When the name Alps is mentioned anywhere, what comes into the mind is the “skiing paradise.” Its geography and climate make snow abundant which is ideal for skiing. The Alps location and different variations yield diverse climates in varying ranges. As you plan to head to the Alps for a skiing weekend or holiday, here is everything you need to know about mountain climate in the Alps.
The main climate influencers
The central location of the Alps exposes it to a wide range of influencers. From the west, relatively mild and moist air of the Atlantic regularly washes the Alps while cold air from the Arctic sweeps from the north. Besides, continental air masses that are dry & cold in winter and hot in summer sweep the vast mountains. From the south, warm Mediterranean air flows regularly bringing some warmth in the frozen mountain.
The daily weather of the Alps is determined by the specific location, passing cyclones, and respective winds. The impact of Alps topography on winds includes forcing warmer air from lower regions to rise, expanding and losing most of the heat. The impact is rapid precipitation in the form of snow.
Temperature extremes in the Alps
The extremities of temperatures experienced in the Alps are caused by the physiography of the mountain. At the valley bottoms, it is generally drier and warmer compared to the higher areas. During winter, all sections above 5000 feet experience precipitation in the form of snow. The snow can reach between 10 to 33 feet or more in depth. Starting from 6,600 feet up in the Alps, the snow is too much and blocks access to higher sections from November to May.
On the valley floors on the areas bordering the Mediterranean, the temperatures around January and February range from 23 degrees F to 39 degrees F. The temperatures rise steadily in springs and summer. Note that temperature inversions are common during winter and falls as valleys fill with fog and stagnating air. During summer, the temperatures in areas higher than 3,300 feet can be warmer compared to lower regions because of abundant radiation.
The Foehn winds
Foehn wind that blows in the Alps can last between 2-3 days blowing in a north-south or south-north direction. The Foehn wind air mass cools adiabatically moving up the mountain towards the crest it causes precipitation and reducing the rate of cooling. If a Foehn wind descends on the dry/leeward side of the Alps, the air gets compressed, and temperature rises to a higher level at the same altitude it was when ascending. By taking the temperatures away from the higher altitude, the snow degenerates very fast.
The climate of the Alps differs greatly depending on the location, height, and respective winds. It is important to note that avalanches are very common when the winter is at the peak and snow more than 30 feet especially on the higher sections of the mountain. You should also follow the daily weather predictions to know the conditions to anticipate as you plan to go skiing.