IN PICTURES: Sahara dust covers Austria in sepia

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15 Mar, 2022 Updated Tue 15 Mar 2022 19:21 CEST
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The Austrian alps in Altmünster, Austria. Photo by Simon Berger from Pexels

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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2022/03/15 19:21

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