Geneva smashes records with temps nudging 40C

The mercury rose to almost 40C in Geneva on Tuesday, smashing weather records, as other cities in western Switzerland also recorded historic highs on the seventh day of a sizzling heatwave set to give way to thunderstorms and cooler conditions on Wednesday.

Geneva smashes records with temps nudging 40C
Photo: Lykaestria

The temperature reached 39.7C in Geneva on Tuesday afternoon, the hottest ever recorded in Switzerland north of the Alps, the national weather office MeteoSwiss reported.

It was also the highest registered in Geneva, beating the previous record of 38.9C set in 1921, although it fell short of the all-time record high for Switzerland of 41.5C in Grono, a municipality of the Mesolcina valley in the canton of Graubünden during a heatwave in 2003.

Records fell in other cities in French-speaking Switzerland such as Nyon (38 degrees) and Payerne (37.9C) in the canton of Vaud (38C), Neuchâtel (37.8C), Fribourg (36.6C) and Sion (37.8C) in the canton of Valais.

Bern, the Swiss capital, also posted a new record high of 36.8 degrees, MeteoSwiss said.

“In summary we can say it was the second or third hottest day ever registered in Switzerland,” Frédéric Glassey, of MeteoNews told the ATS news agency.

In Geneva, the heat forced authorities to close the city’s municipal libraries, while its art and history museum shut its doors on the weekend.

The hot weather has also boosted ozone levels, prompting authorities to offer commuters reduced fares for public transit in a bid to encourage motorists to leave their cars at home.

Lakeside beaches and river swimming areas have been inundated with people seeking to beat the heat but at least seven people have drowned in the past week.

The latest incident involved a man who died in Lake Geneva while swimming off the waterfront of the Perle du Lac park, near the World Trade Organization's headquarters.

Cantonal police said the man's body was found about 15 metres from shore and that he died at around 5.30pm.

No other details were immediately available.

The heatwave, which started last Wednesday, has lasted seven days, which is rare for Switzerland.

Blistering hot temperatures were also recorded in other European countries, including Spain and France as warm air pushed north from Africa and the Iberian Peninsula.

MeteoSwiss issued level 4 alerts for hot weather (out of a scale of five).

But it switched its warnings to storm alerts for late Tuesday, with a high risk of heavy rain, strong winds and hail extending from Geneva to include the Jura, the western Alps and the Bernese Oberland.

Maximum temperatures are set to fall to between 19C and 27C in western Switzerland, while top temperatures in German-speaking Switzerland are not expected to exceed 24C.

In southern canton of Ticino highs of around 31C are forecast. 

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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.