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WeatherBlog for freeriders 19/2011 | The end of winter and the future of winter

Last WeatherBlog for freeriders 19/2011

by Lea Hartl 05/16/2011
At least I haven't missed too much skiing in the last few weeks. The snow is disappearing into the highest mountains, only the lifts are still running on the glaciers and even those will soon be closed – others may be annoyed, but when you're sitting at home waiting for broken bones to grow back together, the miserable snow conditions are a small, albeit uncooperative, consolation.

After all, I haven't missed too much skiing in the last few weeks. The snow is disappearing into the highest mountains, only the lifts are still running on the glaciers and even those will soon be closed - others may be annoyed, but when you're sitting at home waiting for broken bones to grow back together, the miserable snow conditions are a small, albeit uncooperative, consolation.

On Sunday (15.5.), "Cold Sophie" provided a bit of winter feeling with a cold front, just in time as usual. Sun worshippers and park riders got their money's worth over the past week, but now it's going to stay cloudy for a few days. With a bit of luck, there might be a few more powder turns thanks to the ice saints, but on the whole you'll have to accept the end of winter. What ski days are left now will either be on increasingly boggy kicker runs or as a hike with a particularly heavy backpack and a short, hard-earned descent.

You don't need statistics to know that last winter was too warm and too dry. April was no exception, breaking positive sunshine and negative precipitation records. It felt like winter was over before it really began.

Whether it will be a good or a bad winter is something you can never really say in advance. What is clear is that our weather is mainly determined by the Atlantic. Even the best snow hole in a dream snow situation won't get anything if the whole of Europe is cooking in high pressure. Regional and local factors become important when it starts to snow, until then large-scale pressure conditions determine what happens. These are described by the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) index, which has already been mentioned here. A positive NAO index tends to be good for Scandinavia and bad for the Alps, as low pressure areas are steered into a northerly path. Rough trends can be guessed at with the NAO index, otherwise you have to rely on country rules or be surprised.

Long-term forecasts of climate change in winter

The situation is similar for the long-term future of winters: General trend known, details uncertain. Some people have calculated that winter temperatures in the Alpine region will rise by around 4 degrees by the end of the century. Other people have done further calculations and found that these 4 degrees will leave 10% of today's average snow cover at 1000 m and below. Between 1000 m and 2000 m about half remains, at 3000 m 60-70%. While the start of the season will hardly be delayed, the snowmelt will begin 60-100 days earlier at 2500 m and 110-150 days earlier at 1000 m. You have to hope that they have all miscalculated.

Whether a winter is good or bad depends, purely objectively, on the parameters of temperature and precipitation. Logically, warming has the greatest impact at low and medium altitudes, where a difference of just a few degrees makes the difference between rain or snow. In the high mountains, on the other hand, it is not so decisive for the snow cover whether it is -14 or -10 degrees. In addition to rising temperatures, certain studies predict dry summers and winters with more precipitation. So you can cling to the hope that, although it will be difficult to go treeskiing in the long term, there will be plenty of powder far above.

If you want to be on the safe side, you should refrain from investing in ski resorts in the Allgäu as a pension plan and otherwise forget about the uncertain future until it arrives - and with that, the WeatherBlog officially goes on summer break. The next winter is almost certain to come!

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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