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Snow and icy winds cut short Swiss spring

Unseasonal snow, icy rain and strong winds caused disruptions across Switzerland on Saturday, delaying flights in Zurich, blocking roads and railway lines in some regions and leaving others without power.

Snow and icy winds cut short Swiss spring
Zurich airport. Photo: Flickr

After a week of summer heat, winter came roaring back with a vengeance Saturday, with the mercury plunging by around 20 degrees Celsius across the country since Thursday.

"It's a quite dramatic drop," Nicolas Borgognon of MeteoNews told AFP, adding that large temperature swings were however not altogether exceptional in spring.

Nearly a metre of snow blanketed some parts of the Alps and while the bad weather also reached the Swiss plains and the country's largest city Zurich.

The snow caused many flight delays from Zurich airport Saturday morning, airport spokesman Samuel Heinz told AFP. Flights were in the main running on time by early afternoon.

A number of roads were blocked in the southeastern canton of Grison while snow clogged two highways in Ticino in the south, which were blocked off to lorries, Swiss news agency ATS reported.

A number of mountain railway lines were also closed due to a heightened risk of avalanches, while heavy rains led to several mudslides.

Three cantons were reportedly hit by brief power outages.

Geneva, where many people had earlier this week eagerly donned shorts and sandals, was meanwhile being whipped by icy winds of up to 70 kilometres per hour, Borgognon said, adding that the nearby Jura mountains were facing winds of over 100 kilometres per hour.

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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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