Worst Swiss heatwave since 2003 anticipated

Switzerland is preparing for the most intense heatwave in almost 12 years with weather experts predicting high temperatures above 35C for the first eight to ten days of July.

Worst Swiss heatwave since 2003 anticipated
Bathers swimming in the Rhine River in Basel, expected to be one of the hottest places in the country. Photo: Basel Tourismus

The torrid conditions across the country are expected to be the warmest since 2003 when thousands of people — mostly elderly — succumbed to the heat across Europe, weather specialist meteonews said on its website on Monday.

From August 3rd to 13th in 2003 maximum temperatures exceeded 35C for 11 days, the website noted.

Forecasts are calling for the same kind of heat starting on Wednesday and continuing until at least July 8th as a stable high pressure system extends from the Atlantic Ocean to Central Europe.

The mercury will start nudging 30C or more on Tuesday in Geneva, Sion (canton of Valais), Bern, Basel and Lugano in the canton of Ticino.

The following day, anticipated highs will reach 35C in Sion and Basel, where the maximum is set to reach 37 degrees on Thursday and 38C on Friday.

See also:




While thunderstorms may bring brief respite in mountain areas, low temperatures at night are forecast to remain above 20C in many parts of the country.

Such extended periods of hot weather are relatively rare in Switzerland with the most recent example being a week in July 2006, when high readings above 30C were recorded every day.

Medical experts from various cantons are counselling elderly people and young children to stay indoors.

The canton of Vaud’s medical doctor warned that the general population should avoid physical activities from 11am to 3pm during the heatwave period.

In cases of heat stroke — with symptoms such as general weaknesses, dry mouth, confusion, vertigo, disorientation, nausea and cramps — people are advised to call a doctor without delay.

Meteonews says other advice for dealing with the above-average temperatures includes:

— drink at least two litres of water per day, while avoiding alcohol, fats and sugars

— wear light-coloured clothing and if you are going outside wear a cap or other hat

— freshen up by having at least one shower a day

— seek out cool, shaded areas

— if you have air conditioning, avoid setting the temperature below 21C — great differences between the heat indoors and outdoors can lead to sore throats and cases of angina

— ensure that elderly people — many of whom lose their sense of thirst — have enough to drink 

— keep infants away from confined spaces and ensure they in a place with adequate air flow  

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.