Lots of snow for the northwestern Alps, but the snowline will be an issue

By Henri on 5 March 2023 · 8

Sunset at the Meilerhütte above the low-hanging clouds on the northern side (foto-webcam.eu)
Sunset at the Meilerhütte above the low-hanging clouds on the northern side (foto-webcam.eu)

The developments for next week are quite exciting. With a westerly flow, there are (huge) snow amounts in the model calculations, but to be clear: the snowline seems to become a real problem, especially from Friday on.

In this weather report:

  • Quiet start to the week
  • Snowfall from Wednesday onwards
  • Possible harsh conditions over the weekend

Quiet start to the week

From the north, cooler air is trying to move into the Alps. Currently, the regions on the northern Alpine rim are covered in clouds, but higher up and further south the day was sunny. Tomorrow, we will see more clouds coming in. In the western Alps, it will still remain sunny. In Switzerland, the inner-Alpine higher areas can still expect sunshine above the low clouds, but clouds will continue to move in from the north-west. At the same time, a developing low pressure area over northern Italy will bring some snow above 800 - 1000 metres in the eastern southern Alps.

Tuesday also remains fairly calm. In the western Alps initially still quite sunny, but with increasing clouds from the west. On the northern side of the Alps, some temporary clearings are possible due to light föhn conditions and in the eastern half of the southern Alps we will still see some sporadic snowfall. In the evening, the western Alps will get the first snow. With a maximum of 5 centimetres, it is not much for now, but the snowline will still be around or just above 1000 metres.

The Alps in the warm sector (wetter3.de, DWD)
The Alps in the warm sector (wetter3.de, DWD)

More precipitation from Wednesday onwards

On Wednesday, precipitation intensity increases in the north-western Alps, but the Alps are in a warm sector ahead of the cold front, so it is still quite mild even at higher altitudes. Winds increase significantly especially along the north-western edge of the Alps. The snowline is around 1,500 metres according to current calculations, possibly a bit higher in the evening.

I don't want to go too deeply into the precipitation distribution and amounts yet, as the weather models are still quite different. For the French Northern Alps, some 30 to 50 centimetres seem possible. As things can still shift, I will come back to this in detail tomorrow. For the areas in eastern Switzerland and Austria it is still completely uncertain how much this western circulation will yield. Of course, areas like Arlberg are more in the firing line than the eastern areas, but we still have to wait a bit. Below we see two models that still show a vastly different picture.

Precipitation amounts until Tuesday afternoon according to ICON-EU and ECMWF (kachelmannwetter.com)

Supply of mild air and precipitation from Friday (wxcharts.com)

Rain over the weekend?

The developments for after that are tough. Substantial snowfall finally seems to be on the way again, but the rising temperatures are far from ideal for the lower areas. At the moment, the snowfall only seems to clear the snow deficit in the high alpine regions. But at the same time, higher up it seems to be getting so stormy that avalanche danger will become a big issue.

The cause is an unfavourable jet stream, which brings warm and moist air from the southwest and shoots low-pressure areas at central Europe. By the end of the week, the jet stream seems to be just a little too northerly, but close enough to the Alps to provide quite a bit of precipitation. With a high-pressure area over the Iberian Peninsula, this flow is fed with warm air. In short: rain to possibly well above 2000 metres. As mentioned, things can still change because the models are not yet on the same page. Let us hope that the weather models will limit this possible water ballet for the lower areas in the coming days.

ECMWF and GFS ensembles for Geneva (wetterzentrale.de)

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  • mgcluses
    mgcluses op 5 March 2023 · 21:36
    Thanks for the update! Fingers crossed it gets a bit colder and we get dumped on.... 😃
  • theamazingpeter
    theamazingpeter op 5 March 2023 · 21:59

    Do not really understand this. It says 206 cm in Argentière during 6 days from now, starting on wednesday but nothing is sure?
  • Trapoutre
    Trapoutre op 5 March 2023 · 22:18
    Thanks Henri. This is a tough winter! Do you have the statistics of all PA of the previous years? Hopefully there is still some room for some (late) good news!
  • Henri
    Henri op 5 March 2023 · 22:31
    @theamazingpeter no it's definitely sure that the high alpine regions in the northwest, especially for example the Mont Blanc massif, will get crazy amounts of snow until the end of this week, but at the moment the question is more if this event is worth a PA. When we have a combination of a high snowline, massive snowfall and crazy winds, it could be way too risky (extremely high avalanche danger & closed lifts) higher up and pouring rain and a lack of fresh snow lower down.
  • theamazingpeter
    theamazingpeter op 5 March 2023 · 22:58
    I understand, thanks for an excellent service🤙
  • LiBTech1978
    LiBTech1978 op 7 March 2023 · 07:16
    At the moment no snow in Chamonix at all, and it’s been like this for weeks
  • LiBTech1978
    LiBTech1978 op 7 March 2023 · 07:17

    Do not really understand this. It says 206 cm in Argentière during 6 days from now, starting on wednesday but nothing is sure? theamazingpeter op 5 Mar 2023 21:59

    I understand you looking at some snow forecast it’s shows a lot of snow but later it disappears

    *message edited by LiBTech1978 op 7 Mar 2023 07:19
  • LiBTech1978
    LiBTech1978 op 7 March 2023 · 07:20

    *message edited by LiBTech1978 op 7 Mar 2023 07:21 (89% bewerkt)


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