'Beast from the East' to bring unusual cold snap to the Alps


If you think it’s been bitterly cold this week, well, you haven’t seen anything yet. The next couple of days temperatures are expected to plunge across the Alps in a rare cold snap. The frigid airmass that has been parked over NE Europe begins pushing WSW-wards into central, southeastern and parts of western Europe. There will also be further snow, most significant across the southern Alps, but it is the cold that is creating extreme skiing conditions during the most busy ski week of the year.

The 'Bear from the East'

A high pressure system centred over Scandinavia, combined with a high pressure over the North of the Alps and a low pressure to the South of the Alps result in a bitter North-easterly winds over the Alps. The most extreme part of the cold spell- will arrive on Monday, then peak on Tuesday and Wednesday and will continue in a milder form during the remainder of the week.;

Starting Sunday, temperatures will remain below -5 degrees during the day and below -10 at night. Maximum daytime temperatures during this period are likely to be between -8°C and -10°C at 1000m, -13°C and -18°C at 2000m and -20°C and -25°C at 3000m. That will be compounded by a strong wind (25-45km/hr on average), which could cause temperatures to feel more like -20 degrees with windchill on lower elevation and between -30°C to -35°C above 3000m.

The most severe cold is forecast to concentrate in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia where temperatures of 10 to 20 degrees Celsius below normal are predicted. This week’s chill is unlikely to rival 2012’s in duration. Back then the intense cold lasted for two weeks and included three distinct periods of bise; next week’s cold snap is expected to last for five days with only one episode of bise.

Meanwhile, peak temperatures in the Arctic region over the next 5 days will be above 0°C on the North Pole. That is around 25°C above the long year average! The strong cold push into Central Europe will result in meridional N flow, advecting warm maritime airmass form the Atlantic far north into the Arctic.

With a high pressure to the North of the Alps and a lower pressure to the South of the Alps there exists very much a North-South devide in precipitation over the Alps this week. Many Northern parts of the Alps staying mainly dry, with patchy moderate snow fall at times for many Southern parts of the Alps. A lot of snow has already fallen on the eastern and southern sides of the Alps, and more snow will come down the next couple of days. The western and southern Piedmont and the Apennines have the best cards for substantial cumulative snow fall. In general, there is a lot of fresh powder snow in the far south-western Alps right now (e.g. Sestriere, Prato Nevoso, Limone). Snow has also spilled over the French border into resorts such as Val Cenis and Val d’Isère

Over the weekend, showery precipitation is developing over Central parts of the Alps on Saturday afternoon, spreading into SW areas (S Switzerland, SW Austria, N Italy and the French Alps) on Sunday and Monday.

A new storm will hit the Alps from Wednesday. The biggest chances for snow at the moment are for the southern French Alps and the south side of the Alps. Val dAllos may welcome close to one meter of fresh snow this week. Auron, Risoul, Valberg, PraLoup and Orcieres well over 70cm.

It will become a bit less cold by Thursday as a low pressure system is crossing over northern Spain. This is drawing warmer winds up from the south across the Alps. The northern Alps will definitely experience fohn conditions. In just a few days the temperature will jump more than 15 degrees.

Towards the weekend, there is a risk of widespread heavy snow fall in the southern Alps, but there is a bit of uncertainty at this moment.

If you are in Alps next week you’ll need to think about layers and covering exposed skin (invest in a buff or similar), make sure you are fully zipped up and covered before (!) leaving your hotel. Watch your children because they will cool down much more quickly than adults. And don't drink (too) much alcohol.... 

Written by skiweather on Friday February 23, 2018

Category: skiweather

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