Spring was wet and dull, but warmer than before

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Spring 2023 was wet and dreary, “one of the 15 wettest and sunniest” since recorded, Geosphere Austria tallied Tuesday. The number of sunshine hours was 25 percent below average. “It was thus the dullest spring since 1991,” experts said. With a mild March and relatively calm April and May, it is about average for the recent past but was significantly warmer than a spring earlier.
“Compared to an average spring in the period 1991 to 2020, spring 2023 was 0.1 degrees below average in Austria’s lowlands and 0.3 degrees below average on the mountains,” climatologist Alexander Orlik said. “Compared to an average spring in the period 1961 to 1990, spring 2023 was 1.3 degrees too warm in Austria’s lowlands and 1.1 degrees too warm on the mountains. In the series of warmest springs in measurement history, 2023 ranks 41st in Austria’s lowlands and 37th in the mountains.”

In any case, it ended the drought that had already lasted for months: a series of low-pressure areas brought a lot of rain to most of the country. In terms of precipitation, the spring of 2023 thus ranked 25 percent above average in the Austria-wide evaluation. “This was the wettest spring since 2006 and one of the 15 wettest in measurement history,” Orlik said.

While precipitation fell regularly in the west at the beginning of the meteorological spring, it took until mid-April east of Salzburg and south of the main Alpine ridge; from then on, the precipitation deficits were gradually filled. Two Italian lows in particular (mid-April and mid-May) supplied the arid southeast and east with large amounts of precipitation, which in some places reached up to 100 millimetres within 48 hours. It was particularly wet in Vorarlberg, the Tyrolean Oberland, the extreme south of Styria, northern Burgenland, and Marchfeld. Here, deviations from the 1991-2020 mean reached 45 to 75 percent.

However, the lack of snow in the high mountains was hardly alleviated. In February, the lowest maximum snow depth was still measured at the Sonnblick Observatory (Salzburg, 3,106 meters above sea level) with 162 centimetres. “In May, there was then up to 369 centimeters of snow at Sonnblick after all. However, that is still 90 centimeters less than in an average May,” the climatologist explained.

Compared to the mean 1991-2020, above-average warm conditions occurred throughout Austria, predominantly in March. This month they achieved a temperature deviation from the mean of plus 1.5 degrees. April was largely too cold. In May, it was colder than average east of Tyrol. However, the negative deviation of minus 0.1 degrees over the entire federal territory was minimal. However, the anomalies were unevenly distributed. Upper Austria, Lower Austria and Burgenland, and western and eastern Styria, were the regions with the most significant negative temperature deviations – here, spring was 0.3 to 0.7 degrees too cold compared to the climate mean.

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