First some snowfall, then spring-like conditions


By Henri on 15 February 2021 · 0

Cloudy and some snowfall during the evening in Lech (lechzuers.com)
Cloudy and some snowfall during the evening in Lech (lechzuers.com)

After a short but very cold period, a transition to a milder weather type in the Alps will follow in the coming days. In the long run, the weather maps look pretty spring-like, but before that happens, the Northern Alps will have to deal with two or most likely three phases of precipitation. After an arctic weekend with temperatures below -20 degrees (as above in Lech) and a lot of sun, the clouds are increasing today and it can already snow a bit on the north side in the evening.

Ice cold weekend

Last weekend, the Alps had to deal with a severe Arctic cold outbreak with very severe frost on a large scale. The night from Saturday to Sunday was the coldest night of winter in many places. In the Swiss Glattalp (a location with often extremely low temperatures due to the local topography) it became a whopping -44.4 degrees just above the snow cover. That strong cold has now passed and warmer air has reached the Alps from the west.

Soft air from the west raises the snow line tonight/tomorrow morning (wxcharts.com)
Soft air from the west raises the snow line tonight/tomorrow morning (wxcharts.com)

Snow for Austria

The forecasts on wePowder are powdered by our friends at Ortovox

This afternoon more and more dense clouds are entering the Northern Alps. In the course of the evening, some light snow may also start to fall from these clouds. In most valleys, the cold air has maintained well, so that for the time being the precipitation will fall like snow. In the course of the morning it will be inevitable that the snow line will climb towards 1000 meters. The northern areas can temporarily receive some rain up to 1500 meters. However, it will not be much, because the sun comes out quickly from the west. In total, in Tyrol and the Salzburgerland higher up, about 10 to 20 centimeters of snow can fall until tomorrow afternoon. Farther west, quantities are declining, by about 5 centimeters in eastern Switzerland. It remains dry in the Western and Southern Alps.

The second precipitation front reaches the Alps in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday (wetter3.de, DWD)
The second precipitation front reaches the Alps in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday (wetter3.de, DWD)

Again precipitation

After a reasonably sunny and mild day in the Northern and Western Alps, with only some dissolving residual clouds from the warm front in Austria, a new front with precipitation will follow tomorrow evening. I do not expect large quantities, but there may still be about 5 to 10 centimeters of snow falling with a snow line that will now be around 1200 meters. Again the sun comes out quickly in the course of Wednesday, so that the sun will also appear again. Below in the accumulation map of our model you can see what the two precipitation moments can deliver in total.

Snowfall till Wednesday
Snowfall till Wednesday

Third precipitation phase?

Uncertainty will increase somewhat from Thursday. While the GFS calculates quite a bit of snow for the northwestern Alps, the new calculations by the ECMWF and the German ICON show, for example, that precipitation will hardly reach the Alps, if at all. Should the GFS forecast become true, we could expect about 20 to 30 centimeters above 1500 meters, but according to the new calculation of the European weather model, it may even remain dry. For the time being, I think that the Northwestern Alps will certainly benefit from this precipitation, but it is something to keep an eye on.

The GFS Ensemble for Geneva with the precipitation peak this Thursday / Friday (wetterzentrale.de)
The GFS Ensemble for Geneva with the precipitation peak this Thursday / Friday (wetterzentrale.de)

Spring-like from the weekend (wxcharts.com)
Spring-like from the weekend (wxcharts.com)

Spring is coming

One thing that is a lot stronger on the maps is that it will get considerably warmer from the weekend. High pressure takes over control in Central Europe and a large portion of warm air is supplied from the south. Temperatures of towards 20 degrees are possible.

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