Snowy road. Credit: scharfsinn86

Parts of Europe with almost 100% snow cover

14 January 2016 12:00 UTC–18 January 12:00 UTC and 19 January

Snowy road. Credit: scharfsinn86
Snowy road. Credit: scharfsinn86

Some parts of Europe had almost 100% snow cover after wintry weather finally arrived in mid-January.

Last Updated

10 October 2023

Published on

14 January 2016

By Jochen Kerkmann and Ian Mills (EUMETSAT) and Ivan Smiljanic (DHMZ)

After a mild start to the winter many parts of Europe had heavy snowfall between 15 and 18 January.

Meteosat-10 imagery from 18 January showed that Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic were nearly 100% snow covered. Italy also got plenty of new snow in the Apennines and in Calabria (Sila Mountains). However, Hungary was mostly snow free.

 Met-10, 18 January 2016, 08:45 UTC
Figure 1: Meteosat-10 Natural Colour RGB, 18 January 08:45 UTC
 Met-10, 18 January 2016, 08:45
Figure 2: Meteosat-10 Snow RGB (tuned), 18 January 08:45

On the Meteosat-10 Snow RGB image, 18 January 08:45 UTC (Figure 2), the red is snow, orange is ice clouds and white is low level water clouds. On the Natural Colour RGB (Figure 1) the snow appears as cyan.

The cold outbreak associated with the snow can be seen in the Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB animation, 14 January 12:00 UTC–18 January 12:00 UTC. A long, although not very deep, thermobaric trough developed initially over the Iberian peninsula and moved eastward with further elongation to the south. Even the African continent experienced this cold outbreak. The pressure drop was not very much, but the cold temperature advection was prominent, bringing the very cold conditions to many parts of Europe.

Connected to this trough was cyclogenesis over the Tyrrthenian Sea on 16 January. The cyclone intensified quickly and moved towards southern Greece, causing the snowfalls in the Balkan area.

The RGB imagery contrasts greatly with imagery taken in December, which showed a distinct lack of snowfall over the Alps. See the case study Extremely warm and dry December in the Alps.

 Met-10 Day Microphysics RGB image, 15 January 12:00 UTC
Figure 3: Meteosat-10 Day Microphysics RGB, 15 January 12:00 UTC

As the weather also turned a little wintry over the UK lying snow could be seen Day Microphysics RGB image, 15 January 12:00 UTC (Figure 3), although usually appearing as orange (see Figure 2), on this image due to low sunlight snow appeared as a more purple colour.

Snow could be seen on the high ground of west and central Scotland just sticking out from the cloud covering the north. Over England snow could be seen over the Lake District, the Pennines, western Yorkshire and on Dartmoor. The high ground of Wales was well covered.

19 January

 Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 19 January 09:00 UTC
Figure 4: Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 19 January 09:00 UTC

The Meteosat-10 Natural Colour RGB from 09:00 UTC (Figure 4) shows that Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania also received a lot of snow in the previous days. In particular, relatively thick snow can be seen in Romania and Bulgaria, in the area of the Danube valley (intense cyan colour). Also the area around Istanbul (Turkey) is snow covered.

27 January

 Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 27 January 09:00 UTC
Figure 5: Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 27 January 09:00 UTC

While the snow in Central Europe had already melted, the cold air arrived in Turkey and the Middle East towards the end of the month. The Natural Colour RGB from 27 January, 09:00 UTC (Figure 5), shows large parts of Turkey were snow covered. Snow can also be seen in western Syria and on the Lebanese mountains. Note, also, the convective rain showers over northern Egypt and adjacent Sea, which developed in the cold, polar airmass that covered the Middle East on 27 January.

Additional content

Snow heights map for 19 January (Credit: Wetter Online)
Meter high snow in the Black Forest (Wetter Online — in German)