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Alpine Winter 2011-12 Look Ahead

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This is the first in a series of blogs looking at the Snow and Skiing conditions for the Alps for winter 2011-12.

A cursory look at the webcams across the Alps will show that snow levels are currently on recent at this early stage, and that temps over the Alps have been milder than normal so far in November.

As an example the following table shows maximum temps for Zermatt (1600m - Switzerland) and Salzburg (450m - Austria), this only gives a snapshot, but it can be seen that Temps are milder in 2011 than in both 2010 and 2009, and it is unusual that there has been a cold snap recently.

[attachment=123366:Winter Temps.JPG] <- Table with temps of Zermatt and Salzburg.

Synoptically can this be explained, firstly if we were to look at this years patterns, this gives the 850Hpa temps across Europe and the wind direction.

[attachment=123368:GFS 01 Nov.png] [attachment=123369:GFS 02 Nov.png][attachment=123370:GFS 03 Nov.png] [attachment=123371:GFS 04 Nov.png] [attachment=123372:GFS 05 Nov.png] [attachment=123373:GFS 06 Nov.png]
[attachment=123374:GFS 07 Nov.png] [attachment=123375:GFS 08 Nov.png] [attachment=123376:GFS 09 Nov.png]
[attachment=123377:GFS 10 Nov.png] [attachment=123378:GFS 11 Nov.png] [attachment=123379:GFS 12 Nov.png]

At no time is there a wind from any northerly direction for the Alps, and for the majority of the period, 850HPA temps are above +5c, the only exception being for Eastern Austria after the 10th.

In Summary, At the start of November, there was a High Pressure over Eastern Europe with low pressure further west, and the Alps in the middle seeing mild Tropical Maritime air with South Westerly winds. By around the 5th-7th, low pressure took over for much of Continental Europe, but with winds remaining from a SW direction bringing 850Hpa temps around +10c for a while. By around the 10th, High Pressure edging back into Eastern Europe with winds edging back to a SE direction, with less mild winds trying to edge in from the South East.

If you look at previous years, there has been some colder air at different times across early November.

2010 started mild with a Bartlett style High.
[attachment=123380:Nov 4 2010 850Hpa.gif] [attachment=123381:Nov 4 2010.gif]

However winds then turned around to a Northerly direction on the 6th, this gave Polar Maritime air which lasted for a few days, giving a general cool down across the Alps.
[attachment=123382:Nov 7 2010.gif] [attachment=123383:Nov 8 2010 850Hpa.gif] [attachment=123384:Nov 10 2010 850Hpa.gif] [attachment=123385:Nov 10 2010.gif]

[attachment=123386:Matterhorn Nov 2010.jpg] [attachment=123387:Matterhorn Nov 2011.jpg] This gave a topup of snow for November 2010 as opposed to the less snowy picture for 2011, however much of the snow seen on the slope above Zermatt was delivered during the 4th-8th November.

2009 saw more of a pronounced change around over the Alps. again it started mild with a High pressure to the east bringing in southerly winds. However by the 3rd winds had changed round to a NW flow, with associated polar maritime air. It stayed quite cool for a few days, before low pressure brought NE winds and sub zero 850Hpa air.

[attachment=123395:Nov 1 2009 850 Hpa.gif] [attachment=123388:Nov 3 2009.gif]
[attachment=123389:Nov 6 2009 b.gif] [attachment=123394:Nov 6 2009 850 Hpa.gif]
[attachment=123390:Nov 9 2009.gif] [attachment=123393:Nov 9 2009 850 Hpa.gif]
[attachment=123391:Nov 12 2009.gif] [attachment=123392:Nov 12 2009 850Hpa.gif]

Even though the Alps do not require perfect weather conditions to bring cold weather and snow, indeed 0c at 850HPA will bring snow to most resorts over the Alps. It is just as vulnerable to Bartlett High and Southerly winds as the UK.

A look ahead for the rest of November prospects will follow over the next few days, and I will also post a few more webcams to show the difference between this year and previous ones on the ongoing discussion thread here. - > [url="http://forum.netweather.tv/topic/71533-alps-snow-and-weather-conditions-2011-2012"]http://forum.netweat...tions-2011-2012[/url]
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Thanks for this Julian, am looking forward to following it through the winter.

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