Extremely warm and dry December in the Alps

Extremely warm and dry December in the Alps

20 December 2015 12:00 UTC and 20 December 2014 12:00 UTC

Extremely warm and dry December in the Alps
Extremely warm and dry December in the Alps

Using Meteosat and Suomi-NPP imagery it was possible to see a major difference in alpine snow pack in December 2014 and December 2015.

Last Updated

22, October 2020

By Jochen Kerkmann (EUMETSAT) and HansPeter Roesli (Switzerland)

By the 22nd, December 2015 was well on track to become by far the warmest December on record in Germany since records began. In fact, not only in Germany, but in most European countries temperatures were well above normal, even in Moscow where the temperature stayed above 0 °C on many days in December.

Furthermore, because of the dominating high pressure system in southern Europe, up to 22 December, the month was also very dry and sunny in the Alps and Italy — except for the typical fog in the Po Valley. The lack of precipitation left the Alps without snow and contributed to the smog situation in many Italian cities.

The lack of snow in the southern Alps in December 2015 is striking. For example, in the Dolomites and in the southern French Alps no snow can be seen on the 5-km resolution Meteosat-10 images (Natural Colour RGB, Figure 1).

Before and after comparison

Image from 20 December 2015 compare1
compare2
 

Figure 1: Comparison of Meteosat-10 images illustrating the lack of snow pack on the Alps in 2015.

Suomi-NPP True Color RGB images from the same time periods also clearly show the striking absence of snow cover, in particular over the southern ridges.

Some ski resorts in the higher Alps had cold enough conditions. They were able to produce artificial snow and pave some downhill tracks with it, as seen by this photo of such artificial snow downhill tracks in the Engadin (published in the Swiss Blick newspaper).

Before and after comparison

Image from 20 December 2015 compare1
compare2
 

Figure 2: Comparison of Suomi-NPP images illustrating the lack of snow pack on the Alps in 2015.