Satellite images show marked lack of snow in the Alps as ski resorts shut in record warm weather

The usually bustling resorts have been deserted after record-high winter temperatures.

Two images show the difference in snowfall in the Alps in the space of a year
Two images show the difference in snowfall in the Alps in the space of a year. (Nasa)

Satellite images have revealed the extent of the extraordinary warm weather in Europe, with popular ski resorts abandoned due to a lack of snow.

Usually bustling resorts in the French and Swiss Alps have been forced to close after record-high winter temperatures swept across parts of the continent over the new year.

Temperatures in Switzerland were 20C on Monday, while record highs for this time of the year were also recorded in the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland.

In France, the night of 30 and 31 December was the warmest since records began, with temperatures up to nearly 25C in the southwest on New Year's Day.

Watch: Satellite images show snow-free Alps as ski resort close amid record temperatures

The satellite images from Nasa show there was significantly more snow in the regions between Switzerland, France and Italy last year.

French national weather agency Meteo France attributed the conditions to a mass of warm air moving to Europe from subtropical zones.

It added snow was lacking in the northern Alps and across the Pyrenees at lower altitudes below 2,200 metres.

The warm weather struck during the busy skiing season, leading to cancelled trips and events, including a ski jumping event in Zakopane, southern Poland, planned for the weekend of 7 to 8 January.

Read more: Winter heat records smashed across Europe as temperatures reached 25°C in Spain

On Jahorina above Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was home to the 1984 Winter Olympics, it should have been one of the busiest weeks of the season but instead, chairlifts were left unused above the grassy slopes.

Resorts in the northern Spanish regions of Asturias, Leon and Cantabria have also been closed since the Christmas holidays due to a lack of snow.

The UK is also currently experiencing unusually warm weather, with temperatures across large swathes of England and Wales in double digits on Wednesday night rather than around freezing as is expected in early January.

A satellite image of the Alps in 2022
A satellite image of the Alps in 2022. (Nasa)
A satellite image of the Alps in 2023
A satellite image of the Alps in 2023 with significantly reduced snow cover (Nasa)

Scientists have not yet analysed the specific ways in which climate change affected the recent high temperatures, but January's warm weather fits into the longer-term trend of rising temperatures due to human-caused climate change.

Dr Friederike Otto, climate scientist at Imperial College London, said: "The record-breaking heat across Europe over the new year was made more likely to happen by human-caused climate change, just as climate change is now making every heatwave more likely and hotter.”

In October, research showed rising temperatures risked stunting the growth of the Italian economy over the coming decades, with tourism among the hardest hit.

Winter sports were the most exposed, with reduced snowfall indicating fewer visitors would head to the Alps to ski, according to the data from a Bank of Italy research project.

Resorts at lower levels faced the greatest risk, with artificial snow unable to compensate fully for the absence of the genuine article.

The recent conditions follow another year of extreme weather events that scientists concluded were directly linked to global heating, including deadly heatwaves in Europe and India, and flooding in Pakistan.