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WeatherBlog 5 2022/23 | User question and warm, windy Christmas thaw

Weather and weather data

by Lea Hartl • 12/21/2022
A user question has reached the WeatherBlog: How many days per winter is there snow in Obergurgl? Where can you find data on this? We are always happy to receive questions and especially those that we can answer to some extent! The weather is not very Christmassy, with little snow and too warm, so we prefer to think about other things and today we are looking at weather data from Obergurgl.

A brief look at the weather to do justice to the WeatherBlog's core topic despite the misery:

Christmas thaw as far as the eye can see. The cold air, which was often still hanging near the ground until the beginning of the week, has now been cleared out in many places. Temperatures in the valleys are soaring into the double digits. Today, Wednesday (21.12.22), a cold front will brush the Alps and bring cloudy conditions with intermittent precipitation in the west. It will be somewhat colder, but not really wintry. The current will then turn from southerly to westerly directions. Thursday looks to be a very windy mix of sun and cloud before a warm front arrives on Friday. It will remain very warm and windy. Snow will only fall at high altitudes in the western Alps, but there could well be some. (Snow line > 2000m unfortunately seems realistic from today's perspective). It will remain mostly dry in the Alps over the Christmas weekend. Sunday in particular looks quite sunny. It will still be (very) warm and (very) windy...

The crystal ball sees a still shaky cold front and the equally shaky return of cold air masses for the coming week. We're keeping our fingers crossed!

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Snow in Obergurgl

Simon, PG reader and occasional PG writer, was in Obergurgl and noticed that there was a graph (see gallery below) on the wall showing the development of "days with snow cover". The graph ends in winter 2016/17. Simon wanted to know if the relevant data is available somewhere to find out how the time series has progressed since then.

So, one thing at a time: Is the data available?

We can see on the graph that the data comes from the ZAMG (Austrian Meteorological Service). Since last year, most of the data collected, produced or otherwise maintained by ZAMG has been available via an online portal. At https://data.hub.zamg.ac.at/ you can find the data from the weather station in Obergurgl and download it in tabular form, among many other things. The data was made available as part of an EU regulation called the Public Sector Information Directive, or Open Data Directive. This states - more or less - that data from public bodies must be made publicly available. Before this regulation, you had to ask the ZAMG and possibly pay a little if you wanted data.

So we download a table with daily values from Obergurgl.

What kind of data is this?

The usual meteorological parameters have been measured at the station in Obergurgl since 1953. For a long time, there was an observer who was almost always on site and recorded various parameters that cannot be easily measured automatically, such as visibility. The station is now completely automatic. A human observer could perhaps record "days with snow cover" in a kind of tally sheet, but the weather station does not measure this directly. The table that we downloaded from ZAMG only shows the snow depth at the station location (this was minimally relocated in 1999 and is now 3 meters higher than before). The plot above shows the snow depth for every available day since 1953, values below 0.5 cm are gray, data gaps are white.

What do we see?

Every year is different. The variations from one winter to the next are large and we can't yet say much about the number of days with snow cover.

Next we ask ourselves: What does "TaG with snow cover" mean?

We could philosophize about this for a long time, but it boils down to the fact that you have to set a threshold value above which "snow cover" is given. In order to exclude at least the very small snowfalls that do not remain, we start with 10 cm and then count the days per winter on which there was more than 10 cm of snow according to the station data. This can of course be repeated with other threshold values. The graphs become clearer (picture on the left) and we come close to the figure discovered by Simon. (It is not clear from the image what exactly is shown there, or which threshold value was used for "snow cover present".)

What do we see here?

Hm. Still strong fluctuations from year to year. The downward trend that was indicated in Simon's picture is no longer visible. Years in which there were many days with more than 10 cm of snow are not necessarily years in which there were also many days with more snow. 1964/65, for example, is the peak year for days with more than 10cm. With more than 50cm, 1964/65 is still quite good, but with more than 100cm it is already quite far behind. 2019/20 had relatively many days with more than 10cm and more than 50cm, but hardly any with more than 100cm.

Conclusions?

Hmm.

  • Weather is not the same as climate and vice versa.

  • Variability does not equal trend, both can be present at the same time and often are.

  • Open data is good and the WeatherBlog very much welcomes the fact that this is slowly becoming the standard in many areas.

  • More snow would be nice!

A happy winter solstice and other year-end celebrations to all!

Photo gallery

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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