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WEATHER

Snow to follow Swiss dive into deep freeze

Temperatures plunged well below zero in may parts of Switzerland on Tuesday morning with La Brévine, in the canton of Neuchâtel, setting a record low for the year at minus 23.4C.

Snow to follow Swiss dive into deep freeze
Webcam view of lifts at Zermatt, where just eight percent of the ski area is open. Photo: Zermatt.ch

The drop in the mercury followed the first snow of the season in non-mountain areas of the country over the weekend, marking a reversal of Indian summer conditions lingering earlier last week.

Other regions where temperatures fell below minus 20C included Adermatt in the canton of Uri and Ulrichen in the canton of Valais.

Lows of minus 4C were recorded in Geneva, Basel and Zurich and highs on Tuesday were not forecast to reach above four degrees across the country, except for southern Ticino, MeteoSwiss, the national weather office said.

La Chaux-de-Fonds, in the canton of Neuchâtel, where it is expected to remain below zero until the weekend, registered a low of minus 12C.

An anticyclone spreading from the Atlantic Ocean to Central Europe was responsible for the clear skies and cold conditions, MeteoSwiss said.

Snow is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday in regions above 500 metres, bringing badly needed cover for mountain ski resorts with bare slopes.

Just seven ski stations are currently operating, including Zermatt in the canton of Valais and Les Diablerets in the canton of Vaud, which can rely on glacier pistes.

More than 15 others are planning to open this weekend but the majority are not scheduled to start the season until December, weather permitting.

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WEATHER

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.

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