Heatwave forces Geneva to close public libraries

The ongoing heatwave in the city of Geneva has forced authorities to close seven municipal libraries on Tuesday because they lack air conditioning.

Heatwave forces Geneva to close public libraries
The Saint-Jean municipal library in Geneva already closed its children's section late last week because of the heat. Photo: Geneva municipal libraries/Facebook

Libraries are the sort of place that members of the public seek out when the weather is hot.

But in Geneva, the lack of cooling systems in the municipal libraries has made them among the most uncomfortable places to be.

On Monday, the branches were closed to the public as usual, but some of them registered temperatures of between 32C and 35C inside.

MeteoSwiss, the national weather office, forecast highs of 37C for Geneva on Tuesday.

Given the intensity of the heat, library management decided to close the doors to the public.

“We are obliged to take this decision because we have not been able to put in place the prevention measures foreseen within the context of the 2015 heatwave plan,” Véronique Pürro, municipal library director told the Tribune de Genève newspaper.

“We cannot open the windows at night for security reasons,” Pürro said.

“So we can’t lower the temperature.”

The closure is aimed at protecting staff as well as members of the public.

Library branches in the Eaux-Vives, La Jonction, Saint-Jean, Servette, Pâquis, Minoteries and La Cité neighbourhoods will be shuttered for the day.

The Geneva museum of art and history was also forced to close its doors on the weekend because of the boiling temperatures.

The temperature in certain rooms in the museum, which dates from 1910 and is badly in need of renovation, rose on Friday to as much as 34 degrees, the Tribune reported.

Residents of most parts of Switzerland will have to wait until Wednesday for relief from the heat in the form of forecast cooler weather and rain showers.

MeteoSwiss predicted Basel will be the hottest place in Switzerland on Tuesday with an expected high of 38 degrees, while top temperatures of 37C are expected in Sion and 36C in Zurich.

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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.