2011 has been the hottest year since 1864, when Switzerland first began to measure and record temperatures, said MeteoSwiss on Tuesday.

"/> 2011 has been the hottest year since 1864, when Switzerland first began to measure and record temperatures, said MeteoSwiss on Tuesday.

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WEATHER

2011: Switzerland’s hottest year on record

2011 has been the hottest year since 1864, when Switzerland first began to measure and record temperatures, said MeteoSwiss on Tuesday.

2011: Switzerland's hottest year on record
Patrick Hutter

Temperatures have been two degrees higher on average and the country has experienced its second worst drought, with the first four months of the year in particular unusually mild and dry.

On April 7th, for instance, temperatures soared to 26.1 degrees in Basel. In the Ticino region, in the south of the country, the same month saw near-tropical heat, with the city of Locarno-Monti basking in a balmy 31.8 degrees.

The summer, by contrast, saw very changeable weather. July temperatures were well below average for the season and rainfall was heavy.

Real summery weather did not arrive until August. The 22nd of that month was the hottest day of the year in Switzerland with temperatures hovering around 33 degrees. In the Alpine town of Sion, the mercury rose to 36.8 degrees.

The Swiss will also remember September 2011 for its mild temperatures and dry weather, and ultimately also for concerns surrounding a severe drought in the north of the country.

It was the second driest year since 1864. Even trees in Geneva were tricked by the unusual conditions and started blossoming again in November.

There was heavy snowfall in high-altitude resorts as early as September and October, but the eagerly awaited precitipitation did not reach the plateaus until mid-December, considerably later than normal.

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WEATHER

What’s next after Switzerland’s ‘extremely worrying’ heatwave?

Switzerland hit record high temperatures for June for the first time in 75 years on Sunday but what's the forecast for the coming days and weeks?

What's next after Switzerland's 'extremely worrying' heatwave?

With 36.9C recorded in Beznau, in the canton of Aargau on Sunday, Switzerland equalled the high temperature record held by Basel since 1947.

Other Swiss towns experienced sweltering temperatures as well: In Neuchâtel the mercury rose to 36.5C, in Sion it hit 36.4C and  in Lausanne it was 32.6C, according to MeteoNews.

Temperatures were decidedly more pleasant at high altitudes in the mountains: the temperature of 16.9C was recorded at 2,900 metres in the shade on the Diablerets glacier.

Whilst lower down at the Moléson in Fribourg, which stands at 2,000 metres, a more seasonal 24 degrees was recorded.

Like its neighbours, “Switzerland is not immune to brief and extreme phenomena”, climatologist Martin Beniston, honorary professor at the University of Geneva, said in an interview with Tribune de Genève.

And if high temperatures continue — as they are forecast for next days — “the very dry ground will reinforce the warming, it is a vicious circle”, said Vincent Devantay, meteorologist from MeteoNews.

This means higher risk of fires, especially in the forest. “They have really dried up compared to last year. The lack of rain is becoming extremely worrying”, he pointed out.

Thunderstorms are predicted in parts of Switzerland towards the end of the week but they will not necessarily prevent the drought, Beniston said.

What the soil needs are “gentle showers, repeated, for two to three weeks”, rather than occasional heavy thunderstorms that don’t provide enough moisture for the earth’s deeper layers.

Continued rains are not expected in the immediate future and  forecasts for the summer months predict more intense heatwaves.

READ MORE: How this week’s heatwave will hit Switzerland and how to stay cool

What are the consequences of the heatwave and no rain?

As The Local already reported, Swiss glaciers are now melting faster than usual, partly due to the early heat wave in May.
 
READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

But there is more.

Hydrologist Massimiliano Zappa, also warns that current very high temperatures and no rain could speed up the drought across Switzerland, especially as Swiss rivers and streams “have a lower flow than the average of previous years”.

Water rationing could become inevitable, he said.

 “In Spain and southern Italy, for example, people know how to get by with little water, because they have been educated to meet their daily needs with less. But this is not part of Swiss mentality”, Zappa said.

The heat wave could also impact railway installations as well as electronic devices, according to Le Temps newspaper.

“Overheated smartphones, expanding rails, and computer fans running at full speed: high temperatures put a strain on infrastructure and our everyday objects, while requiring more energy”, Le Temps said.
 

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