Storm Philine brings PowderAlert #15 to the Alps


By meteomorris on 11 February 2018 · 0

A very active storm named Philine is crossing the North Sea on Sunday and will send a warm front and a cold front towards the Alps. PowderAlert #15 is in effect from Monday and you can expect the avalanche danger to rise to MODERATE (3 on a scale of 5) in a lot of places in the Alps. Tuesday will be sunny and cold, but the Alps end up in warmer air with a rising snow line from Wednesday evening. Temperatures will (temporarily?) drop again at the end of this week and snow will come down into the valleys. The weather will shift a bit this week. The northwest and southeast of the Alps will get the most precipitation this week. In this forecast:

  • Storm Philine on her way to the Alps
  • Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be powder days
  • Jet stream is strong, but located a bit too far north
  • Mild temperatures from Thursday, long term uncertain

Storm Philine on her way to the Alps

Storm Philine is on her way to the Alps. A warm front (red line) enters the Alps today, causing the snow line to rise to 600 to 1200 meters. A cold front will arrive in the night to Monday and the snow line will drop again. It will start snowing in the northwest of the Alps from the French northern Alps via Switzerland towards Vorarlberg. The center of gravity can be found in the northern Swiss alpine ridge.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be powder days

At the same time, there is a storm depression developing on the south side of the Alps. The Hohe Tauern in Austria will therefore end up in a snow sandwich again, not much later it will start snowing (again) in the Alpe Adria. The sun will come out in the French Alps on Monday, but it will continue to snow in the east of the Alps. Tuesday starts sunny in the western Alps, but there may still be some clouds with some last precipitation in the east of the eastern Alps. The sun will finally starts shining over there as well. It might snow a bit in the northwest in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, but there is plenty of sunshine again on Wednesday. You can expect 20-35, locally 50 cm of fresh snow between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning. It is a classic 'cold on warm' storm in which cold snow follows after some warmer snow. The wind will be strong from time to time. Take into account that fresh wind-drifted snow will be dropped on top of a layer of surface hoar. Wind, fresh snow and a potential sliding layer will cause the avalanche danger to rise again. Therefore check your local avalanche forecast in the coming days and adjust your plans to it. You can expect the most snow in the following regions the next couple of days:

A PowderAlert will be in effect in the regions above on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Keep in mind that a new storm is waiting to hit the Alps from Wednesday and that the timing can be decisive for the quality of the snow in the western Alps (as in: the temperatures may rise already on Wednesday).

Crowded in the Alps

It will be crowded in the Alps next week. Millions of skiers and snowboarders enjoy their holidays in one of the hundreds of ski resorts in the Alps. Although it is busy, you definitely ride powder in peak season. With PowderAlert #15 in the forecast, it won't hurt reading this article about how to avoid the crowds. You can definitely ride powder, but you won't be the only one.

Jetstream on Thursday
Jetstream on Thursday

Jet stream is strong, but located a bit too far north

The jet stream is the highway that storms use to get to the Alps. It forms the separation in the atmosphere between cold polar air from the north and warm sub tropical air from the south. If the jet stream is situated north of the Alps, the Alps are in mild air. If it's situated south of the Alps, the air is too cold in the Alps. If the jet stream is just above the Alps, warm and cold air alternate rapidly. Above the calculation of the jet stream for Thursday. The Alps can be found mainly in warm air and the snow line will rise. Because there is still a lot of cold air in the valleys, you won't notice it immediately. Keep in mind that the snow line can rise to 1200-1800 meters on Thursday. Some colder air and a dropping snow line are calculated on Friday, but the weather is that dynamic right now that the reliability of the long term is not that high.

Check out the calculation of the jetstream for Saturday. It's too far north and it will be (too) warm.

Mild temperatures from Thursday, long term uncertain

The jet stream keeps on coming from the west next week and new storms will find their way to the Alps. The wind turns to the south when the new storm comes in on Wednesday and the northern Alps will temporarily have to deal with a southern Föhn (wind-drifted snow!). Thursday will be mild and what happens next is still highly uncertain. The jet stream should be situated south of the Alps according to previous calculations, although there was one run in all models that indicated some mild air coming in. The last two runs didn't look good in all models, which results in a scenario with high temperatures and rain up to high altitude.

We'll see the next couple of days how it will end up. My advice for the next couple of days:

  • Take advantage of PowderAlert #15 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
  • Thursday will be mild with lots of snow for the high alpine, but rain in the valleys
  • Prepare yourself for the worst and perhaps it won't be too bad
  • Hold your horses for later this week

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Stay stoked. Morris


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