Some snowfall, but still too warm


By Henri on 26 February 2021 · 0

Last week's temperatures in Innsbruck (zamg.ac.at)
Last week's temperatures in Innsbruck (zamg.ac.at)

During the last week, the Alps were in the middle of what you could call a winter heatwave. Many valleys got temperatures well above 15 degrees during the last 6 days and even temperatures above 20 degrees were measured in some valleys. The high concentrations of Saharan dust in the air made the sky hazy and prevented the occurrence of more record-breaking temperatures.

Last warm day

Laax (roundshot.com)
Laax (roundshot.com)

Today is the last day of this crazy warm period for the Northern Alps. Once again, temperatures up to 18 or even 20 degrees are possible. The sky is clearer because there is less Saharan dust in the air compared to the last days. The webcam image of Laax shows that the last week was very dry. To find some powder you would have to go higher up on the northern faced slopes, because on all the other slopes it’s spring skiing in February. It would be good to have some fresh snow, but apart from some snow in the next 24 hours for the Northern Alps it is likely that it will stay dry until the end of next week.

Approaching cold front

Cold front with snow (wetter3.de, DWD)
Cold front with snow (wetter3.de, DWD)

So far it’s still sunny and there are no signs of changes visible, but during the afternoon the Northwestern Alps will get the first incoming clouds. A cold front is approaching which will give some snowfall for the Northern Alps this night. The precipitation with this cold front will be mainly restricted to Austria. Large parts of Switzerland will stay dry and the more inneralpine regions of the western part of Austria will also get negligible amounts.

Snowfall this weekend
Snowfall this weekend

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In the northern regions of Austria I expect up to 10 centimeters of fresh snow during the early hours of the day. Since the cold front transports much colder air towards the Alps the snow level can drop to about 800 to 1000 meters. After a cloudy and snowy morning it will rapidly clear up during the afternoon and temperatures of about 10 degrees can be reached. The temperature at higher elevations is much lower than the days before due to the passage of the cold front. On top of that, a fairly strong northerly wind will let the wind chill drop as well.

Due to the northerly flow and an increasing pressure gradient a North Föhn setting will develop today and tomorrow. With this föhn, the Southern Alps will see temperatures up to 20 degrees tomorrow. Directly after this föhn event there is some snow possible for the region of Piedmont during Saturday night, but it won’t be more than a few centimeters above 1500 meters.

Again warm and sunny

Dominant high pressure (wetter3.de, DWD)
Dominant high pressure (wetter3.de, DWD)

On Sunday, on the northern side of the Alps the temperatures will slowly rise again up to 12 to 15 degrees. It will be a bit colder than this week, especially higher up, but we’re still far from winter conditions. From Monday on the temperatures at higher altitudes will increase again and I expect on a large scale maximum temperatures of above 15 degrees. We again have to deal with strong high pressure above Central-Europe. The first signs of a changing weather pattern are by the end of next week. So we have to be very patient for the winter to come back.

Avalanche danger

Old snow problem & high temperatures (S. Fröhlich, SLF.ch)
Old snow problem & high temperatures (S. Fröhlich, SLF.ch)

Despite the fact that we will see lower temperatures during the weekend, there is still a considerable risk for wet snow avalanches, like in the last few days. Especially the southerly faced steep slopes are affected by this. In regions on the Northern side of the Alps with a persistent weak layer, the solar radiation is also able to trigger gliding snow avalanche which can be ultimately the trigger of these weak layers.

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