Wet May: Warmest spring since measurements began

The relatively “normal”, changeable weather of the past few weeks may mask the fact that spring has been average. It brought summer and winter days, snow and late frosts, heat and storms. An unprecedented record flood of maximum temperatures of at least 30 degrees since measurements began is being countered by massive snow in the high mountains.

May again brought above-average temperatures, but the positive deviation was smaller than in previous months, said Alexander Orlik from Geosphere Austria. In May 2024, the region’s average air temperature was 2.4 degrees higher in the lowlands than the 1961 to 1990 average, and two degrees higher in the mountains.

Maybe a little hot, but maybe humid

Depending on the region, this May was between the 25th and 30th in the 258-year history of measurements, or in the 15th percentile of all-time warmest. However, due to the extreme volatility of the weather, there are no really warm high pressure areas, so there isn’t even a warm day, say 30 degrees or more. This is particularly significant because statistically, during periods of climate crisis, a non-warm May occurs only every five years.

Sunshine periods were at or slightly below the long-term average range, although north of the Alps it was sunny above average, especially in Upper Austria, but very cloudy in the south. There was heavy rain and thundershowers. All of Austria was more than 30 percent wetter, and some areas saw twice as much rain as the average for May, particularly in parts of Styria and Burgenland.

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picturedesk.com/Martin Huber

Storm clouds in Upper Austria

May is the twelfth consecutive warmest month in Austria, as this has not happened in Austria since 1767, marking the next extreme climate. In some parts of Europe, the closing month saw many records again, almost as usual now, especially in Scandinavia. From Denmark to Norway and Sweden to Finland, new May highs were measured at more than 100 stations, with up to 31 degrees in Norway and nighttime temperatures of almost 20 degrees, which rarely happens at these latitudes even in the middle of summer.

Severe weather and two hurricanes

The small pressure differences and relatively humid air in Central Europe combined with the already strong sun created perfect conditions for the development of heavy rain and thunderstorms in May, resulting in localized storms. On May 6, subway stations and subways in Vienna were flooded, and winds of up to 100 km/h hit Kremsm├╝nster. On the 17th, vineyards were severely damaged by hail in northern Burgenland.

Flooding around Fischelsdorf in the Weiss district (Styria).

APA/BFV Weiss

Floods in the Weiss district (Styria) on May 21

May 21 also saw widespread thunderstorms with minor flooding. Fischelsdorf in Styria received 100 liters of rain per square metre. More than 1,000 firefighters were stationed in Styria. Two tornadoes that day were particularly unusual, one at Gross-Eggenberg and the other at Schottendorf in Burgenland. Although they were weak typhoons (F0 or F1 on the five-part Fujita scale), roofs were damaged and trees were uprooted with winds of up to 120 km/h.

A minor hurricane passed through Cross

On 21 May a cyclone formed west of Graz.

Spring of records

The spring climate balance is more unusual than May because it was the warmest since records began. Except for a short winter phase in the second half of April, temperatures were always above average, averaging 3.3 degrees above the reference period from 1961 to 1990. This means this year’s spring was 0.2 degrees warmer than the previous one. 2007 was hot. In third place is three degrees ahead of 1811 in 2018 and 1794 with a deviation of 2.8 degrees.

March and the first half of April were the main reason for this, with countless registrations. Early March had distinct summer days, and apricots bloomed three weeks earlier than normal, earlier than ever since observations began. Easter Monday was the hottest Mass in history. On April 7th, 30 degrees was measured in Brugge an der Mur, a week earlier than this year, 16 places higher than the hottest day in Austria and a station record of 90.

Even an unusually violent winter comeback in mid-April could no longer prevent the record. On April 16, a cold snap brought a memorable drop in temperature, locally above 30 degrees, and then snow again in many valleys. For example, in Villach, after 31 degrees two days ago. Nights were again frosty. The result: millions in damage to fruit and wine cultivation, especially in Styria.

Early winter in Styria

APA/Erwin Scheriau

Winter begins in April, here in the collection

Unusual snowfall in high mountains

The amount of rain and snow this spring was also above average, with 50 percent more rain or snow in the mountains and the south of the country, and even 90 percent less in Upper Carinthia; . Since the late autumn and winter have been very wet, the mountains above 2,500 m now have the largest amount of snow since the avalanche winter of 1998/99.

Deviation of spring precipitation from the climate mean from 1991 to 2020. Area: Deviation of average rainfall for a federal state, Points: Six places with the highest deviations from average rainfall, more information by clicking on the point.

This, combined with the existing risk of avalanches, delays snow removal on the highest alpine passes. The Giro d’Italia stage scheduled for May 21 had to be moved through the Stelvio Pass because the pass was still covered in snow; On the Timmelsjoch the snow piled up to eight meters in places. Glaciers start the summer well protected. Whether it will be a good glacier year or a disastrous one will depend on summer heat waves and possible snowfalls in the high mountains, as has often happened in recent years.

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