lines are pushed against each with huge force (because of the teamwork of Gonzalo and Noa on the right and the incoming high pressure area on the left) and the pressure differences will be immense. The result: wind. Mindblowing wind. Add the orographic features of the Alps, Rhone Valley and the Po Valley and you probably can guess the result. Yes, snow, but also....wind.

Gonzalo and Noa are ready to rock 'n roll!
Gonzalo and Noa are ready to rock 'n roll!

Allright, that was plenty of info about the wind, now it's time to look at the snow. Noa 1 and Gonzalo are pushing cold arctic air from the north down south. The jet stream is pushing this air like there will be no tomorrow. In the cold and unstable air arise multiple cold fronts (the blue lines on the map) and these fronts will be slowed down and forced to rise by the Alps (that literally form a wall). In such situations (in this case a northern stau) the clouds will drop all there snow in the northern Alps and a warm Föhn wind will blow in the southern Alps. This is something you can always check yourself in the so-called 'Föhn-diagram'

Classic northern Föhn
Classic northern Föhn

Is there a base?

No, there is something you could call a base with some fantasy on the glaciers. It's already pretty busy there because they hosts racers and tourist who want to enjoy some snow in October. And obviously they did all they could to create the best conditions possible. But perfect conditions? Far from that. Anyway, a dump like this is great for the stoke and especially those first powder turns on the glaciers in Austria. Some glaciers have a valley run where you ride on grass and a few rocks. 30-50 centimeters of freshies is enough for those runs to give you a powder feeling. Especially because there usually is less wind in the valleys during a northern stau. But don't bring your new skis or snowboard on these days. Because you definitely will hit something. Stay on the marked slopes as well. When you leave the marked slopes on glaciers....well, you probably know the risks.

Freshies for Austria
Freshies for Austria

Does it make sense to go?

From an emotional point of view: Yes! From a rational point of view: save your money for later in the season. But if you don't go, I'll bet you'll think again when you look at the first images that will come in on Thursday and Friday. So be it...But if you'll decide to ride some powder: stay on the marked slopes because of the crevasses.

Winter for a while

It probably will feel awesome to feel the snow underneath your feet after two warm months. And you don't even have to go to high altitude for that. The snow line will drop to 800 meters in Austria and the temperature will drop 15-20 degrees (compared with the temperatures today). But the temperature will rise rapidly on Saturday, causing the snow line to go up and the snow will disappear from the valleys again. If you need a fix, you'll have to be fast. I'll update you tomorrow with some tips where to go. But you don't have to leave earlier than Wednesday to enjoy the freshies.

Stay stoked



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