Squall Elsa

storm elsa

One of the most recent storms that Spain attacked has been the squall Elsa. She was named with this nickname at the Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA) on Monday, December 16 at 10:00 UTC. When the squall Elsa attacked Spain, another squall named Daniel was fully affecting the peninsula. Unlike Daniel, this storm is formed a great distance from the peninsula as part of a wide circulation of a very humid area of ​​air with great intensity that crossed the entire Atlantic.

In this article we are going to talk to you about what were the effects of the storm Elsa, its characteristics and damages caused.

Formation and evolution of the storm Elsa

heavy rain

The impact most directly related to Elsa occurred in Spain from Wednesday 18 to Friday 20, but the storms related to zonal circulation lasted all week. Storm Elsa was formed in a very strong zonal air current that crossed the entire Atlantic Ocean and brought a lot of humidity to Western Europe, this is the so-called “atmospheric river”.

For this reason, although it was officially named on the 16th and appeared on the surface map at noon on the 17th, with its center oriented at 50ºN-30ºW, the Elsa-related impacts occurred before, during and after the life cycle of the storm. At the end of its life cycle, on the 21st, it can be said that Elsa was absorbed by Fabien near Brittany.

The aforementioned “atmospheric rivers” caused a great deal of rainfall, totaling more than 500mm at some point during the week.

Communicative note from the squall Elsa

snow by the squall elsa

On December 16, AEMET published an informative note related to the Elsa lees, which reported the following:

A deep and wide Atlantic storm called "Elsa" will begin on the morning of Wednesday 18 to cause a storm of rain and wind in almost all the peninsulas, and then it will reach the Mediterranean. The Canary Islands will be excluded from this situation. This storm is related to several very active frontal systems that will cross the peninsula from west to east, with extensive, sustained and localized heavy rains in large areas, and less rainfall in the Mediterranean and eastern Cantabrian Sea. The highest accumulation is expected in Galicia and the western half of the central system, probably exceeding 100 mm.

The amount of snow at the beginning of the episode will be very high, which will cause the snow to melt in the first days; Mainly in the Cantabrian Mountains, heavy snowfall is expected on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Today, the wind will be a very unfavorable and common phenomenon; strong gusts of wind from the southwest and west are expected in all peninsular regions, which can arrive in the Mediterranean region on Thursday afternoon. Wind gusts in the northwest, southwest, and central regions are likely to exceed 100 km / h in a fairly common way, and gusts in all mountain systems exceed 120 km / h. The storm will cause severe marine conditions in coastal areas, mainly in the Atlantic Ocean.

Special notice

winds and special notice

On the 17th, AEMET issued a special notice, which is a continuation of the previous informative release, which will be updated to the 20th in the next few days, linking the resurgence of Storm Elsa with the resurgence of the next storm Fabien. Due to the peninsula and most of the Balearic Islands (the threshold is between 90 km / h and 130 km / h, depending on the region), Orange level advisories were issued for streaks on the 18th, 19th and 20th.

In Western Galicia, Andalusia and Albacete, as well as the southern slope of the central system and the Pyrenees, the accumulated precipitation in 12 hours is also orange, with a value greater than 80 or 100 mm; Andalusia is one hour Internal precipitation exceeds 30 mm; and most of the littoral phenomena of the Atlantic, Cantabrian and Mediterranean littoral.

The most significant effects of storm Elsa they are heavy and continuous rains, strong winds and strong gusts, even hurricanes and strong waves. The thaw of the last weeks intensified the torrential rains, causing the growth and flooding of many rivers (Pisuerga, Miño, Júcar and many others).

Due to all these unfavorable phenomena, it was necessary to mourn the death of 6 people in different locations for various reasons between days 19 and 21 (onset of the Fabián storm): Santiago de Compostela, Puenso (A Sturias), Las Condado (León) , Madrid, Huesca (Granada) and Punta Umbría (Huelva). In addition to personal injuries, material damages were also very important, including the cutting of roads and railways and the electricity supply in Galicia.

Why was it so intense?

There is no doubt that the squall Elsa was one of the most intense. However, the population does not know very well what the reasons were. Let's see what are the characteristics that make the Elsa squall so intense:

  • Very intense polar jet. The driving flow that regulates and "guides" this powerful storm is a strong polar jet with a wind speed of about 130-160 kt at 300 hPa, but the affected area is very large, extensive and long-lasting. All of this has a western component, it has a long ocean path and is thick in the vertical direction, extending down to the lower level.
  • Very humid air mass: The air mass that replaces the low polar jet system on the equatorial side is very humid, as can be seen from the tongue of moisture that appears in the total precipitation image below. This wet tongue portends continuous rains, preferably in the form of rain on the peninsula. The grainy appearance inside the Atlantic moisture tongue is a sign of convection embedded in it.
  • High instability: The masses involved are very unstable, either on the polar or equatorial side of the jet. The CAPE value is very obvious on the equator side, where unstable language input is observed. On the polar side, the existence of organized and unorganized focal points of convection demonstrates instability.
  • Size and complexity: Elsa's size and complex body shape are signs of her potential adversity. Few storms send such an important signal on satellite images.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the storm Elsa and its characteristics.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *



  1. Responsible for the data: Miguel Ángel Gatón
  2. Purpose of the data: Control SPAM, comment management.
  3. Legitimation: Your consent
  4. Communication of the data: The data will not be communicated to third parties except by legal obligation.
  5. Data storage: Database hosted by Occentus Networks (EU)
  6. Rights: At any time you can limit, recover and delete your information.