The chance of Christmas in the lower regions of Austria has been roughly halved in recent years, as an evaluation by ZAMG shows.
White Christmas much more common
Human memory does not always coincide with climatological data. But in the case of Christmas, feelings and dates match very well: In the past, there was a white Christmas much more often.
“For example, in the state capitals, from the climate period 1961 to 1990 to the climate period 1991 to 2020, the probability of a white Christmas decreased by 30 to 60 percent,” says Alexander Orlik of the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), “can be very rough say for the lower regions of Austria: The chance of a white Christmas has halved in the last few decades. “
Usually only white every three to six years
Even if the evaluation is not limited to December 24th, but also includes the 25th and 26th, a Christmas blanket of snow is now the exception in almost all state capitals. For the last 30 years (1991-2020), the following applies: Statistically speaking, in Vienna, Eisenstadt, St. Pölten and Linz there is only a closed snow cover at Christmas every four to six years. Bregenz, Graz and Klagenfurt are white every third year on average. The chances are best in Innsbruck and Salzburg, where, statistically speaking, Christmas is white every two to three years.
Christmas with snowflakes is even rarer
Compared to a blanket of snow that can last longer, the chance of fresh snow at Christmas is even rarer. “In the last 30 years, statistically speaking, new snow on December 24th, 25th or 26th occurred in Vienna, St. Pölten and Eisenstadt only every 10 to 15 years, in Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz and Bregenz every 6 to 8 years and in Salzburg and Innsbruck every 3 to 4 years, ”says ZAMG climatologist Orlik.
Green Christmas in places for over ten years
In the past 30 years, Christmas has quickly become greener by leaps and bounds. While there was still a fairly regular white Christmas in the 1990s, even in low areas, it has been almost non-existent since the very mild 2000s. Most of the state capitals now have the longest series of Christmas without snow on December 24th, 25th or 26th. St. Pölten has been experiencing a green Christmas throughout since 2008. In Bregenz, Linz, Graz, Klagenfurt there has been no snow for Christmas since 2011. In Vienna and Eisenstadt, a thin blanket of Christmas snow lasted in 2012. Salzburg experienced snow on December 26th, 2014 and Innsbruck on December 26th, 2020.
Natural fluctuations and climate change
ZAMG climatologist Alexander Orlik sees two reasons for the increase in green Christmas: “On the one hand, the 1960s brought many relatively cold December. This has a major impact on the Christmas statistics. From 1961 to 1965, for example, Austria was white almost every year at Christmas. In Klagenfurt there was even snow on December 24th every year from 1961 to 1971. On the other hand, the little snow at Christmas, but also clearly a consequence of global warming. December has become 1.0 to 1.5 ° C warmer in Austria since the 1950s. This has an effect on the snow situation at Christmas because it rains more often than snow at low altitudes and fallen snow melts again more quickly ”.
Christmas 1962 with 96 centimeters of snow in Innsbruck
If you are looking for Christmas snow records, you have to go back a long way in the data. The Innsbruck-Flughafen weather station holds the Christmas record of all provincial capitals with 96 centimeters of snow on December 24, 1962. The other snow records of the provincial capitals for Christmas are: 55 cm at Graz Airport on December 25, 1994, 50 cm in St. Pölten on December 24, 1969, 47 in Klagenfurt 1994 cm, 40 cm in Salzburg on December 24th, 1962, 39 cm in Eisenstadt on December 24th, 1969, 47 in Vienna Mariabrunn on December 24th, 1969, 26 cm in Bregenz on December 26th, 1969 and in Linz (airport) is the record snow depth 25 cm on December 25, 1969.
Christmas heat record in Salzburg
The cold records are also far behind. In the Austria-wide evaluation of all ZAMG weather stations below 1400 meters above sea level, the cold record is -29.0 degrees in Tamsweg (S) on the night of December 26th, 1944. 1962 was also extreme. At that time the maximum temperature (!) On December 25th in Vils (Tyrol, Reutte district) was -19.8 ° C. In Kitzbühel it was -27.9 ° C on the night of December 24th to 25th, 1962.
Almost all of the warming records come from the recent past due to global warming. The weather station at Salzburg Airport holds the Christmas heat record for all of Austria with 19.1 ° C on December 25, 2013.
Evening temperature on December 24th
If the evaluation is literally limited to “Christmas Eve”, the following Austria-wide extreme values are found for the evening temperature (7 p.m.) on December 24th: Highest temperature with 16.5 degrees in Weyer (O) in 2009 and lowest temperature with -23, 7th degree in Kitzbühel (T) in 1962.
And Christmas 2021?
There are still two weeks until Christmas and detailed weather forecasts for the holidays are not possible. It is fairly certain that a very mild weather phase is expected in the coming week. In regions where there is already a lot of snow, at least some of it WILL survive the mild weather. This generally applies to regions in the mountainous region from around 800 meters above sea level, but also to somewhat lower locations in parts of Carinthia and East Tyrol. For example, there is currently around 60 cm of snow in Dellach im Drautal, and between 30 and 40 cm in Lienz and Villach.
But there is still a little hope for the whole of Austria that after the mild next week, dying the week after next might bring colder weather again in time for Christmas.