Questions about mountain weather
Seven popular weather-related misconceptions
What you (maybe) do not yet know about mountain weather in the summer: Together with the Tirolean meteorologist Thomas Pichler, we are clearing up weather myths. And we also present practical tips so that your outdoor experience in Ötztal becomes a true pleasure.
That is by no means true. “On average, the forecasts are now very reliable,” contradicts meteorologist Thomas Pichler, “especially for the coming day”. What is true: there are actually days when the weather forecast almost becomes a lottery, for example in unstable summer air. Such situations are an exception. However, the most important thing is to find out about the weather development at all times. And only then, with the help of a detailed forecast, you should choose a suitable hike or mountain tour.
This shouldn't happen all the time, but it can happen sometimes as it ultimately depends on the interpretation of the weather computer models by human experts. This task requires a lot of instinctive feeling, local knowhow and meteorological knowledge. Different people can come to different conclusions even though they are using the same computer model.
Contradictions in weather forecasts can also have another cause: there are loads of Internet weather portals - serious and less serious ones. How do I recognize a professional service? Thomas Pichler recommends the check: “Is there a professional weather service behind it, where a meteorologist actually makes the forecast?” If so, there is a high probability of getting a “handmade”, reliable, regionally tailored forecast. Some Internet portals only want to attract users to their site via weather forecasts.
They often provide automated computer forecasts, if desired also for any place or area on earth - often of dubious quality, without any text and only with symbols. "If in doubt, you should follow the official state weather reports," Thomas Pichler advises. The forecast period also provides useful information: detailed forecasts that go beyond five days are not particularly reliable.
That's only true for a heat thunderstorm. It occurs mainly in the summer half-year, preferably in the second half of the day. If you start your hiking tour early and end it early, you can avoid heat thunderstorms quite well.
In contrast, this does not apply to a front thunderstorm. This second, less known type of thunderstorm can appear at any time of the year or day - precisely when a bad weather front is approaching. In addition to lightning and thunder, front thunderstorms, unlike heat thunderstorms, often bring a sudden drop in temperature. A weather report that is as precise as possible is all the more important in this case. Because the only sure thing in a thunderstorm is: Don't get caught by it!
This is fairly exaggerated. If you are surprised “out of the blue”, you may not have been observing the clouds attentively before. Or a mountain has simply blocked your view. Then you notice the approaching bad weather front quite late.
And some weather conditions develop faster than others. Thomas Pichler gives an example: “A classic heat thunderstorm can be easily recognized by the cumulus clouds, which gradually grow in height.” In contrast, when it comes to a front thunderstorm there is often much less time to observe and react: Mighty rain clouds, lightning and thunder appear soon after the first signs.
Not necessarily. Let's take the classic bad weather front: it brings rain - but at different speeds and intensities. A warm front usually runs slowly. If you are prepared to get wet at some point and stay close to the valley floor as a precaution, you can still enjoy short hikes despite a warm front. Quite different from a cold front that often causes a sudden drop in temperature, heavy precipitation and sometimes also thunderstorms - the front thunderstorms mentioned above. What does it mean: a rain symbol alone is not enough for a reliable weather forecast. It also has to explain what's behind it. Otherwise, one cannot distinguish between warm and cold fronts.
Not correct! Within the approximately 60 kilometer long Ötztal there are three local weather zones, Thomas Pichler explains: “The lower, northern Ötztal up to Umhausen receives precipitation especially from the north-west. The area near the main Alpine ridge, between Obergurgl and Vent, on the other hand, is influenced more from the south. In between you will find central Ötztal, from Längenfeld to Sölden. It is quite well shielded from precipitation to the north and south - and therefore often fairly dry. “For hikers, mountaineers and cyclists or bikers it means the following: you can often choose from several areas where the weather is more favorable within Ötztal.
Author: Julian Sprengel
Born in Hamburg, he is Managing Director of an advertising agency in Innsbruck and loves to spend his free time together with his family in Tirol’s unspoilt outdoors.
Uwe Grinzinger asks weather expert Thomas Pichler 5 questions about the mountain weather in the ÖTZTAL MAGAZINE - Summer 2021. The print magazine with the latest and most interesting stories about Ötztal’s spring, summer and autumn seasons is available free of charge in DE/EN from all Ötztal Tourismus Information Offices. You can order it at HERE and have it delivered for free to your home or view it as a flip-through brochure.