Misty Days Before Christmas

After the storm on December 5, 2013, a high pressure system led again to quiet but grey days in Berlin with many hours of mist as before the storm. Sunlight became very rare during the following days till December 14. Only in some areas the mist retreated for some hours. These conditions are not the kind of weather photographers and video-makers are looking for. Some people head for the mountains where they could look at the mist from above and where they often find an impressing atmosphere. From the tops of the mountains the mist looks like the sea. This happens when air at the ground is cold and there are layers of warm air on top of the pool of cold air which work like a cap. The air below is trapped. Of course the quality of the air below the cap in not very good, particularly in areas with a lot of emissions. Nevertheless there is something about even these grey days where you couldn’t see very far (and if you don’t have a chance to go to the mountains). In the city before Christmas countless lights used for decoration at Christmas markets can create very interesting effects. The mist reflects the lights and it is astonishing how bright the city looks at night. If you spend some time you will find that mist can be very different and it changes constantly. Sometimes it seems that thick white clouds are close to the ground, then it becomes more clear and the layers of clouds are more around the skyscrapers. It’s further remarkable that at a certain high there can still be wind. Of course it’s very chilly with temperatures not far from zero. If the temperatures drop further below zero conditions can became very dangerous and these weather condition is often responsible for car accidents particularly on the countryside where streets close to a river for example can become wet and slippery with a sheet of ice. It also depends on the amount of humidity in the air. Outside Berlin there were droplets of water falling from the trees as if it would be raining (which wasn’t the case). It’s a bit like if you have too much humidity in your bathroom and droplets appear on cold metal.

So many days in December with mist are indeed a bit unusual since we might expect snow or windy days before Christmas in Middle Europe. Usually long lasting high-pressure systems appear more often in January here. However weather is always unique and it might be much too early to speak of an anomaly here. Nevertheless the increasing numbers of extreme conditions and new weather patterns over the last years make steady improvements in weather and climate research more and more important.

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Storm Xaver Berlin, December 5, 2013

Four weeks after the disastrous storm Christian another storm system hit Wales, Scotland, Middle Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea. For over two days there were also strong winds in the Berlin Brandenburg area. The damage was minor but snowfall and ice in the morning of Dec 6 lead to several traffic accidents. A tube was stopped because a tree threatened to fall. Compared to destruction in England and Denmark however there were only smaller problems. For coastal areas like the Northern Sea region the challenge was the long lasting wind and the North-West-direction where the wind came from, which lead to a flood combined with the high tide. In Berlin the christmas tree at the Christmas market in the center of the west had to withstand the force of the storm. On Saturday there was still wind but the weather calmed down after the temperatures felt below zero during the night. Xaver again proved that even with modern technology weather is still difficult to predict precisely. As storm Christian was a surprise because of it’s devastating winds, this storm was fortunately in the Berlin area not as strong as some weather forecasters thought (it still did terrible damage for example at the coast-line or the island of Sylt).

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City In The Mist

Between autumn and winter there is usually a time in Berlin when the city looks enchanted. Often between the last weeks of November or first days of december a similar weather pattern occurs with days of mist. It’s already pretty cold and you need warm clothes if you want to take some pictures out there (when the air is wet and moist it feels even colder). If the mist doesn’t lift it creates a really unique atmosphere. For example the high rise at Potsdamer Platz looks like a frame from Ridley Scott’s legendary “Blade Runner”. The pictures were taken with long exposure and for the picture with the lantern I used f 22. Keep ISO low (100) and use a tripod since the mist could itself create a bit of a grainy impression.

The trick is to have mist but it shouldn’t be too thick so you can’t see your own feet. In Berlin you have these weather conditions sometimes lasting for a couple of days when the region is under influence of a high pressure system. Conditions could change during the course of the day. Sometimes you have mist in the morning then some hours with the sun shining and the fog coming back after sunset. When these pictures were taken conditions where pretty much the same within the city limits but sometimes there are interesting differences. As long as the water in the lakes is warm there are better conditions for foggy weather there when the nights are cold enough. Earlier in autumn wet meadows could create their own misty atmosphere. These conditions could be sometimes very dangerous for drivers if you have suddenly a bank of mist in front of you that seems to come out of nowhere.

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