Today in the Alps...

Updated: Tuesday 21 October 2014 – First serious snow of the season on its way

 

The first major dump of the season is almost upon us! October snow is not unusual in the Alps, even to low levels, but what is eye-catching about this particular storm (ex-Hurricane Gonzalo) is the sheer quantity expected to fall, at least in the north-eastern quarter of the Alps.

Lech, Austria Take a close look at a very green-looking Lech valley - things are about to change, dramatically - Photo: lech-zuers.com

This morning the first weak fronts are already affecting the northern Alps with a scattering of showers and a dusting of snow above 2700m. The real fun and games begins tonight though, with the arrival of a very active cold front from the north-west. This will bring a massive drop in temperature to all parts with heavy precipitation across the northern Alps and a rain/snow limit lowering from 2500m to around 1000-1300m by dawn.

ECM model for Wednesday 22 October 2014 Classic "Nordstau" on Wednesday - the cold front has cleared the Alps and is followed by a deeply unstable polar airmass - Image: knmi.nl

Wednesday will see this early onset of winter at its peak with strong north-westerly winds bringing quasi-continuous snowfall (above 800-1200m) to the northern sides of the Alps – a blocking pattern (known in German as the “stau effect”) that can deliver serious quantities of snow. This blocking pattern will persist into Thursday, though by then the heaviest of the snow should be confined to Austria. Throughout this period the southern Alps will be less affected with the only significant snowfall confined to a few isolated border regions.

 

In the northern Alps official Austrian weather organisations are talking about 100cm of snow above 2000m between Tuesday night and Thursday (locally 150cm), with the Arlberg region (Lech, Zürs, St Anton) as likely as anywhere to be at the higher end of this scale. The northern and eastern Swiss Alps are also likely to do well with 1m or more again possible in a few favoured spots. As we move west across the northern Alps the quantities of snow will diminish, but 15-30cm (perhaps more in places) is still likely at altitude across the northern French Alps.

 

For all the intensity of this early winter blast, it won’t last, with much more clement weather conditions expected to return to most part by the end of the week. Unfortunately, it is therefore unlikely to have much significance in how early season conditions might pan out, even if some higher level slopes (at least in the north-eastern Alps) do stay white for some time to come. 

Snow forecasts and snow reports will be back in November 2014

Who got the most snow in 2013-14? - click here

 

Who got the most snow in 2013-14 in N. America? - click here

Updated: 9.30am Monday 20 October 2014 – Dump alert!

 

We’ve been banging on about it for a few days now, but the Alpine weather is about to get very interesting with the first really significant snowfall of the season expected mid-week. Read on to find out how much snow might fall…

Rettenbach glacier, Sölden, Austria The Austrian glaciers could do with more snow, and will certainly get it this week! This is the Rettenbach glacier above Sölden - Photo: foto-webcam.eu

This dramatic change in the weather is due to a blast of polar air that will displace the huge area of high pressure currently in charge of the Alps, and responsible for the summer-like conditions we saw this weekend.

 

The first (weak) cold front will reach the north-western Alps later today but the big change will come on Tuesday with a second more potent front bringing heavier precipitation and a big drop in temperature. Wednesday will see this early onset of winter peak with strong north to north-westerly winds bringing frequent and heavy snow showers across a wide swathe of the northern Alps. The southern Alps will be less affected by the snow but no one will escape the massive drop in temperature. 

Met Office pressure chart - Wednesday 22 October 2014 Surface pressure chart for Wednesday 22 October 2014, with strong north-westerly winds delivering heavy snow to the northern side of the Alps - Image: Met Office

The biggest snowfalls are expected across the central and northern Swiss Alps as well as much of Austria (away from the far south). Above 2200m these regions could easily see 60-80cm between Tuesday evening and Thursday, locally more. The northern French Alps will also see some snow but in more modest quantities – perhaps 15-40cm at similar altitudes with the heaviest falls in the Haute-Savoie.

 

As the colder air digs in on Wednesday we will also see snow to low altitudes – as low as 700m in parts of Austria but more typically 1000-1300m further west. Any snowfall will be lighter and patchier in the southern Alps with some places missing out altogether.

 

By Thursday the heaviest snow showers will be confined to the eastern Alps (Austria) with high pressure and more stable weather conditions returning to most parts by the end of the week. 

In the meantime there are 13 Alpine glaciers open for skiing today. In Austria - Hintertux, Stubai, Mölltal, Kaunertal, Pitztal, Rettenbach (Sölden) and Kitzsteinhorn (Kaprun). In Italy - Val Senales and Passo Stelvio (Cervinia opens again at the weekend). In Switzerland - Zermatt, Saas-Fee and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz. In France you can still only ski on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes, but Les 2 Alpes will open this weekend (for the half term period only).

Updated: 12pm Sunday 19 October 2014 – Still glorious, but big change next week...

 

It’s another glorious day today across the Alps, with lots of sunshine and freezing levels around or in excess of 4000m. All change next week though, with a dramatic drop in temperature and snow to 1000m in places by Wednesday.

