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February 04, 2020,
19:00 CET

Wind storm
January 28-30, 2020

Wind storm LOLITA
January 27, 14 UTC

Low pressure area LOLITA caused stormy winds at the French Atlantic coast and on several mountain tops around Central Europe. No severe, but still unusual high precipitation amounts in southern Germany for winter season. Up to 30 cm fresh snow in the northern Alps.

A pronounced low-pressure system over Iceland directed several high-speed low-pressure systems towards Central Europe at the end of January. While low LOLITA crossed the German-Danish border and thus also affected the southern part of Central Europe, MAREILE moved further north and mainly affected the northern part of the British Isles.

500 hPa Geopotential and Temperature, Sea level pressure, January 27-29, 2020: Wetter3

LOLITA formed in a trough over the North Atlantic Ocean west off the British Isles. Due to the southwesterly current at the front of the trough, temperatures in Germany were still very mild on 27 and 28 January, with double-digit maximum temperatures in the south of the country. As the jetstreak was located behind (west of) the trough axis, the trough increased its amplitude as it continued to propagate eastwards. This allowed humid, but also cold polar air to flow into Central Europe. With maximum temperatures of 8°C in the Rhine valley and 2 to 5°C in large parts of Bavaria, 29 January would not be classified as particularly cold climatologically, but in the current winter this was already a somewhat colder day.

Sea level pressure and fronts, 300 hPa wind and divergence, 850 hPa Temp, 6h precipitation, January 29, Source: Wetter3

As the intensity of the precipitation on 28 January peaked (more than 25 mm/24h at severeal stations in southern Germany and at the North Sea), the aggregate state of the precipitation became of interest on 29 January due to the influence of the cold polar air. In the north of Germany the snow line dropped to 500 m, in the south only to about 750 m. With 20 to 25 cm of fresh snow within 24 hours, the most significant amounts of snow fell on the north side of the Alps, which, when exposed to northwesterly air flow, provide a good pattern for orographic rain. Snowfall also occurred in the Black Forest, the station on Feldberg reported 12 cm of new snow, in the northern Black Forest up to 10 cm (Freudenstadt).

Satellite image Alps, January 27 and January 30, Source: NASA Worlview

While skiing activities in the Alps are to some extent ensured by the intensive use of snow cannons and the existence of high altitudes, the current winter season caused major problems especially for smaller skiing areas below 1000 m altitude. The short-lived snowfalls on 29 January raised hopes among many operators that they could (re)start their business. However, the slight rise of a high-pressure ridge over the Mediterranean Sea caused a zonal, partly even south-westerly flow towards Germany in the following days. Several strong low-pressure systems advected warm and humid air from the Atlantic, which resulted in temperatures around 15°C and rain reaching up to high altitudes.

Text: FS
February 04, 2020

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