IN PICTURES: Sahara dust covers Austria in sepia

Some parts of Austria haven't received a drop of rain for weeks. Meanwhile, a huge dust cloud from the Sahara is heading towards Central Europe.

The Austrian alps in Altmünster, Austria. Photo by Simon Berger from Pexels
The Austrian alps in Altmünster, Austria. Photo by Simon Berger from Pexels

Austria is currently experiencing an unusually dry and cold start to spring after several weeks of clear skies and no rain.

Although early spring typically brings rain, the dry weather is set to continue – despite a forecast for some light rain on Tuesday and Wednesday – into the weekend.

According to the Central Institution for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), light to moderate rain is expected across Austria on Tuesday evening (apart from in the south). This could continue into Wednesday morning in Salzburg, Styria, Burgenland and Lower Austria.

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But by Thursday, sunshine and dry conditions will return to all regions with temperatures forecast to be in double digits. Vienna can expect a high of 13 degrees on Thursday, while it could rise to 18 degrees in Vorarlberg and Tyrol.

By Saturday, the temperature is set to slightly drop across the country with a high of 10 degrees in Vienna and 13 degrees in Salzburg.

While the sunshine and blue sky is welcomed by many, the dry conditions are causing concern for farmers, and forest fires are already being reported in forest areas.

Forest fires and low groundwater levels

In a typical March, Austria receives around 150 to 200 litres of rain per square metre, according to a report in the Kronen Zeitung. But this year, the rainfall doesn’t even come close to the seasonal average.

As a result, the dry forest floor has already been burning in Ausserfern in the district of Reutte in Tyrol near the border with Bavaria. So far, 35 hectares of forest have been affected and 150 firefighters are involved in trying to extinguish the blaze. 

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Forest fires have also been reported in Carinthia where water from firefighting efforts froze overnight leading to an ice desert in Burgstallberg in the Spittal/Drau District.

Additionally, the water level at Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland is currently 35cm below the typical seasonal levels, and groundwater levels in Carinthia, southern Styria and southern Burgenland are low for the time of year.

However, according to ZAMG, low rainfall in March and April has been common in Austria since the 2000s.

Saharan dust heading to Austria

Another weather phenomenon is heading to Austria this week in the form of a dust cloud from the Sahara.

ZAMG has forecast a “dust event” from Tuesday, with Lower Austria expected to be particularly affected. This means residents could find dust on their cars and windows.

Dust clouds are formed after weather conditions in the Sahara causes sand to be picked up by the wind.

The upside of the dust cloud is the possibility for striking sunsets as the sand in the air is illuminated by the setting sun.

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30C: Austria set for first heatwave of the year

Early summer weather reaches the Alpine country in the coming days, with temperatures as high as 30C in the coming days.

30C: Austria set for first heatwave of the year

Austria is set to experience its first heatwave of the year, with temperatures rising to 30C (86F) in several states, according to forecasts from Austria’s Central Institution for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG).

Already this Wednesday, the Western state of Tyrol will see high temperatures ranging from 25C to 30C. The state residents can also expect a lot of sunshine throughout the day.

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This Thursday, Styria will be affected by the high temperatures, getting the warmest day of the year so far. In the southeast, it will be up to 30C, and in Upper Styria, 24C to 29C. In all other states, including Vienna, temperatures can get as high as 29C.

With rain expected to fall over the entire country on Friday, temperatures will drop again.

The beginning of the weekend should see a maximum of 26C in East Tyrol. Also on Saturday, as thunderstorms affect mainly the West of Austria.

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On Sunday, though, the sun is expected to shine again in most of the country. Maximum temperatures should be between 25C and 28C, according to ZAMG.