When was Germany’s coldest winter?

Germany is in the grip of a cold snap, bringing much of the country to a standstill. These are the years that the country has experienced the worst winters.

When was Germany's coldest winter?
People using skis in Leipzig on Monday during a snow storm. Photo: DPA

Heavy snowfall and freezing rain caused traffic chaos at the weekend – and it's still resulting in serious disruption on Monday.

The extreme weather is down to an area of low pressure dubbed “Tristan” which currently has large parts of central and northern Germany in its grip.

It may be a bit of shock for German residents compared to recent years: the last two winters in Germany were comparatively mild.

But now the country is experiencing a cold spell again, with lots of snowfall and temperatures way below zero.

In a historical comparison, however, the winter of 2020/21 has so far been fairly mild compared to other years, as the Statista graphic based on data from the German Weather Service (DWD) shows.

Germany experienced its coldest winter since weather records began in 1962/63, when the average temperature nationwide from December to February was -5.5C.

The second coldest winter occurred in 1940 during the Second World War, with an average of -5.0C. The winters of recent years do not come close to these freezing records. The last time Germany experienced a particularly frosty winter was in 1984/85 (-2.5C).

READ ALSO: Germany braces for more snow as extreme winter weather causes chaos

Graph translated by Statista for The Local Germany.

In fact, in general winters in Germany have been getting warmer due to climate change.

According to the DWD, the average temperature across Germany was 3C in December 2020 and 0.6C in January 2021. Both values were above the average for the period from 1961 to 1990.

Of course we still have to see what the rest of February holds – and with freezing weather forecast for the rest of the week at least, things are not looking good. But we'll see how that compares historically once the cold snap is over.

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What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

Parts of Germany will see another heatwave this week as temperatures soar.

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

The German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted that the mercury will climb in some regions of to around 34C this week. 

“After low pressure ‘Karin’ gave parts of Germany rain, sometimes in large quantities, high pressure ‘Piet’ is now back in pole position,” said meteorologist Lars Kirchhübel of the DWD.

This high pressure zone will dominate the weather in large parts of western and central Europe over the coming days, the weather expert said, adding that it will reach Germany too. 

On Monday temperatures remained fairly cool across the country after a weekend of showers, but they are set to climb over the course of the week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters predict it could reach 32C in Stuttgart and 33C in Cologne on Thursday. Locally, temperatures could reach 34C. 

However, from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Erzgebirge mountains and southeast Bavaria, denser clouds and some showers are to be expected. This is due to a high-level low pressure system over the Balkan region, according to forecasters. Short showers are also possible in the Black Forest.

“In most of the rest of the country, high ‘Piet’ will be able to hold its ground,” said Kirchhübel.

READ ALSO: Heavy rain in Bavaria swells rivers, but flooding avoided

At the end of the week, thunderstorms are forecast but temperatures are expected to remain high. 

August in Germany ‘too dry’

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, August as a whole – apart from a few areas in eastern Germany – will be too dry compared to the multi-year average.

The Black Forest, the High Rhine and the Allgäu to the Bavarian Forest, however, are not expected to have any major problems due to the high rainfall of the past few days.

“Looking at Rhineland-Palatinate, the southern half of Hesse, the western half of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Franconia shows a different picture,” said Kirchhübel. In the last 30 days, only about 10 percent of the usual level of precipitation fell in some places.

“At some stations, no precipitation at all has been measured in August,” added Kirchhübel, referencing Würzburg as an example.

Rainfall at the weekend caused the water in the Rhine river to rise slightly. In Emmerich, the water level reached a positive value again after the historic low of the past few days: in the morning, it showed three centimetres – an increase of six centimetres compared to the previous day.

The water level also rose by several centimetres at the other measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia: in Cologne, the level rose to 80cm and in Düsseldorf to 38cm.

READ ALSO: Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

Despite this encouraging trend, the Waterways and Shipping Authority said it did not expect a huge improvement in water levels in the foreseeable future due to more hot weather coming.