Bern pulls plug on lakes after heavy rain forecast

Authorities in the canton of Bern are to reduce the water level of three Swiss lakes this week so they can cope with the heavy rains forecast for the coming days.

Bern pulls plug on lakes after heavy rain forecast
Lake Biel/Bienne is one of the three affected lakes. Photo: Biel/Bienne/Seeland tourism/

Following heavy rain in the past two weeks, the water level in the lakes of Neuchâtel, Biel/Bienne and Murten at the foot of the Jura mountains is “higher than average” and the ground is “saturated”, the federal environment office (BAFU) said in a statement on Wednesday.

In addition, the current milder temperatures will increase snow melt in the Jura in the coming days, it said.

From Saturday until the middle of next week up to 110mm of precipitation is expected in the Jura, Fribourg alps and Bernese Oberland, exacerbating the situation.

To prevent flooding, BAFU has approved a request by the canton of Bern to lower the water level in the three connected lakes.

To do so, water flow through the Port dam at the northeastern end of Lake Biel/Bienne will be increased “in a controlled and progressive manner”, essentially pulling the plug on the lake.

As a result, the river Aare, which flows in and out of Lake Biel/Bienne, will be running faster in the coming days, said the statement.

“This measure will increase the lakes’ capacity for absorbing the forecast rainfall,” it said.

According to Meteo Suisse thunderstorms and rain are forecast for Switzerland from Saturday for the next few days.


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Heatwave: Why is it so hot in Switzerland right now?

Not so long ago we complained about the cold and rainy weather in Switzerland, wishing for sunnier and warmer days. Our wish has come true — but why exactly is it so hot and what can we expect for the coming weeks?

Heatwave: Why is it so hot in Switzerland right now?

The temps have reached high 20s across much of Switzerland in the past days, but the best (or the worst, depending on who you ask) is yet to come: meteorologists forecast the high of 32 degrees for Friday.

“The current heat wave is relatively extreme for a month of May”, meteorologist Joshua Gehring from official weather service MeteoSwiss said in an interview with Watson news platform.

Why is it so unseasonably hot right now?

One reason should come as no surprise to anyone: “What we are currently experiencing, that is to say a relatively early heat wave, is a direct consequence of climate change”, Gehring noted.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

Specifically, a phenomenon called “heat dome” is hovering over Europe. It is, according to Gehring, “a stagnant anticyclone that acts as a lid to accumulate and retain heat”.

This is pretty much what happens when you put a lid over a boiling pot — the heat therein is captured and can’t escape.

What can we expect for next week?

The forecast calls for the heat wave to end from the beginning of next week, with more seasonal, 20-degree-plus temperatures expected throughout the country.

This is what the forecast looks like for Tuesday:

MeteoSwiss screenshot

What can you do in the meantime to cool down?

Indoor air-conditioning is rare in Switzerland, but keeping cool is easier outdoors.

For instance, the abundance of lakes and rivers in Switzerland provides a welcome relief on hot days.

And if you like swimming pools, the good news is (at least during a heat wave) that some are turning off heating to boycott Russian gas, so you could have a nice, cool swim.

READ MORE: Swiss pools go cold in boycott of Russian gas

Also, most public fountains in Switzerland spout cold water you can drink and splash yourself with.

If all else falls, head for the glaciers (while they last).