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Mild temperatures dash white Christmas hopes

The Local · 17 Dec 2015, 11:42

Published: 17 Dec 2015 11:42 GMT+01:00

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The temperature on Christmas Eve, when Austrians traditionally gather with their families to celebrate the holiday with a meal and gifts, is forecast to be between zero and 6C.

A snow-free Christmas has now become the norm for those parts of Austria which lie at lower altitudes, a trend which has been observed over the past three decades.

Between 1951 and 1982 Austria’s main cities had twice as many snowy Christmas holidays than in the previous 32 years.

Climatologists say this is down to the high temperatures of recent years caused by global warming, and also the fact that the 1960s was an unusually cold decade.

"The 1960s brought many relatively cold winters - and this has an effect on how we view the statistics. Between 1961 and 1965, the whole of Austria was covered in snow almost every Christmas. But apart from this very cold period, we have to acknowledge the role that global warming has played in recent decades,” ZAMG weather expert Alexander Orlik said.

He added that snowy Christmases tend to stick in people’s memories, meaning that older Austrians believe that snowfall is the norm at Christmastime.

Typically, Vienna, Eisenstadt and St Pölten only see snow at Christmas once every five years. Innsbruck in Tyrol is more likely to have snow, on average every second year.

However, those who have planned ski trips in Austria over the holidays need not worry as the temperatures will still be low enough for artificial snow, and on clear nights temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.

Story continues below…

Germany is also unlikely to see a white Christmas, and in the south-west of the country a pollen warning has even been issued, due to the mild weather and pollen dust blowing in from France and Switzerland.

Swiss climate researcher Martine Rebetez has said the ideal of a blanket of white snow appearing in time for Christmas first appeared in the mid-19th century.

Early Christmas cards from 1840 show what looks like a typical autumn scene, with families gathered around a cosy table. The first ‘snow themed’ Christmas card dates from 1863 and shows Santa Claus sitting on a snowy roof, in the light of a full moon.

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