Switzerland soaks up spring-like temperatures

Springlike weather washed over most of Switzerland on Tuesday, bringing mild temperatures to the plateau region and at mid-level in the Alps and the Jura mountains.

Switzerland soaks up spring-like temperatures
Sun rises over Zurich on Monday. Photo: Zurich transport department/Facebook

Mervelier in the canton of Jura recorded a high of 16 degrees, making it the country’s hot spot, according to MeteoNews.

Zurich was not far behind with a top temperature of 15 degrees, ahead of Movelier (Jura), Winterthur (Zurich) and Liestal (Basel Country), where the mercury reached 14 degrees.

Readings averaged up to 12 degrees in the plateau and Lake Geneva basin regions, MeteoNews said, although no records were set.

The mildness even extended into Alpine areas such as Grächen in the canton of Valais, which recorded a high of 11 degrees at an altitude of 1,620 metres.

A current of warm air from the south and southwest originating in North Africa was responsible for the exceptional conditions, weather experts said.

The relatively balmy conditions contrasted with a brutal cold snap in the United States that put half the American population under a wind chill warning.

With temperatures sinking below minus 20 in Chicago and other cities, residents there were warned that if they went outside exposed skin could freeze.

Switzerland’s early spring is expected to continue until at least Thursday when even warmer temperatures could be recorded.

Forecasts call for colder conditions to return on Friday and Saturday.

Meteorologist Ivo Sonderegger told Blick that though it’s been warm this is not unusual for January based on the past few years.

“In the last 10 years we have regularly had relatively high temperatures in Switzerland — practically every second day.”

The readings fall short of records set between 1991 and 1993.

While it reached almost 13 degrees in Basel on Tuesday for example, the high for January in that city is 19 degrees, according to MeteoNews.

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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.