Swiss heatwave expected over holiday weekend

After a tentative start to summer, punctuated by cool spells and rain, Switzerland is bracing for its first heatwave this long Whitsun weekend.

Swiss heatwave expected over holiday weekend
MeteoSwiss weather map showing expected highs across the country on Monday.

Forecasters expect temperatures to surpass 30 degrees starting on Saturday, with hot weather continuing into the middle of next week.

MeteoSwiss, the national weather office, is predicting the mercury will rise as high as 34 degrees in some parts of Switzerland on Sunday.

Highs of 34 degrees are forecast in the cantons of Geneva and Valais on Whit Monday, and 33 degrees in Basel and Zurich.

Isolated thunderstorms could occur in mountain regions throughout the long weekend, MeteoSwiss said.

In the canton of Vaud, the health department has put in place a heatwave plan to deal with possible risks stemming from high temperatures.

Young children and elderly and frail people are particularly at risk when temperatures rise and they are advised to stay indoors.

In Switzerland a heatwave warning is generally only issued when temperatures of 33 degrees or more are expected for three consecutive days.

The Vaud health department warned that extreme heat can lead to fatalities.

In the event of unusually hot weather the department is counselling the public to rest, reduce physical activity, cool off regularly, eat lightly and drink water regularly.  

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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.