June 2019: Dramatic Hailstorm put sailors in danger and a monster Heatwave.

May 2019 was the first month in Middle Europe for a long time which wasn’t too hot. There were some rainy days. It seemed that weather might turn in a more “normal” mode compared to 2018. This was before June. In the larger Munich area people experienced a freak hail storm on Whit Monday. There was also severe weather in other parts of Germany in the first half of June. Later the month, large parts of Europe suffered from one of the most extreme heatwaves ever recorded.

Aftermath of severe Hailstorm in Munich region

Thunderstorms and severe weather didn’t came unexpected on pentecost. Weather models showed a highly likelyhood for thunderstorms in the Alps and the Upper Bavaria region. However the events on June 10 proved again how tricky severe weather developments can be and how difficult it is to set precicely the right weather alert in motion.

Sunday, June 9, was more or less a qiet day. It was getting warmer in Upper Bavaria and other regions. There were already weather warnings issued. On Monday, June 10, the alert system of the huge lake Ammersee south-west of Munich was activated in the morning hours, but then it was quiet for most of the day. A lot of tourists enjoyed the holiday in Germany. People were swimming and sailing. Weather forecasters and and the lifeguard service were still expecting something to happen.




The weather radar showed signals getting stronger in the Allgäu and the Upland before the Alps around Kempten after noon. Here an incredibly strong cell was building up. When I checked the radar a couple of times in the early afternoon however, I couldn’t figure out which path that storm would take. I also didn’t figured out how fast this monsterstorm would move eastwards, so I was also surprised when it suddenly became really dark on this summer afternoon.

It was around 16.23pm when the orange alarm lights at the Bavarian lakes were activated again. There were still a lot of sailors out there. At one lake the lifeguard service warned people who were still swimming in the “Wörthsee” and closed the shore. 50 minutes later all hell brake loose on lake Ammersee. The Starnberger Merkur Newspaper later published a very interesting coverage.

Alex Beck, a sailor, told later the Merkur-reporters that the storm-cell was “racing”. Very soon the lifeguard service had to solve hands full over the next hours.

The same applied to firestarters and police: The thunderstorm left a path of destruction beginning in the Allgäu, hit several communities around the North side of the lake Ammersee region and also hit the west and the north of the Munich area.

Hailstorms in Upper Bavaria are not unusual. There is particularly a history for severe weather in May and around Pentecoste. What’s so unusual was the path, which was hard to predict. Big hail is often more seen in the South-East were there is even a special cloudseeding flyer unit for this problem. I didn’t find any report from a professional weather researcher, but I am sure this was a strong super-cell. Super-cells are more likely to take unusual paths.

The intensity was the other unusual fact. I experienced also strong wind gusts and smaller hail but 10 km to the north it was raining hailstones with the size of tennis balls.

Within minutes roofs very destroyed, nameless cars damaged, a motorway tunnel was set under water, greenhouses were completely destroyed and also a grocery store. It ended up in estimated damage cost of 30 Mio. Euros.

The same time people on the lake Ammersee were struggling for their lives. A couple hung on their capsized sailing boat, others were stranded and another sailor couple were only safed by their “persenning”, a cover, from the hail bombardement. They had reached a buoy but couldn’t leave their ship. Then they had to wait out the storm. At this time they experienced waves like never before according the their account in the “Starnberger Merkur” newspaper.

Another thunderstorm in June

The following weeks people began to recover from the hailstorm, settling insurance matters and repairing windows, cars and houses. There were more thunderstorms but nothing like the cell on June 10. However another extreme weather situation was already throwing a shadow.

Weather models predicted an enormorous heatwave for the second half of June. Weather services were astonished by themselves about the numbers. And the models were mostly right. Germany saw new temperature records but not the 40 degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, there were set many new records. It didn’t took long and the bushfires, which were a problem in May started, again.

France saw the worst with some over 40 degree Celsius records. The authorities had to issue a state of emergency in some areas. Particularly Southern France was affected.

The situation calmed by the end of month. On July 1, 2019, a cold front with thunderstorms reached Southern Germany. There are still wildfires raging. The heatwave is only part of a problem which has the potential to become the real big threat for the near future: In wide parts of Germany there is still a drought. The government published recently a study about the effects of a drought lasting several years.

cold front and thunderstorms July 1, 2019

Wild Tyrolean Valley After Severe Winter


Musau, Austria, May 19, 2019

In April 2019 there were many fears in Central Europe that 2019 would repeat its extreme weather patterns with a drought in many parts of Germany. Luckily, in May 2019 weather turned back to normal patterns with rain and colder temperatures. Unlike other areas, there had been a lot of precipitation in the Alps during winter 2018/2019. In some places, there were tons of snow. Devastating avalanches threatened some alpine valleys. There had also been some storms which did severe damage in the mountain forest.

