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WEATHER

Can Germany look forward to a white Christmas in 2021?

Germany experienced some wintery temperatures and even snow in the early weeks of December, but does this mean that we're in for a magical white Christmas? We take a look at the latest weather reports.

Christmas tree in the snow in Bavaria
A decorated Christmas tree in the snow in Bad Hindelang, Bavaria, on December 12th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

With just a week to go until Christmas Eve, hopes have been growing in Germany to see the country transformed into a dazzling white winter wonderland just in time for the holidays.

Meteorologists have been forecasting the weather with high anticipation, as many earlier models showed cold winds and snowfall sweeping across the country by the 24th.

READ ALSO: Germany sees heavy snowfall as winter blizzard strikes

Unfortunately, under the latest forecasts from Friday, those high hopes have been dashed somewhat. 

According to meteorologist Christian Häckl, the current weather situation is making a white Christmas in Germany increasingly less likely.

“The strong high pressure system will probably shift its core too far north for a white Christmas,” he told Wetter.de on Friday. “This opens the door for low pressure areas to rush in from the west and bring us rather mild and wet weather in Germany.”

Unfortunately, this means temperatures could go up to 10C in the lowlands, leaving most German families with a drizzly outlook as opposed to Lapland-esque paradise on Christmas Day.

Nevertheless, there are some regions in which the remains of snow will last until the fourth week of Advent, RTL meteorologist Patrick Panke claims.

“At least in the high areas of the Bavarian Forest, the Alps or the Black Forest, Upper Harz and the Ore Mountains, the remaining snow has a good chance of surviving the current thaw,” he said. 

Hikers in the snow
Hikers enjoy a snowy hike in the Harz mountains on December 11th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

What’s the general outlook? 

Though the chances of a white Christmas have gone down slightly, there’s a good chance that a cold spell could return in the days leading up to Christmas Eve.

Meteorologists believe the mercury could drop next week as areas of low pressure gather in the east. This could bring icy winds from Siberia into the county, raising the odds of waking up to a blanket of snow on Christmas morning. 

“We have to reduce the probability of white Christmas a bit everywhere,” Häckl said, referring to his current modelling. “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to call off the white Christmas completely.”

However, people who live in the western regions of Germany probably shouldn’t get their hopes up too much, experts say. 

Whether in Freiburg, Nuremberg, Frankfurt or the Eifel Valley, residents of Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Rhineland-Pfalz are likely to see temperatures around 11C and rain on the 24th and 25th. 

Elsewhere, in higher-up regions, hopes are resting on the festive weekend of the 25th and 26th for temperatures to drop once again, bringing a burst of snow to people in hilly or mountainous areas.

According to meteorologist Carlo Pfaff, the probability of snow in the mountains sits between 50 and 90 percent, depending on the altitude of the mountain range. 

READ ALSO: Fact check: Did it really use to snow more often in December in Germany?

In the milder low-lying regions, however, there could be a chance of storms.

“I don’t want start forecasting wind peaks just yet, but it could well be that Christmas will also be stormy with the mild temperatures,” said Wetter.de meteorologist Martin Pscherer.

As they say, however, a week is a long time in meteorology – so we’ll keep you updated if we hear a whisper of incoming snow nearer the time. 

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WEATHER

Western Germany hit by second round of severe storms

Parts of Germany were once again pummelled by heavy thunderstorms on Monday - just days after the city of Paderborn was struck by a devastating tornado.

Western Germany hit by second round of severe storms

A severe weather warning was issued on Sunday by the German Weather Service (DWD), who cautioned residents in western and southwestern regions of the country that fierce gusts of wind, hailstones and heavy rain could once again be on the horizon.

A  second tornado could “not be ruled out” in the southwestern regions of the country, DWD warned. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, were struck by heavy rain and hailstorms and strong gusts of wind throughout the afternoon.

However, the worst of the thunder and hailstorms warnings were for the state of Baden-Württemberg. 

Here, DWD issued a Stage 3 weather warning – the second highest possible. Severe thunderstorms with gale-force winds at speeds of up to 110km per hour were forecast, with up to 50 litres of rain per square metre falling in a short space of time.

According to the meteorologists, the storms are expected sweep across to the eastern regions of the country and ease off in the evening.

The storms and severe weather warnings came days after the city of Paderborn in North Rhine-Westphalia was hit by a devastating tornado.

According to the local fire brigade, 43 people were injured in the storm, with 13 of them needing to be hospitalised and one person reportedly fighting for their life. 

Railway services were cancelled across many parts of the west over the weekend, but resumed again on Monday.

Air travel in some parts of the country was also affected, with Frankfurt Airport in the central state of Hesse saying there was disruption to flights on Friday. 

Videos posted on social media depicted the strongest part of the tornado tearing through the city, ripping trees up by their roots.

The damage to infrastructure and buildings caused by the storm is estimated to be in the millions.

Schools remain closed

As of Monday, several schools and nurseries remained closed in both Paderborn and nearby Lippstadt due to fears that the buildings couldn’t be safely entered.

In the small town of Lippstadt alone, five nurseries and seven schools were closed for repairs on Monday, with administrators unable to say when they would reopen their doors.

“Given the extent of the damage we see at the various locations, it is currently unthinkable that classes can be held there in the next few days,” said Mayor Arne Moritz (CDU).

In Paderborn, meanwhile, drones were exploring five closed school buildings to check whether there was a risk of damaged roofs imploding. The streets where the schools are located have been closed off to the public and the police are believed to be patrolling outside to stop anyone entering.

READ ALSO: Tornado in western Germany injures dozens

Damaged roof in Paderborn

A damaged roof in the aftermath of the Paderborn storms. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

More frequent tornadoes? 

Tornadoes aren’t infrequent in Central Europe, but recently appear to be gaining in frequency and intensity, which experts suggest could be a result of climate change. 

In June 2021, a deadly tornado swept through several villages in the Czech Republic near the Slovakian and Austrian borders, killing six people and injuring a further 200. 

At time, climatologists pointed out that until 2020, the Czech Republic only saw a handful of tornadoes each year – and most of them were relatively mild.

Speaking to WDR on Sunday, climate researcher Dr. Mojib Latif drew a direct parallel between warmer temperatures and more violent and regular storms.  

“In Germany there are approximately between 20 and 40 tornadoes per year,” he told the regional media outlet. “We have to reckon with that. As the climate gets warmer and thunderstorms become more violent, the frequency of tornadoes will also increase.”

However, some experts have been more cautious about drawing a direct link.

“That simply cannot be determined at the moment,” meteorologist Jürgen Schmidt told RND. 

Schmidt thinks the perception that tornadoes have increased in recent years could have a slightly more prosaic explanation.

The fact that people are able to record them on their smartphones and share these images more widely could contribute to this impression, he said. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

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