No white Christmas for the northern Alps?


By meteomorris on 12 December 2016 · 6

It is snowing lightly right now in Austria, but it's not much. Should you start worrying if you've booked a Christmas holdiday in Austria? Get ready for white ribbons through a brown landscape. But you can also find a decent snowpack above 2000 meters on the border of Switzerland and Italy and France and Italy. A group of wePowder members found great snow in Val d'Isère last weekend. But back to the question: should we worry about a white Christmas in the northern Alps? I don't know, I simply don't. It's still twelve days till Christmas eve and that's too far ahead to say something reliable. In this forecast:

  • Why doesn't it snow?
  • But it's snowing in the north of Austria today?
  • No white Christmas for the northern Alps?
  • Will the redemption come from the south?

Why doesn't it snow?

The Alps are dealing with a high pressure area for two weeks now. First it was high pressure area Uwe and right now Wolgang and Valentin are dominating the weather in the Alps.

High pressure galore
High pressure galore

High pressure results in a dropping air flow. There's less humidity in the air and temperatures rise. This results in cold and clear nights, but also in sunny days with mild temperatures on the peaks. The valleys are filled with cold air that can't escape from the valleys because of the fog.

If there is snow on the peaks and the weather is great, you could always find some great snow somewhere. But that snow has to be there. And that's not what's happening right now.

But it's snowing in the north of Austria today?

That's correct. Cold air is moving south at the eastern flanks of the high pressure area. It hits the north side of the Austrian Alps. It's snowing a bit in large parts of Austria and you can expect 5-10 cm. That's great eye candy, because everything is better than brown alpine meadows. Don't get too stoked though. It's nothing more than eye candy and with the sun coming out again tomorrow, the snow will disappear pretty soon, leaving us with those white ribbons again.

Snow in Saalbach
Snow in Saalbach

Clouds in the north of Austria
Clouds in the north of Austria

No white Christmas for the northern Alps?

It's still 12 days until Christmas Eve, or 288 hours until it's Christmas. The weather models will come up with 48 runs during that period and that offers a time frame to change something. But... right now the models aren't that optimistic. High pressure will keep dominating the weather in the northern Alps.

From an optimistic point of view you can say that the models aren't that reliable for the long term. They are normally right in 4 out of 10 cases when it comes to forecasts for ten days ahead. On the other hand we have to deal with high pressure. It's a phase with less dynamics and the forecasts are more reliable in such a phase than in a phase with storm depressions.

One more thing about such high pressure blockades. Although they're doing research on this subject for years, it's not clear how they come into being, why they hang out there for such a long time, and why they leave without further notice. We simply do not exactly know what's needed to make such a blockade disappear. There's nothing else we can do than staring at the maps and simply pray for snow.

Will the redemption come from the south?

In that respect the American model offers hope. That model is hinting on a disruption coming from the south for three days now. A low pressure area should form over Spain and this will create a current from the southeast between the high pressure area above the Alps and the low pressure area above Spain. In this scenario, extremely cold air coming from the continent will fill the Italian Po Valley. There's lots of humidity in that region and the current will pick up extra moisture in the Adriatic Sea. This combination of cold air and moisture will hit the mountains at the border of Italy and France and the mountains at the border of Italy and Switzerland. Jackpot.

current from the southeast
current from the southeast

Check out this image again. You can see the clouds hitting the Alps in the north of Austria (and bringing some snow today), but you can also see the persistent fog in the Po Valley.

Fog in the Po Valley
Fog in the Po Valley

Well, it's a scenario that might unfold in a week. It's highly uncertain, but I'll keep a close eye on it. If this scenario becomes reality it will snow again in the resorts that already got a decent base. Too bad for the resorts north of the main alpine ridge in Austria and Switzerland, but Italy might be the place where you could listen to that evergreen from WHAM! We'll see what will happen.

In short... keep doing your snow dance. There are rumors that the frequency waves of snow dancing freeriders are a major factor in breaking through a high-pressure blockade. There is no evidence that this is true, but it is not proven that it doesn't work either. Until then, I keep on dancing. Will you join me?

Stay stoked. Morris

Comments


  • cathleics
    cathleics op 12 December 2016 · 15:56
    I really hope there is snow next week. All the forecasts say sunny and dry for La Plagne apart from j2ski.com and they are showing snow showers from Saturday for a few days. What do they know that everyone else doesn't??!!
  • beardski
    Tourist
    beardski op 12 December 2016 · 17:49
    Based in Zürs for the winterseason 16/17 and ski arlberg needs some snow too haha. Much sun and perfect "fake" snow conditions, but no powder. So I'll do the snowdance
  • tch
    tch op 12 December 2016 · 17:55
    At least the forecast for pirineo is a bit better, last year was a total disaster there.
  • Muehlbach
    Advanced
    Muehlbach op 13 December 2016 · 08:27
    q
    "Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads." - - - "There is no skiing without apres-ski. Fairly futile exercise if not followed by getting hammered in a bar."
  • Muehlbach
    Advanced
    Muehlbach op 13 December 2016 · 08:29


    We're all slowly getting used to ribbon skiing at Christmas... will settle for eye candy during the Christmas holidays if only that! At least it continues to be cracking cold so the runs will be in super shape. Our destination is San Vigilio di Marebbe in South Tyrol - the country of snowgun perfection 😉
    "Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads." - - - "There is no skiing without apres-ski. Fairly futile exercise if not followed by getting hammered in a bar."
  • meteomorris
    Tourist
    meteomorris op 13 December 2016 · 14:03
    @tch you are right. The Pyrenees East will get some next week.
    May the powder be with you.

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