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Climate and Weather

Austria - Climate and Weather

Austria is a landlocked country in central Europe, bordered with Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic. It lies between latitudes 46° and 49° N, and longitudes 9° and 18°. Much of the country is dominated by the major and minor mountain systems of the Alps, though it also has many hills and plains.

The total land area of Austria is 83,871 sq km, which makes it the 114th largest country in the world. Austria is 117 times smaller than the US and 3 times smaller than the UK.

Austria has a population of 8,451,860 residents, including the 1,004,268 foreign citizens who make up just under 12% of the total population. The most densely populated area is Vienna, with 4,199 residents per square kilometre, whilst Tyrol is the least densely populated province with 57 inhabitants per square kilometre. Austria has been a member of the European Union since 1995.

Austria is a democratic republic with nine federal provinces; each province has its own capital and is administered by its own government, headed by a provincial Governor (“Landeshauptmann” or “Landeshauptfrau”). The legislative body of Austria is the Parliament, which consists of two houses, the National Council (“Nationalrat”) and the Federal Council (“Bundesrat”). The President of Austria is the political leader for the country, responsible for representing the country abroad, concluding international agreements, and appointing high ranking officials across the provinces, as well as acting as Supreme Commander of the Austrian Armed Forces. The Federal Chancellor heads the federal government, conducting governmental affairs with the assistance of the Vice-Chancellor, federal cabinet ministers and state undersecretaries.

The general climate in Austria is a typical central European transitional climate, which means it has warm summers, cold winters and adequate precipitation. Often the temperatures in winter feel colder because of the wind.

However, the climate does vary in each area of the country:

• The central Alpine region has an alpine climate, which means that the temperature can vary significantly from one day to the next. Winters are bitterly cold, even at lower altitude, and will herald plenty of settled snow.
• To the east of Austria a Pannonian climate exists, with warm to hot summers, relatively low precipitation and cold winters.
• The warmest area of Austria is in the Southeast, where summers will be hotter and longer and feel similar to that in the mediterranean.
• The weather in the western part of the country is dominated by the Atlantic climate with less severe winters, warmer summers and higher rainfall.

The topographical conditions of each area varies, and combined with the differences in climate, each area has developed its own ecosystem of flora and fauna. Trees, plants and animals will thrive in conditions specific to an area but struggle to survive in another part of the country.

Winter snow arrives in the valleys from late December, and will stay until March, whilst at higher altitudes it will be permanently present from November until as late as May. January is usually the coldest month of the year; by the summer the temperature can comfortably reach 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) or higher during the day although even in summer the evenings will be cool.

April and November tend to the be wettest months of the year, with May, September and October being the driest. However, the variation is not significant and altitude is the factor of most significance. High-level areas in the Alps may have a high average rainfall in excess of 2000 mm per year; 600 mm is normal for some regions in the flatlands of Austria. Heavy thunderstorms, sometimes bringing heavy hail and snowfall, are frequent in the mountainous regions of the Alps during June, July and August.

Clothing during the winter should be thick, warm and waterproof. A number of layers will increase the feeling of warmth and be useful for adjustment if you are commuting through the cold weather before entering a well heated workplace for the day. Warm hats, scarves and lined gloves will be essential. Waterproof boots with a good grip will keep your feet warm and dry and stop you from falling over on an icy pavement. Your coat should be warm and waterproof.

Jeans are never a good idea for going out in cold and wet weather; if they get wet you will feel cold and uncomfortable, and they do not dry easily. If you feel you really want to wear jeans, then wearing a pair of warm tights as a first layer may help keep out the cold.

Clothing in the office or workplace tends to be formal. Many women wear skirts or dresses, and men wear dark conservative suits with a sensible tie. It is rare for anyone to wear jeans to work. It would be useful to wear outdoor shoes for the journey to work and change into a smart pair of work shoes once in the office.

Those living and working at high altitude will often wear, on clear days, a long sleeved hooded top with at least 2 thin layers underneath, waterproof padded trousers and a warm, waterproof coat or gilet. A warm hat and warm lined gloves will prevent heat loss.

During the summer, shorts, t-shirts and summer dresses will be pleasant to wear on hot days. However, the evenings will be cool and there is a significant risk that the daytime temperature could drop within a matter of hours, so make sure your summer wardrobe has a greater variety of clothing than you would expect if you were in a Mediterranean country. A jumper or cardigan should always be carried if you are going to the office for the day or on a day trip out. In the summer a lightweight jacket is useful for cloudy or rainy days.

Austria is a prosperous and well managed country, so clothing can be purchased easily, especially if you are located in or near a city or town. There will be a large range of shops catering to different budgets in any town with a large population, including the popular chains of clothing stores. In the mountains, however, the choice of clothing beyond ski wear will be limited.

Sunburn is a problem at any time of the year in Austria. In the mountains the sun reflects on the vast areas of deep white snow, meaning sunglasses and suncream (for the face, especially the nose) are essential items for anyone skiing there. During the summer the clear skies and bright sun can appear just hours after a chilly start, and cause sunburn.

Everyone should drink plenty of water at any time of the year, but during hot spells it becomes essential to avoid sunstroke. Tap water in Austria is safe to drink, and bottled water is easily obtained in most locations.

Austria suffers occasional earthquakes, including around Vienna, but they are minor and cause little impact. More severe earthquakes occurred in 1927 and 1972, causing some domestic damage in particular to chimneys, and the emergency services were busy clearing debris from the roads, but there was no documented loss of life.

Try to stay inside your home or workplace during the occasional hurricanes which strike the continent. In April 2015 an Austrian pensioner struggled on a ladder during hurricane winds to secure a roof on his terrace, and hit his head as he fell. In neighbouring countries the same storm caused trees to fall on cars, killing some of the occupants.

Avalanches occur dozens of times in Austria each winter and kill people on a regular basis, especially foreign visitors. Warning notices or advice from locals should be taken very seriously. In February 2016 five skiers from the Czech Republic were killed by an avalanche near a popular resort in the Wattental Valley during a group “freeride camp”, whilst a British man and a man from the Netherlands were killed by an avalanche in November 2016 whilst climbing a rocky slope in the Alpine area of Obergurgl. Avalanches can rarely be predicted, but locals will be aware of the small frequent movements of snow which signify a higher risk of an impending avalanche.

Read more about this country

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