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Weather knowledge part 4: Cold highs and inversions

Cold high and foggy soup

by Lea Hartl 12/30/2008
There is a lot of complaining at the moment in the illustrious circles of powder fans. Almost no snowflakes in sight; sun, sun and more sun. Is the umbrella bar and frustrating flirtations with bored housewives from the Ruhr really the only thing left to do between the years?
Inversion over the Bernese Oberland with halo effect (reflection of the sun)

Complaints are rife in the illustrious circles of powder enthusiasts at the moment. Almost no snowflakes in sight; sun, sun and more sun. Is the umbrella bar and frustrating flirtations with bored housewives from the Ruhr really the only thing left between the years? In contrast to summer high-pressure areas, a cold high does not extend very far vertically. When the layers of air close to the ground cool down in winter due to night-time radiation, the air pressure there rises as temperatures drop lower and lower, as cold air is denser and heavier than warm air.
Such cold highs typically form over Siberia and cause negative temperature records there. High Quentin is currently causing frosty, sunny weather in Central Europe and is getting an extra shot of ice-cold continental air from High Paolini in Russia. For us, this means trouble with forgotten face masks in the brightest sunshine and an exorbitant consumption of jelly babies to keep freezing ski course children happy. There may not be any exciting amounts of new snow, or any new snow at all, but what is already there will be preserved by the cold and those who manage to find an untracked spot will certainly enjoy the holiday sport in the mountains. With a bit of luck, you'll also enjoy the boundless freedom that is known to prevail above the clouds and you can watch the sea of high fog in the valley as it billows and - most importantly - send a few mischievous text messages to the people down in the uncomfortable gray.
At night, especially when the sky is clear and there is little wind, the air close to the ground cools down considerably due to the intense radiation and a so-called inversion layer is created: the air temperature does not decrease continuously with altitude as usual, but depending on the thickness of the layer, it is significantly colder in the lowest few hundred meters than above.
Such a layer is very stable, as the turbulent mixing of air from different altitudes is prevented. Often the same, cold soup, which becomes increasingly brownish due to a lack of exchange with the surroundings, hangs in the valleys for days, while above the haze there is the best visibility.
If there is also some moisture and the flow is favorable (in valleys open to the north or east, such as the current easterly flow), a stratiform cloud cover, so-called high fog, forms at the boundary of the inversion.
So: get out into the fresh air and don't even start complaining because it's not snowing. It's always good enough for a few photos in front of a spectacular cloud backdrop to show off to those who stayed at home, and maybe it's even fun. On that note, happy new year.

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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