A trip into the Alps in May is a fascinating thing. Particularly after a period with the above-mentioned weather extremes. In the higher regions, a hike can begin in “summer” with green meadows and warm temperatures but winter isn’t very far. It is also a chance to see the power of nature. It is the time of devastating thaws when the huge mass of snow melts quickly. And there are many traces of this last winter: Nature is recovering from avalanches and in the mountain forest we see the destructive force of severe storms.

Spring happens late in the mountains. It is a short time span when life returns to the frozen world. It is time to experience both the destructive power of the elements and its incredible beauty.

The Rein valley near Musau in Tyrol offers it all. It is perfect for a trip and is easily accessible. It is one of the most impressive valleys in the Northern Alps. Steep Rock faces, a raging river, a very natural forest and high peaks of the “Allgäuer Berge” makes it an unparalleled experience.

In Musau there is both a train station but also a parking spot, “Bärenfalle” at the beginning of the hike. The first half hour of the walk is in the forest and a steep ascent. After a while, the trail reaches the first vantage points. The peaks of the mountains become visible.

Sunday, May 19, started as a sunny and slightly cloudy day. However, there was a severe weather warning in place. It was said that thunderstorms would already occur before noon. The good weather lasted longer as expected.

Majestic Mountains in the background.
Mountain Forest In The Rein Valley

The trail is also a forest road which connects the village with the Musauer Alm and the Cabins, the Otto Mayr Hütte and the Füssener Hütte.

Road In The Rein Valley
Spring Flowers

After approximately one and a half hour of walking the cosy Musauer Alm comes into sight. It is the perfect opportunity for a stop and getting some good food in a very friendly atmosphere. After the stop which was in the middle of the day, the weather still looked fine. It seemed that the weather forecast wasn’t right. But in the mountains, you need to be very attentive and conditions can change very quickly.

Musauer Alm

Behind the Musauer Alm, the trail leads higher up into the valley. Here the image changed completely. Instead of the romantic green valley, it looked more and more like a battlefield of the forces of nature. Overturned trees, the remains of an avalanche and huge fields of snow left a deep impression. One could see what the severe winter in the alps did. In some places, it changed the face of the landscape.

After the severe winter
Avalanche
There is still a lot of snow.

Then it happened. It wasn’t too long and early afternoon when the weather changed completely. Rain and thunderstorm clouds appeared quickly from the east. It was time to turn around and head back down into the valley.

Arrival Of A Thunderstorm In The Mountains.

Faster than expected the sun appeared again after a heavy rain shower and some thunder in the clouds. It was then when there was a special magic in the landscape.

Winter And Summer At The Same Time

It was also an opportunity to study the work of erosion near the river. Rain and tough conditions led to mudslides and other destruction.

Massive Destruction

Erosion near the “Saba Bach”

Later in the afternoon, the sky was overcast. After the rain mist ascended from the forest. It was a completely different, more mystical air. It proved again that rainy weather is often the most interesting weather condition for dramatic pictures in the mountains.

Rain Clouds and The Green Trees

The wet weather attracted also a special animal, which is rare to see. The black salamander.

Salamander

The spectacular valley and the Musauer Alm is not far from the famous town of Füssen (with the prominent Neuschwanstein castle). On the Austrian side, Reutte and the “Lechtal-Region isn’t far. The Lechtal with the river Lech is one of Europe’s last river wilderness regions. It contains different types of forest, rich animal life and more spectacular mountain sceneries.

In some places, there was indeed severe weather on May 19. In East-Germany flooding was reported and there were heavy thunderstorms. It was also the beginning of a long rainy period with some flooding in Southern Germany. This is not unusual for May. In 1999 and 2005 there were floods which led to a lot of destruction. The events of 1999 gave reason to improve precautions against flooding for example in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Upper Bavaria.

Series Of Strong Windstorms In March 2019

After a period of warm days in February 2019 with a constant high-pressure system over Middle Europe weather became more dynamic. With the jet stream moving to Europe a series of low-pressure systems reached the continent. It was very windy for a couple of days. Severe weather was included with European windstorms as “Bennet” and “Eberhard” (known as Freya in the UK) and even a tornado. In Germany, (Nordrhein-Westfalen in particular) France and Switzerland wind gusts led to serious damage. There is an estimate that in Germany insured property losses of around EUR 800 million happened. Travel by train was stopped for one day creating chaos for travellers in Middle Europe.

