What happened in Madrid to make the city crumble in snow?

What happened in Madrid to make the city crumble in snow?

Violet Field inPlanetJan 11, 2021 5 min read0 views

François Jobard, forecaster at Météo-France, explains that it is the meeting of two phenomena that caused the exceptional snowfall in Madrid and Castile

Never-before-seen snowfall hit Madrid and Castile. - BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP
  • The capital Madrid and the region of central Spain are covered with snow: up to 50 cm fell from the night of Friday to Saturday.
  • Even at the beginning of January, such a phenomenon is exceptional, judges a weather forecaster from Météo-France interviewed by 20 Minutes.
  • In France, the warmth is expected for the middle of the week, but it will not last.

Madrid and Castile under a thick blanket of snow: this is an image that we are not used to seeing. These snowfalls have already killed three people in Spain. And it will hold: the temperatures will cool further at the start of the week, at night. The fault of the Filomena storm, but not only. The Hexagon has also been shivering since the start of the year: is it linked and can it last? 20 Minutes asked these questions to François Jobard, the forecaster at Météo-France.

What has happened in Spain in recent days and who has caused this massive snowfall in Castile?

Filomena arrived in a context where cold air had already been installed in Spain for several days, with severe frosts. It had been down to -7 ° C in Madrid the previous days. These low temperatures for the Spanish capital were due to a north-eastern current of altitude which followed the storm Bella, which we experienced over France at the very end of December. And besides, since the end of December in France also knows temperatures colder than normal, in a sustainable way (soon two weeks).

There is also a depression, which was named Filomena by Spanish meteorology. Filomena had already caused bad weather on the Canary Islands, far south, opposite Morocco, before returning to the Strait of Gibraltar and the Iberian Peninsula. It is seriously spoiled during the day of Friday throughout Spain but especially in the region of Malaga, in the South, which will suffer torrential rains. All because the depression brings soft, very humid air from the subtropics. On the night of Friday to Saturday, the Filomena depression shifted thanks to southwesterly winds which caused it to encounter the cold draft I was talking about earlier. The very rare conjunction of these two phenomena caused these exceptional snowfalls in the Madrid region.

The word is not too strong: is such snowfall in central Spain exceptional?

The term is not stolen. The combination of cold and heavy rainfall, centered on the region of Madrid, means that we have a snowy jackpot. Usually, Madrid's temperatures are comparable to those of Nimes in France, and snowfall is rare: two or three times a year on average. On Friday, it was no more than 1 ° C in Madrid, which is not far from the absolute record for the coldest afternoon. In terms of precipitation, it is a dry climate: more than 20 millimeters of rain in winter on a day is rare. There, we had the equivalent of 50 millimeters, fallen in the form of snow. So here, we have the exceptional in terms of the amount of precipitation and the exceptional in terms of temperature, which means that we have the extraordinary in terms of snow. It is probably necessary to go back to 1952 to have a greater depth of snow in the Spanish capital.

In France, you said it, it's been cold for about two weeks. Are these also the aftermath of Storm Bella at the end of December?

Yes, Bella has been there with a mass of permanently cold air in the back that has settled in. We are still in this context over a large part of Western Europe. This situation will change a little next week with a rather brief easing a priori. Between Tuesday and Thursday, we will find a more oceanic and therefore softer air mass. Afternoon temperatures will be close to 10 ° C over much of the western part of the country which may not prevent snowfall in northern France on Tuesday. It looks like the weather will get colder from next Friday, which is the latest trend anyway. Some snowfall could arrive in the east of the country.

Spain is done with the snowfall but not with the cold ...

The snowpack isn't going to melt anytime soon. So, of course, the days will still warm up to 10 ° C on sunny afternoons. But there will be a very strong thermal amplitude: temperatures will drop very sharply at night until Thursday. The coldest night could be that of Monday to Tuesday, until reaching beyond -10 ° C, very close to the absolute record for the minimums. These records are between -10 ° C and -15 ° C depending on the weather stations in Madrid. The fact that there is snow on the ground is really a cooling factor.