30th anniversary of the Great Cold Wave of January 1985

13 January 2024 Costa Brava

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Great Cold Wave of January 1985, which marked an exceptional episode in the climatic history of Catalonia and is considered the last phenomenon of extreme and persistent cold to date.


The twelve-day Great Cold Wave brought about two notable snowfalls


It began on January 5 due to two Siberian air masses invading the region from northeastern Europe. The cold lasted for twelve days and resulted in two notable snowfalls. For this reason, it is known as the most intense of the 20th century.

The first snowfall coincided with the Night of Kings, with accumulations of up to 15 cm. The second, more intense, affected the Costa Brava and Montseny between January 11 and 15, with a notable record of 37 cm in Calella de Palafrugell.

Temperatures plummeted across the country, with frost extending to the coastline. On the Costa Brava, the mercury dropped to -10.5 ºC in Castell d’Aro and -10 ºC in Blanes and Begur. In the Pyrenees and some areas of Central Catalonia, temperatures reached -20 ºC. The record was set at the Vallter 2,000 ski resort with a striking -23 ºC on January 15.


Layers of snow transformed the landscape


The intensity of this Great Cold Wave was evaluated through temperatures at 850 hPa, located approximately 1,500 meters above sea level. Invasions of Siberian cold air brought temperatures down to -16 ºC and contributed to the accumulation of cold air in valleys and plains.

Persistent snowfalls over weeks transformed the landscape. In the case of L’Estartit, temperatures of -7.1 ºC kept snow on the streets for a week. The city of Barcelona was also covered by a layer of snow ranging from 1 to 7 cm.