Storm Eberhard arrives March 10, 2019 in Upper Bavaria with winds of 10 Beaufort strength

The sky was always turbulent with many interesting cloud patterns which allowed some impressing storm pictures. In Germany and Europe, the change in weather was welcomed because there is still a need for rain. Last year’s extreme drought left a lot of problems. Particularly the forest areas need still a lot of water to recover from the drought. It did indeed rain a lot in some areas but there is still a need for much more rain in the next months. The weeks in February with unusual long lasting dry weather raised already concerns for a new drought coming in 2019.

Storms are pretty normal in March. There had been even extreme windstorms in previous decades. Thus, the period of days with windy weather is no exception from the rule. But it was interesting that wind was blowing for many hours with strong wind gusts. This led to questions if this is a normal weather pattern. Honest answers prove to be difficult.

The rising numbers of weather anomalies due to climate change during the last years provoke a higher-sensibility to unusual weather phenomena. However, the weather is always like a big drama. There is an incredible variety of extremes. Researchers need to observe weather over long time spans to identify anomalies and unusual trends.

On the other side, Europe is affected by a number of winter windstorms over the last 30 years with the most damaging storms 1989/90. Insurances are alarmed about the rising cost of damage. Since these storm events are still relatively rare further research is required. The UK Met-office published recently a study with the most important findings of winter windstorms.

The series of storms showed some interesting developments. The wind came mostly from the west, sometimes South-West. In Upper-Bavaria there were days where there was a very good long distant view. The Alps appeared very clearly.

Waves hitting shore and a clear sight of the Alps in the background, Saturday, March 16, Lake Ammersee.

At the end of the weeks with stormy weather, there were showers with snow and little hail. This created some impressing sights shortly before sunset

In the aftermath of windstorm Eberhard temperatures decreased and there were snow and little hail showers illuminated by the sun.

A look into the south with a shower cloud above the Bavarian Upland

There were huge waves on the lakes in Bavaria due to the storm. A lot of driftwood appeared on the Eastern side of Lake Ammersee. It was an unusual sight. The lake appeared more like a shore at the Baltic Sea.

A lake in Upper Bavaria with waves.

After March 18 the weather calmed down. A high-pressure system led to cold but sunny weather in Southern Germany.

JANUARY 2019: MASSES OF SNOW

January 2019 began with new weather extremes in Central Europe. After the long drought in 2018 a lot of people hoped there would be rain and snow. Everywhere in Middle Europe there was too little rainfall from early 2018 til November 2018. In Berlin the river Spree was flowing backwards. There were concerns about the pheatric levels. Rain or Snow was indeed urgently needed to redeem the situation. Then the snow came but in a way that it created new problems.

After January 5 it was snowing in the alpine countries. However the winter dream turned for some places into a nightmarish situation. It didn’t stopped snowing for days. Villages in Austria and Germany were isolated and couldn’t any longer reached by cars. The problem: Snow and wind turned trees into dangerous obstacles.

Felled trees were lying on rail tracks and blocked many roads. It became also a rising danger for pedestrians. In Upper Bavaria an emergency alert was issued in the well known tourist areas of Berchtesgaden and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The snow was growing and growing and became too heavy for the roofs of many buildings. Some roofs had already collapsed. The danger of avalanches was continually rising. Casualties happened because some ski-tourists didn’t listen to the warnings.  In the countryside there were countless car accidents due to bad road conditions.

Beginning with the night of January 12-13 the situation started to become more severe. There was again heavy snowfall but also the temperature began to rise. It also started to rain in lower areas. This is a big problem because it makes the snow much heavier. The danger of trees and buildings collapsing was rising and it still is.

January 13 a severe storm is announced. It stems from another low pressure system arriving from the North. There was already a storm-flood in Northern Germany. Usually the time of mid-January is often a very cold time of the year with long lasting high pressure systems.

Weather researchers are saying this could also related to the changed climate conditions in the arctic. It is somehow a mirror image of the situation in summer when high pressure systems didn’t move any longer and created the drought. Now it is a situation where low pressure systems are hitting against the alps because there is generally not much exchange in the atmosphere. There is again a weather pattern where the same weather conditions last longer as expected.

Extreme situations in the winter happened before in 2006 and 1999 when there was a terribly tragedy due to avalanches in the Austrian Alps in Galtür. Since then a lot of protection measures were put into place in the Alps.



Nevertheless winter is always a great photo-motive: Wind and snow are creating sculptures. If you look you can see also often a “blue light” in the snow. This happens due to refractions of light in the snow.

Weather services are still warning about severe conditions the coming week beginning January 14. Perhaps later there will be some sunshine and people can enjoy the beauty of a winter in the mountains.