Tuxertal, Austria Looks like summer in the Tux valley in Austria today, but it's all change next week - Photo: foto-webcam.eu

This early taste of winter will be thanks to a blast of polar air sweeping down from the north-west. It won’t last very long, but it will bring significant snow to parts of the northern and (especially) north-eastern Alps later on Tuesday and into Wednesday, with 50cm or more possible in places – for example, at altitude in the Austrian Arlberg. The southern Alps will be less affected, but it will become much colder and windier everywhere. Stay tuned for full details on Monday morning...

Updated: 9.25am Friday 17 October 2014 - Balmy weekend but snow for some mid-week…

 

It’s a damp but mild start to the day across the northern Alps with any new snow confined to the very highest slopes/glaciers. The southern Alps are brighter and this weekend promises lots of warm sunshine across the board.

Mölltal glacier, Austria Mölltal is one of seven glaciers open in Austria right now - Photo: foto-webcam.eu

Next week is shaping up to be an interesting one, but there are considerable differences between the competing forecasting models. One thing they all agree on is a breakdown of the high pressure responsible for the Indian summer conditions over the weekend and a surge of colder, unstable polar air sweeping across the Alps from the north-west. How cold and how unstable, however, remains to be seen.

 

If this morning’s ECM (European model) is to believed we will see significant snowfall across the north-eastern Alps mid-week with snow to 1200m, and 30cm+ possible  at higher elevations in, say, the Austrian Arlberg. However, there are big variations in the various forecasts this far out and we will probably need to wait until later tomorrow (Saturday) to get a better understanding of what is likely to happen. Either way it is the northern and particularly north-eastern Alps that have the greatest chance of seeing any snow.

ECM Wednesday 22 October 2014 If this chart comes off we will see significant snow across the north-eastern Alps - Image: meteociel.com

In the meantime there will be 13 Alpine glaciers open for skiing this weekend. In Austria this means Hintertux, Stubai, Mölltal, Kaunertal, Pitztal, Rettenbach (Sölden) and Kitzsteinhorn (Kaprun). In Italy you will be able to ski at Val Senales, Passo Stelvio and Cervinia (though this means skiing on the Swiss side and for the moment at weekends only). In Switzerland you can ski in Zermatt, Saas-Fee and for the first time this season on the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz, which opens tomorrow (Saturday). In France you can still only ski on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes.

Across the pond, Arapahoe Basin in Colorado wins the race to be the first US resort to open this season thanks to a mixture of natural and man-made snow. It’s only a token run though and for how long remains to be seen. 

Updated: 9.30am Thursday 16 October 2014 - Warming up

 

It’s an unsettled but increasingly warm end to the week in the Alps, with any new snow now confined to the very highest altitudes.  The weekend itself looks fabulous - if it’s sunshine and high temperatures you are after – with freezing levels soaring above 4000m.

Grossglockner, Austria View from the road up to the Grossglockner pass in the Austrian Tirol - Photo: foto-webcam.eu

The upcoming warm spell means that much of the benefit of any new snow on the glaciers will be lost and in a sense we will be back to square one. Still, nothing unusual about that at this time of year and there are signs that further snowfalls may affect parts of the Alps (at least at high altitude) later in the month.

 

So the forecast for today is for a few early showers across the north-western Alps (snow above 3100m) with the best of any sunshine in the south. Tonight a band of rain will move east affecting mostly the northern Alps with snow only above 3000m. This rain will linger across the northern and particularly eastern Alps tomorrow with the best of any brightness again in the south.

The weekend looks warm and sunny just about everywhere with maximum temperatures as high as 25°C in Innsbruck and 18°C in St Moritz and Zermatt. The Indian summer should last until next Tuesday at least.

Updated: 10am Wednesday 15 October 2014 - Further dustings before a return to summer this weekend

 

There was another dusting of snow last night across some of the Alpine glaciers, including here on the Rettenbach above Sölden in Austria. However, it is the western resorts of Tignes, Saas-Fee and Zermatt that are in the best shape for now.

Sölden, Austria A dusting of snow for the Rettenbach glacier above Sölden last night – Photo: soelden.com

It will remain rather unsettled over the next couple of days with a few showers here and there (particularly on Thursday night) and further dustings of snow at high altitude.  By the weekend, however, it should become sunny and very warm (for the time of year) right across the Alps with any unconsolidated new snow below 3000m quickly disappearing.

Grande Motte glacier, Tignes, France The glaciers of the western Alps offer the best conditions right now, this is the Grande Motte above Tignes – Photo: tignes.net

You can currently ski on 12 Alpine glaciers. In Austria, this means the Kitzsteinhorn (Kaprun), StubaiMölltalKaunertalPitztalRettenbach (Sölden) and Hintertux. In Italy you can ski at Passo Stelvio and Val Senales. In Switzerland you can ski at Zermatt and Saas-Fee, and in France in Tignes. This weekend sees two more openings – Cervinia (which for the time being means skiing on the Swiss side in Zermatt) and Diavolezza near St Moritz.