Like the whole of western and northern Austria, the Gesäuse is influenced by a mild and damp central European/oceanic climate. It is characterised by prevailing westerly winds that bring fronts of heavy rain from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Northern Limestone Alps act as a weather barrier, which means that clouds coming from the north accumulate along the mountain range and release their moisture as rain.
About half of the precipitation in Austria falls along this relatively narrow zone, which runs from west to east across the whole of Austria.
Consequently, the weather is characterised by relatively frequent, and sometimes continuous periods of precipitation, amounting to considerable totals (from 1,200 up to more than 2,500 mm per annum). By comparison, the provincial capital Graz only gets about 860 mm of annual rainfall, and the federal capital Vienna about 620 mm. The quantity of precipitation increases with altitude, the wettest season being summer.
Periods of extremely heavy rain have a major impact as they often cause natural disasters. Thunderstorms in particular can bring up to 70 litres of water per square meter, unleashing mud flows and landslides.
There is also a small precipitation maximum in winter, which may bring a great deal of snow and thus increases the risk of avalanches in the Gesäuse.
The strongest promise of predominantly fine weather comes from weather systems with a southerly airflow. During winter there are frequent periods of 'foehn' wind, which trigger sudden thaws. Foehn storms often cause widespread wind damage in the woodlands.
Late summer and autumn enjoy the finest and most settled weather of the year. However, in winter too there can often be prolonged periods of high-pressure. The result is an inversion of the normal temperature values, so that cold air pockets remain trapped in the low-lying valleys and basins.
There are regional as well as local variations in the frequency and quantity of precipitation, average temperatures and the number of days with fine weather.
In the Enns valley and in the southern areas one can already notice the protecting effect of the northern mountains of the Gesäuse. The highest levels of precipitation in the region occur in the Buchstein massif and around the Tamischbachturm.
At the bottom of the Admont valley we get an average precipitation of 1,200 millimetres per annum and foggy weather in winter. Annual precipitation in Hieflau is 1,433 millimetres although the village lies at a lower altitude. In the central area around Gstatterboden, the protecting effect of the surrounding Buchstein Group becomes noticeable, giving a lower average precipitation. The valley fog often dissolves quickly due to the funnelling effect of the Gesäuse gorge.
Weather stations in the Gesäuse