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Location – Climate – Geology

Location

The Dolomites (Italian: Dolomiti [doloˈmiːti]) are in the north-east of Italy, between the Austrian border in the north and the big Venetian plain on the south. They lie in the most northern regions of Italy, Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia. The Dolomites are part of the provinces of Belluno, Bolzano, Trento, Udine e Pordenone.

Geography

Geography of the DolomitesThese mountains cover an area of more than 90 km north to south and 100 km east to west.
The Dolomites are made up of 15 different massifs, each of which reaches around 3000 meters in altitude. These massifs are divided by rivers, valleys and passes. Marmolada is the highest mountain of the Dolomites (10,968 ft). It lies between the borders of Trentino and Veneto.

The most important rivers are Isarco and Adige in the west; Rienza in the north; Piave in the east; and Avisio and Cordevole which run from north to south through the Dolomiti.
The only massif west of the Adige River is the Brenta Group, a big oval shaped group that is a little separated from the rest of the Dolomites. The Dolomites form a part of the Southern Limestone Alps and extend from the River Adige in the west to the Piave Valley in the east. The northern and southern borders are defined by the Puster Valley and the Sugana Valley. 

There are also mountain groups of similar geological structure that spread over the River Piave to the east – Dolomiti d’Oltrepiave; and far away over the Adige River to the west – Dolomiti di Brenta. There is also another smaller group called Piccole Dolomiti (Little Dolomites) located between the provinces of Trentino, Verona and Vicenza.

The region is commonly divided into the Western and Eastern Dolomites, separated by a line following the Val Badia – Campolongo Pass – Cordevole Valley (Agordino) axis.The Natural Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites and many other regional parks are located in the Dolomites. In August 2009, the Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

How to get there

The main international airports closer to the Dolomites are the one in Venice (160km) and the one in Monaco (Germany). There also are smaller airports in the region, in Treviso, Verona and Innsbruk (Austria).
Transfers from the airports to the Dolomites require 4 hours from Milan, 3 from Monaco, and 2 from Innsbruck, Verona and Venice. Train and bus services are good, especially in high season.

Geology

The fantastic scenery of the Dolomites is due to their geology. These shapes are quite strange and unusual compared to the rest of the Alps and to the other mountains on our planet.


The Latemar and the Marmolada (the highest peak of the Dolomites – 3343 m) for example are limestones, a slightly different rock with similar origins. When these rocks formed, they were all limestones. The dolomite process began later and it left out the Latemar and the Marmolada, possibly because they were covered by volcanic rocks.

The processes that formed the Dolomites were in the Permian-Triassic (200-265 million years ago). They remained undisturbed for more than 100 million years under a great layer of marine sediment. During the Tertiary (between 60 and 5 millions years ago), the collision between the African continent and the European continent deformed the crust and the sea deposits emerged.

The Alps, including the Dolomite region, were born in that period.
A lot of fossils was find in the area, and you can find others when you are hiking close to these amazing mountains.


Climate

The Dolomiti are generally warm and they get less precipitation than the alpine regions of Austria, Switzerland and France. The bad weather generally comes from south south-west. Wind from the north usually brings good weather. As in all other mountain regions, the weather can change suddenly, especially in July and August.

During the summer period, from the middle of June to the beginning of August, the climate is pleasantly warm during the day and fresh during the night. From mid-July to mid-September there are sometimes thunderstorms in the afternoon. A warm sunny day can transform in a kind of hell in less than an hour. Considering the wind-chill factor, temperature can fall up to 15 degrees. For this reason, anyone planning to set off climbing or trekking is well advised to first check the local weather report or to visit the local Alpine Guide Office. It is also advisable to start any activity early in the morning.

From September to October (and sometimes also in November) the weather is stable and clear with chill nights and possibility of snowfall on the highest peaks when the weather is bad. During these months there are fantastic autumn colors to be seen in the woods and forests.

From December to March it is wintertime and a white blanket of snow covers the Dolomites. Winter snow usually begins to accumulate in December, lasting through March, and sometimes April. While temperatures fall below freezing, and snowfall is ample, the sun shines an unparalleled 8 days out of 10 in the Dolomite’s – more than any other range in the Alps! The sunny winter paradise of the Dolomite Mountains make skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing adventures here unbeatable!

Spring returns in with warmer weather and longer days, but also with rain. But this too is welcomed, as it clears the air for spectacular vistas and brings beautiful green valleys and pastures overflowing with wildflowers!climate and geology

Below some weather data of Cortina d’Ampezzo, the “Queen of the Dolomites” (Elevation 1,224m (4,016′) – Latitude 46.540471 N – Longitudine 12.135652 E).

climate geology Dolomites

Month 

Average High Temperature 

Average Low Temperature

Average Hours Daylight

Average Hours Sunshine / Day

Average Days Rain / Month

January

6°C / 42.8°F

-7°C / 19.4°F

9:04

3

4

February

9°C / 48.2°F

-3°C / 26.6°F

10:23

4

4

March

15°C / 59°F

2°C / 35.6°F

11:52

5

5

April

19°C / 66.2°F

5°C / 41°F

13:32

5

7

May

23°C / 73.4°F

9° C / 48.2°F

14:56

6

10

June

27°C / 80.6°F

13°C / 55.4°F

15:42

7

9

July

29°C / 84.2°F

15°C / 59°F

15:25

8

9

August

28°C / 82.4°F

15°C / 59°F

14:12

7

9

September

25°C / 77°F

11°C / 51.8°F

12:37

6

6

October

19°C / 66.2°F

6° C / 42.8°F

11:01

5

6

November

11°C / 51.8°F

0°C / 32°F

9:32

3

6

December

7°C / 44.6°F

-5°C / 23°F

8:42

3

4

There is a lot to say about the flora and fauna of the Dolomites, and since there is not space here, I advise the reader to refer to a specialist publication on the subject.

Bibliography: James and Anne Goldsmith : “The Dolomites of Italy” – Hunter Publishing Inc,1989

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