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WeatherBlog 8 2021/22 | Waiting for the rain

Spring in winter

by Lea Hartl 12/29/2021
We don't have much to add to the oracle and his current rain alarm today. The weather in the Alpine region is not particularly pleasant, although the temperatures are certainly spectacular. From Thursday afternoon it will be less wet, but even warmer. The weather is expected to cool down at the beginning of next week.

Current situation and outlook

We are in a westerly flow that will bring strong winds and precipitation. Today, Wednesday, a warm front will move across the Alps, see the powder and rain alerts. It will be very stormy and uncomfortable on the northern slopes of the Alps, with a very high snow line. There is a widespread avalanche risk - in the west from the early hours of the morning, further east with a marked increase over the course of the day. Wet snow is the main problem at low and medium altitudes, but dry avalanches are also to be expected at higher altitudes. All in all, a good day to stay at home, or to pretend it's May on the slopes in the rain. The south is favorable for the weather, which in this case simply means "drier".

After the front comes the warm sector and then a strong area of high pressure that will spread from west to east tomorrow, Thursday. The high will make it a little warmer again. It is likely to remain relatively windy, especially in the eastern Alps, which may disrupt the spring fever on New Year's Eve. From Monday, it will hopefully become a little more wintry again. The forecast for next week currently announces a change to north-westerly on Monday, then to northerly. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this will be the case.

The usual look at the snow depth on the Pitztal Glacier this season shows that there is now a below-average amount of snow at the station location after the long period of good weather, as the last snowfalls have settled heavily and nothing has been added for a while. It is likely to snow at this altitude during today's precipitation event, but it remains to be seen whether this will bring us back above the average curve.

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Weather capers elsewhere too

If we look at the maps in the image above, our plight in the Alps stands out on the one hand, but the situation on the west coast of the USA is also quite exciting at the moment. There is a prominent high in the northwest Pacific, which is causing the current to undulate strongly and bring a cold air outbreak with massive precipitation to almost the entire west coast. On social media, you can admire snow records in Tahoe and dusty powder in Washington. Southeast Alaska is also unusually cold for the time of year. Ketchikan, for example, experienced an extremely cold Christmas weekend by local standards. The town is located directly by the sea and usually enjoys a temperate (albeit rainy) maritime climate.

But it's a completely different story in otherwise icy Fairbanks in continental Interior Alaska. Two weeks ago, it was still well below -30 degrees here, which is pretty normal. Now, however, warm Pacific air from the south is being pumped far inland. The initial snowstorm quickly turned into rain. This in turn turned into a massive layer of ice on roads and other surfaces. Snow-covered roads in winter are common, with a little grit but no salt. The snow normally remains dry and grippy until spring, as it is so cold that it does not thaw even during the day. However, rain in the middle of winter, and then so much of it, is a disaster for traffic, as snow clearing services are not designed for it and even drivers who are used to snow and cold are not used to "warm winters" with ice and wet snow.

It is difficult to say whether rain without cold ground is preferable. After all, you don't need to be afraid of black ice at 15 degrees on New Year's Eve...

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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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