What is the warmest winter towel
For days the fire brigade, volunteers and the armed forces shoveled snow from roofs at risk of collapsing, entire districts were evacuated due to the danger of avalanches, masses of snow paralyzed regional traffic and trees in forests collapsed under the snow load. Winter showed its extreme side at the beginning of the year in the south of the country. There was already talk of an approaching winter of the century after the summer of the century 2018. But nothing came of it.
Meteorologists: One of the warmest winters since 1881
On the contrary: At the end of the 2017/18 season, the German Meteorological Service reported a “considerably too mild winter”. In an initial analysis of the data from around 2,000 measuring stations, it says: "It landed under the warmest winters since regular measurements began in 1881". At 3.6 degrees Celsius, the average temperature from December to February was, according to our own analysis, well above the mean since 1960. The record for the warmest winter day in recent decades was missed by just 0.3 degrees: early summer 21.7 degrees Celsius measured on February 27th in Saarbrücken.
Not only were the temperatures exceptionally high, but also the snowfall. However, they remained regional and limited to January: A number of places in Bavaria kept reporting new station records in the first half of January. In Anger-Stoißberg near Bad Reichenhall, the snow piled 240 centimeters high. The highest snow cover was measured at 4.60 meters - as almost every winter - on the Zugspitze. But the snow record could not be broken in the winter of 2018/2019, even on Germany's highest mountain. In the winter months it was already six and a half meters there; on February 8, 1981.
No nationwide winter record broken
The evaluation documents the average and extreme values of the winter since 1960/61, based on the measurements of hundreds of stations by the German Weather Service. A map of Germany shows the regional distribution of the snow days - and thus gives each winter a face. The months December to February are taken into account - i.e. the respective meteorological winter. The values for the most recent season show how close this winter was to the previous records, even if none of the whole of Germany was broken by the end of the season.
1962/63: When even the Rhine and Baltic Sea froze over
The measuring station in Deutschneudorf-Brüderwiese in the Ore Mountains showed an icy minus 18.6 degrees on January 21. This record low for 2019 was only reached at the beginning of February on the Zugspitze. Usually, however, lows have been measured well below minus 20 degrees in recent years. And this winter was far from the cold record of the last six decades: the thermometer would have had to plummet 35.5 degrees below zero for that, as it was so cold on January 17, 1963 in Aldersbach-Kriestorf (Lower Bavaria).
In the winter of 1962/63, the whole of Europe froze in the icy cold. This season went down in meteorological history as the winter of the century: meter-high snowdrifts paralyzed roads and railways. Even the Rhine and the Baltic Sea froze over. Villages as well as some North and Baltic Sea islands were completely cut off from any supply.
1978/1979: The sudden snow catastrophe
The winter of 1978/1979 also remains bitterly cold in memory as a disaster winter. A drop in temperature from plus 10 to minus 30 degrees caused heavy snowstorms at the turn of the year, which hit northern Germany and the GDR unusually hard: at that time, disaster alarms were proclaimed in numerous districts.
The Bundeswehr and NVA were in constant action against the snow masses - in the GDR sometimes with tanks. There the energy supply collapsed in large parts for two days. The extreme winter claimed many lives: in the Federal Republic alone it cost 17 lives, for the GDR no reliable figures are known to this day.
2007/2008: Beer garden weather in the middle of winter
The minus 30 mark has not been broken since the end of the generally quite frosty and snowy 80s. In contrast, a heat record was set after the turn of the millennium - with 22 degrees on February 24, 2008 in Wielenbach in Upper Bavaria. While heavy winter storms raged across northern Germany and the Baltic Sea, people in the south of the republic flocked to the beer gardens and cafes.
This winter season has now come to an end, at least meteorologically. But the snow is far from over, theoretically not even with snow records: After all, the highest snow cover to date was measured at 7.80 meters outside of a winter season - on April 26, 1980; on the Zugspitze, of course.
The climate data comes from daily measurements at the weather stations of the German Weather Service (DWD). You can find out more about the collection of data in the DWD's data record descriptions:
For the maps of the number of snow days per winter, a digital terrain model from Germany of the Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy with a grid size of 1 km x 1 km was blended with the measured snow days per station from the beginning of December to the end of February. Each grid cell was assigned the weather station that is closest to the center of the cell and is at a similar altitude. A snow day is when at least one centimeter of snow has been measured.
Uncertainties arise from the distances between the weather station and the grid cell and from incorrect or missing observations in the measurement data. When comparing the years, it should also be noted that the underlying measurement network has changed over time and has become more and more dense. The maps cannot therefore give an exact picture of the regional differences in the number of snow days in Germany, but they are approaching this.
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