History shows an icy Rhine: Poor prospects for a white Christmas in the Rhineland

History shows an icy Rhine : Poor prospects for a white Christmas in the Rhineland

Snow boots will not be needed this Christmas it seems but there was a time when the Rhine was an icy affair in Bonn and the region. Here’s a little look at winters past and present in the Rhineland.

Christmas in Bonn and the region will be gray this year, with no traces of snow or ice. That is not unusual according to data from Bonn meteorologist Karsten Brandt, who runs the online weather service donnerwetter.de. In the last ten years, the average maximum temperature on Christmas Eve was 9.24 degrees Celsius. For this year, Brandt expects temperatures between six and eight degrees, making the Christmas weather quite average this time around. And it should remain reasonably dry during the holidays.

The meteorologist from Bonn estimates the probability of a snowfall in Bonn and the region at seven to eight percent. It was 2010 when the region last experienced snowfall on Christmas Eve. This occurs only around every 50 to 80 years. In any case, the coldest day of the year in the Rhineland is typically December 13, with an average maximum temperature of 4.4 degrees. There is more snow around December 15 than at Christmas.

Brandt also has an explanation for why many people still yearn for a white Christmas,. "What you always have," he says, "you may not appreciate it that much". According to the weather expert, the myth of the white Christmas may have its roots in the Biedermeier era: "In the 19th century, the winters in the Rhineland were colder than today". At that time, the continental climate shaped the weather situation, and other factors played a role: Until the 19th century, the Little Ice Age provided cooler environmental conditions, less CO² emissions and less soot.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s of the 20th century there was another colder phase. In 1956, icebreakers cut their way through the Rhine to keep the shipping channel clear. Also in 1963 Bonn was firmly in the grip of a particularly icy winter. During that winter, there was a bitter cold for almost four months, and at night the thermometer often showed temperatures in the double-digit minus range. Solid ice covered the Rhine all the way to Emmerich.

Today the maritime Atlantic air influences the weather in the Rhineland and prevents a white Christmas. "It is quite possible that it will remain this way for the next 20 years," says Brandt. But perhaps that's not so bad as the rainy weather is good for the water level of the Rhine. After the weather extremes of 2018 with floods and later low water, the water reservoir is slowly filling up again. According to Brandt, however, a flood like the one at the beginning of the year is not to be expected in the coming weeks. A level of six to 6.50 meters is realistic.

The snowy winter of 2010 not only brought a white Christmas, but also inconvenience. Lightening ice resulted in an onslaught of ambulances and many people from Bonn spent Christmas in the hospital with broken bones due to the slippery road conditions.

Orig. text: Sebastian Meltz. Translation: ck

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