Low pressure brings heavy snow to Spain and Italy

Low pressure brings heavy snowfall to Spain and Italy

03 February 2015 00:00 UTC–07 February 15:00 UTC

Low pressure brings heavy snow to Spain and Italy
Low pressure brings heavy snow to Spain and Italy

Parts of northern Spain and northern and central Italy had very heavy snowfall in early February.

Last Updated

05, November 2020

At the southern border of a big low pressure area over Europe, a new low pressure centre developed during 3–5 February.

The evolution can be seen in the Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB animation, 03 February 2015 00:00 UTC–07 February 15:00 UTC.

 Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 3 February 12:00 UTC
Figure 1: Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 3 February 12:00 UTC

On 3/4 February the combined action of two low-pressure areas, one over the Gulf of Biscay and the other close to the Balearic Islands produced heavy snowfall over parts of Spain (Figure 1).

The areas worst affected by the snow were reported to be in Cantabria, where 40 cm reportedly fell.

The snow caused travel and transport chaos, with many trains cancelled.

The Spanish military had to be called when around 200 motorists got stranded in vehicles on the roads between Cantabria and the province of Palencia (see BBC news article linked below).

By 5 February the two centres had merged and moved close to Corsica-Sardinia, causing snowfall over many parts of Italy (Figure 2).

 Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 5 February 12:00 UTC
Figure 2: Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 5 February 12:00 UTC

Around 60 cm of snow was recorded in the mountainous Cuneo province, but lower levels were also affected.

Bologna's weather station reported that around 16 cm fell on 5 and 6 February.

Three elderly people died while shovelling snow in northern Italy.

Only a small amount of precipitation was observed along the southern side of the Alps, due to a weak foehn effect under easterly winds. Over north-eastern Italy the easterly regime induced Bora winds.

During the morning of 6 February wind speeds of 135 km/h were recorded in Trieste.

The strong pressure gradient in the MSLP field along the Alps, down to Albania, was indicative of this 'Foehn-Bora' situation.

 Suomi-NPP VIIRS Natural Colour RGB, 5 February 12:39 UTC
Figure 3: Suomi-NPP VIIRS Natural Colour RGB, 5 February 12:39 UTC.  Full resolution image

Once the cloud had cleared on 5 February, the cyan-coloured snow cover over the calamity areas mentioned above became evident, as seen on the Suomi-NPP VIIRS Natural Colour RGB image (Figure 3).

The image also shows other intriguing features:

  • Over Italy a perfectly straight snow line (not linked to terrain features) stretched from Brescia to San Marino.
  • The north to north-easterly winds manifested themselves by upwind cloud banks along the Pyrenees and the Alps.
  • Over northern Italy two decks of wave cloud were present — a higher semi-transparent one over the regions of Piedmont and Lombardy and a lower more compact one towards the Po estuary.

View the KMZ file of Suomi-NPP VIIRS Natural Colour RGB on Google Earth.


Related Content

Snow traps over 200 motorists in Spain (BBC News)
Cold weather causes chaos in Spain (Cihan News Agency)
Cold snap brings heavy snow to Italy (The Local)
Northern Italy hidden under blanket of snow (Washington Post video)
NASA Terra/MODIS image of snow cover in Spain (@MeteoGib/Twitter/NASA)

Other foehn cases

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