In large parts of the Alps, no significant snow has fallen since the end of 2019. Exception are the pre alps of Austria where another 10-50 cm of fresh snow fell last weekend . The cause of this dry spell ais a powerful belt of high pressure areas that keep storms at bay. The dry spell will continue in the coming week, but it is possible that from 17 January we might see significant snow again. In this post:
The jet stream is a strong upper wind which is the result of hot and cold air types colliding. For us powder addicts the polar jet stream is important. The polar jet stream marks the boundary between cold air from the north and warm air from the subtropics. In the summer months this polar jet stream lays usually very northern, in the winter months usually around our mid latitudes.
But the last couple of weeks, the polar jet stream is constantly way up north, which is unusual for the time of year. A situation reminiscent of the dramatic start of winter 2015-2016. Winter started with a huge lack of snow but just before Christmas I was able to give you some hope with this post.
Due to the northerly location of the polar jet stream, storms and cold air in the Alps are lacking. And according to the current calculations, that remains so until at least January 17th. (see this jet stream animation).
Due to the lack of cold air and storms it is fairly mild and way to dry in the Alps. The weak front that touches the Alps for the next 24 hours will make no significant change. A dusting of snow for the northwest is expected with an average of 2-5 cm of fresh snow and locally maybe 15 cm.
Komend weekend neemt hogedruk het roer weer over. Fronten blijven daarmee op afstand en het wordt wederom mild. Een langgerekt hogedrukgebied strekt zich uit over het midden van Europa en stormen worden gedwongen koers te zetten naar Scandinavië.
This weekend, high pressure will take over again. Fronts remain at a distance and it becomes mild again. An elongated high-pressure area extends over the middle of Europe and storms are forced to set course for Scandinavia.
The mild and dry weather continues at the start of the new week. Admittedly, storms are making some attempts to send some fronts towards the Alps, but due to the high pressure, they are losing power and their influence is limited to some overcast in the valleys and some higher cloud cover in the higher atmosphere. All in all fine weather to go touring.
It may have been dry for a long time, but there is definitely still untracked powder to be found. The conditions to venture deeper into the backcountry are ideal now because:
Ideal again to go out skitouring or splitboarding. In short: earn your turns!
In times of drought, every straw is used to see snow in the future. The new hype is the Polar Vortex. When I did my prediction in 2015 you didn't hear anyone about the Polar Vortex, now social media is full with it. A new hype?
A hype for sure, but the Polar Vortex is not new and already existed even before Facebook came to birth. The Polar Vortex is actually nothing but a very large low-pressure area around or near one of the Earth's poles, which stays in the same place for a long time. As a result, cold air fails to settle to lower lattitudes. Although very persistent, such situations usually do not last longer than 45-60 days. The current situation with a strong Polar Vortex has been dominating the weather since mid-December, but when the situation will come to an end is difficult to predict and even the real experts do not dare to make a prediction at this time. Everything is possible at the moment.
A strong Polar Vortex or not, even then we occasionally see a cheerful twist in the jet stream. At this time, various models indicate snow for the Alps for the January 17-20 period. The underlying reason is a high-pressure area that appears to settle above Scandinavia. If this happens, storms can no longer rage over Scandinavia, but will have to go up (via Spitsbergen) or down (via the Alps). At present, the latter is preferred in the majority of weather models. What will to outcome in the end is something we will see it in the coming days.
Should the snow really come, this will surely cause a lot of powder pabic. But fresh snow on an old snow layer also guarantees problems. In case of new snow, take a rapidly rising avalanche danger into account. To prepare yourself already, it might be a good idea to refresh your knowledge with our Mountain Academy.
A new update tomorrow. Depending on the forecast models, this will be in short form under this post or as a new article.
Last but not least, I want to ask you to read and where possible support Erik Bulckens' dream. Erik Bulckens is a cinematographer, documentary maker and powder fanatic. Thanks to wePowder, he has been scoring powder for years. His dream is to make a movie documentary about the people behind wePowder. For that, Erik needs your help. You can read all about it here: read here. Do you help Erik make his dream come true? Thank you very much for your help!
Happy touring dit weekend! Stay stoked.