Spring? Swiss weather remains in winter mode

Spring officially starts on Wednesday but residents of Switzerland will have to wait awhile for spring-like weather, according to forecasters.

Spring? Swiss weather remains in winter mode
Forecasters say warmer weather is on the way, though sun worshippers may have to wait a few weeks. Photo: Sebastian Bozon/AFP

A bout of colder than usual weather hit much of the country over the past few days with heavy snow falling on Ticino, normally the region with the mildest conditions.

Ten centimetres of the white stuff covered low-lying areas of the southern Italian-speaking canton on Monday morning, while as much as 35 centimetres accumulated at higher elevations in the mountains.

Ticino police reported no major accidents but parts of the A-2 and A-13 highways were temporarily closed to trucks.

Several flights were cancelled at Lugano’s airport.

MeteoSwiss, the national weather offiice, said the heavy snow was due to moist air from the Mediterranean arriving in southern Switzerland and colliding with cold air.

The snow is not expected to last long in the Ticino valleys, with rain already washing much of it away by Monday afternoon.

More snow was expected in the canton on Monday night but at levels above 800 metres.

A mixture of cool air and precipitation also brought light snow to the Jura Mountains and the Lake Geneva region early on Monday.

Temperatures struggled to get above a maximum of three to five degrees in much of Switzerland over the weekend as a cold front passed from west to east, MeteoSwiss, the national weather office said.

Changeable weather, including occasional thunderstorms, is predicted to follow on Tuesday when temperatures will gradually start rising.

By Thursday, the mercury is predicted to hit 14 degrees in Lugano, the biggest city in Ticino.

But sun worshippers may have to wait until after Easter before warmer weather kicks in for good.

One meteorologist, Dominik Jung, of, predicted warmer than usual weather for late April and early May.

Jung told 20Minuten, the online news site, that he expects numerous summery days with daily high temperatures of 25 degrees, especially in northern Switzerland.

He added that this prediction had a 65 to 70 percent probability.

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Climate crisis: Swiss lakes at lowest-ever August levels

Some of Switzerland's best-known lakes are at their lowest level ever for August after a dry year so far in 2022, the environment ministry said on Wednesday.

Climate crisis: Swiss lakes at lowest-ever August levels

Some of Switzerland’s best-known lakes are at their lowest level ever for August after a dry year so far in 2022, the environment ministry said on Wednesday.

At the same time, discharge levels on the Rhine, one of Europe’s major rivers which starts in the Swiss Alps, have never been so low in August since records began.

“There is a low water situation in Switzerland, especially on the central plateau and in the southern part of Ticino,” the country’s southernmost canton, said Michele Oberhansli, from the Federal Office for the Environment’s hydrology division.

READ ALSO: Water flown in by helicopter: How Switzerland has been hit by drought

“The reason for the existing situation is a precipitation deficit in the whole year of 2022, which affects the whole of Switzerland, as well as many other European countries,” she told AFP.

Soil moisture is down across the country and drought is affecting forests and agriculture, she said.

Lakes Constance, Lucerne, Lugano and Walen “are currently recording water levels that have never been so low in an August month since measurements began”, said Oberhansli.

Meanwhile Lakes Zug and Maggiore “continue to show values well below average”.

The shores of Lake Maggiore mark the lowest point in Switzerland, normally at 193 metres above sea level.

READ ALSO: MAP: The Swiss regions in danger of wildfires and the measures in place to avoid them

Except the lakes in the Jura region in the northwest and Lake Thun, the levels of all the other larger Swiss lakes are also below the long-term average.

Rivers down, glaciers melting

Meanwhile many Swiss rivers are recording readings that only occur once every two to 20 years.

“Discharge values on the Reuss and Rhine have never been so low since measurements began in August,” said Oberhansli.

The hydrologist said rain over the coming days should “slightly alleviate” the low water and drought levels, but would “not yet be sufficient to ease the overall situation”.

Following a dry winter, the summer heatwaves hitting Europe have been catastrophic for Switzerland’s Alpine glaciers, which have been melting at an accelerated rate.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

A layer of ice — 15 metres thick in 2012 — has covered the Tsanfleuron Pass between two glaciers since at least the Roman era.

But most of it has gone and the ice on the pass will have melted away completely by the end of September, a ski resort said last week.