Alpine slopes face a snow shortage during an exceptionally warm winter

GENEVA (AP) — Many of the Alps just don’t look right for this time of year. The sparse snowfall and exceptionally warm winter across much of Europe leave mountaintops covered with grass throughout the region where snow usually occurs, causing headaches for ski slope operators and alpine white lovers.

Patches of grass, rocks and dirt were visible in some European skiing meccas such as Innsbruck in Austria, Villars-sur-Ollon and Crans-Montana in Switzerland, and in Lenggries in Germany and far beyond. The scarcity of snow has revived fears about rapid temperature changes related to climate change.

In a strip stretching from France to Poland, but with the Alps in the middle, short-sleeved weather prevailed in many parts of Europe. The weather map showed that in recent days Poland was hitting daily highs in double-digit degrees Celsius – which is over 50 Fahrenheit.

This is in sharp contrast to the freezing weather and blizzards in parts of the US late last year.

Swiss forecaster MeteoSuisse pointed to some of the highest temperatures on record for this time of year. The weather station in Delemont, in the Jura Range on the border with France, has already reached a record daily average temperature of 18.1 degrees Celsius (nearly 65 Fahrenheit) on the first day of the year, more than 2-1/2 degrees Celsius higher than the previous record in January. Other cities and towns followed suit with records.

MeteoSuisse quipped on his blog, “…this turn of the new year can almost make you forget it’s the height of winter.”

The start of 2023 picked up where many countries left off: last year was the warmest year on record for both Switzerland and France. More broadly, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization says the past eight years are on track to be the eight warmest on record. Final global temperature data for 2022 will be released in mid-January.

Just outside France, the national meteorological agency Meteo France reported that 2022 ended with the warmest weather the country has ever experienced at this time of year – ending an exceptionally warm year that saw record-breaking temperatures and raging forest fires and droughts.

Meteo France says snowfall has been close to normal in the southern Alps and on slopes above 2,200 meters in the northern Alps. But snow is especially scarce at the lower altitudes of the northern Alps and the Pyrenees.

Germany also recorded unusual spring temperatures, with temperatures reaching 16 degrees Celsius (61 Fahrenheit) in parts of the country on Monday. New Year’s Eve is believed to have been the warmest December 31 since reliable records began. The German Weather Service reported readings of 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and slightly above at four weather stations in southern Germany, news agency dpa reported.


Leicester reported from Paris. Geir Moulson contributed from Berlin.

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