Heavy fog to continue cloaking Swiss plateau

Fog that cloaked parts of the Swiss plateau from Geneva to Zurich for the past two days is expected to persist until Thursday, making driving treacherous and boosting pollution levels.

Heavy fog to continue cloaking Swiss plateau
Fog over Lake Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/File

MeteoSwiss, the national weather office, says the pea-souper conditions are affecting areas below 600 metres in cities that include Lausanne, Neuchâtel, Bern, Lucerne and Zurich.

With temperatures hovering either side of zero, the conditions have given rise to black ice, making driving on some roads a hazardous affair.

Police reported at least 50 motor vehicle accidents in Basel-Country on Saturday after roads were turned into skating rinks by freezing rain.

Police received around 250 phone calls from people affected, although no serious injuries were reported.

In the canton of Jura, where police blamed slippery roads for 15 accidents, PostBus suspended service for several hours, the ATS news agency reported.

Two people were slightly injured in a collision between Develier and Delémont, said cantonal police who also noted numerous pedestrian accidents.

The atmospheric conditions have led to elevated pollution levels in mountain areas.

In neighbouring France, authorities have reduced speed limits on motorways through the French Alps by 20 kilometres an hour in a bid to reduce emissions trapped by the fog.

But above the mist, ski resorts are benefiting from sunshine and warm temperatures caused by a temperature inversion, making for spring-like conditions on the slopes as more areas opened for the season on the weekend.

Many runs remain closed due to lack of snow, however, with most resorts relying on snow-making equipment for cover at lower elevations.

Meanwhile, poor visibility forced the cancellation or delay of at least 18 flights at Geneva's airport by late Monday afternoon, with certain flights bound for the Swiss city rerouted to Lyon. 

MéteoSwiss is predicting a change in weather patterns on Thursday, with milder temperatures and rain forecast in western and northern Switzerland coupled with snow in the Alps.

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2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: 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.

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: 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.