End of the dry spell in sight?

End of the dry spell in sight?

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:

  • Jet stream lays far North
  • Dry and (very) mild, but still powder to be found
  • Tips where to find powder
  • The Polar Vortex, a new hype?
  • End of the dry spell in sight?
  • Pre warning in case of new snowfall

Jet stream lays far North

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).

Dry and (very) mild, but still powder to be found

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.

Next week: dry and mild start

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.

Tips for scoring powder

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:

  • Due to SNOWvember and a not to bad December there is sufficient snow above the tree line
  • In the southern alps even tree runes are often still in good condition
  • The angle of the sun is low so the radiation is limited
  • Shady slopes and especially gullies and bowls are still filled with cold loose powder snow
  • There is limited avalanche danger
  • And the weather is lovely with good visibility

Ideal again to go out skitouring or splitboarding. In short: earn your turns!

The Polar Vortex, a new hype?

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.

End of the dry spell in sight??

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.

Pre warning in case of new snowfall

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.




thomaswellerAuthor9 January 2020 · 18:09

Interestingly on Jan 3 the coldest readings of the stratosphere since readings began over 40 years ago were taken in Reykjavik. So the current Arctic Oscillation (or for dramatic effect, the ´polar vortex´) is indeed quite impressive!

I guess the hype is from greater understanding of what the AO/PV is and how it affects us all. It is after all what influences how warm or cold the season will be and I for one am happy that the more people talk about this (and NAO). The more independent researchers that can communicate with each other (and on social media) the more hopefully this leads to greater understanding (and the more people are curious, perhaps they will take an interest how climate change is potentially changing the Arctic in general). But definitely sensationalist news outlets love the term Polar Vortex…sounds like massive ice tornadoes ready to explode on the land and gobble everything up in it´s path. So I for one am grateful that persons like Morris have been bringing up this topic for years now. :-)

meteomorrisAuthor10 January 2020 · 08:34

New model runs available.

Most significant changes are the following:


  • Short lived storm breakthrough from the northwest\
  • Followed by an eastern airflow with the possibility of a Genoa/Adria storm with snow and cold from the east\
  • The supply of storms from the west will be cut off with a new high-pressure area above north-western Europe, which considerably reduces the chances of significant snow for western Alps and northern Alps.

But note: these are daily rates people. Daily rates just as fluid as stock prices. Just wait quietly.

@@thomasweller, thanks. Will try to publish something extra about the PV today.

lukaŠkvarčAuthor10 January 2020 · 13:45

@@thomasweller @@meteomorris I used to follow this blog about PV and AO when I was working in power trading, it’s really good.

opisskaproAuthor11 January 2020 · 14:08

We’re going to be in Landeck Thursday to Sunday, which gives us opportunities to explore both St. Ankton and Ischgl in January, which should mean not packed. Is there a realistic chance it will snow in that area? It’s with “normal” people so it needed to be planned in advance, but a powder surprise would be a welcome one.

thomaswellerAuthor11 January 2020 · 19:18

I get the aer blog every Monday form Judah Cohen and love reading them. He’s generally been pretty reliable but this year he got stumped (as did many others) and called it kinda wrong for a mid-winter-warming event in the Arctic that woulda brought widespread cold into the mid-latitudes. But heck, he’s been pretty good in the years I’ve been following him, can´t expect 100% accuracy every time. But something is now brewing in Pacific north and may just affect us in the coming two weeks, read link below and keep fingers crossed!


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