Swiss September so far is hottest since 1911

Switzerland has experienced the hottest first half of September for more than a hundred years.

Swiss September so far is hottest since 1911
Some parts of Switzerland broke records for the time of year. File photo: Sin Amigos

The average temperature across the country from September 1st-14th was 19.8 degrees, Meteo Suisse said on Wednesday.

That’s the second hottest average for this time of year since records began in 1864, and is only surpassed by September 1911’s sunny September, when the mercury averaged 20.1 degrees in the first fortnight.

And some parts of the country experienced record heat so far this month, with Ticino averaging 23 degrees, significantly above the next highest comparable figure, of 21.6 degrees, recorded in the first half of September 1895.

The canton of Valais also broke records with an average temperature of 20.8 degrees. The last time  the first two weeks of September averaged above 20 degrees in the Valais was in 1911.

Unfortunately, it looks like 2016 may be copying 1911 in more ways than one.

According to Meteo Suisse, a meteorological text written in 1911 says that “September was divided into two periods with completely different meteorological conditions: the first fortnight was very hot, practically without rain and very sunny, while the second fortnight was fresher, cloudy and fairly rainy.”

The meteorological conditions of 1911 – blamed on an anticyclone climate in Europe – seem to be repeating themselves this year, said Meteo Suisse.

Indeed, Thursday sees a significant change in the weather, with rain forecast for much of the country, continuing over the next few days.

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What’s next after Switzerland’s ‘extremely worrying’ heatwave?

Switzerland hit record high temperatures for June for the first time in 75 years on Sunday but what's the forecast for the coming days and weeks?

What's next after Switzerland's 'extremely worrying' heatwave?

With 36.9C recorded in Beznau, in the canton of Aargau on Sunday, Switzerland equalled the high temperature record held by Basel since 1947.

Other Swiss towns experienced sweltering temperatures as well: In Neuchâtel the mercury rose to 36.5C, in Sion it hit 36.4C and  in Lausanne it was 32.6C, according to MeteoNews.

Temperatures were decidedly more pleasant at high altitudes in the mountains: the temperature of 16.9C was recorded at 2,900 metres in the shade on the Diablerets glacier.

Whilst lower down at the Moléson in Fribourg, which stands at 2,000 metres, a more seasonal 24 degrees was recorded.

Like its neighbours, “Switzerland is not immune to brief and extreme phenomena”, climatologist Martin Beniston, honorary professor at the University of Geneva, said in an interview with Tribune de Genève.

And if high temperatures continue — as they are forecast for next days — “the very dry ground will reinforce the warming, it is a vicious circle”, said Vincent Devantay, meteorologist from MeteoNews.

This means higher risk of fires, especially in the forest. “They have really dried up compared to last year. The lack of rain is becoming extremely worrying”, he pointed out.

Thunderstorms are predicted in parts of Switzerland towards the end of the week but they will not necessarily prevent the drought, Beniston said.

What the soil needs are “gentle showers, repeated, for two to three weeks”, rather than occasional heavy thunderstorms that don’t provide enough moisture for the earth’s deeper layers.

Continued rains are not expected in the immediate future and  forecasts for the summer months predict more intense heatwaves.

READ MORE: How this week’s heatwave will hit Switzerland and how to stay cool

What are the consequences of the heatwave and no rain?

As The Local already reported, Swiss glaciers are now melting faster than usual, partly due to the early heat wave in May.
READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

But there is more.

Hydrologist Massimiliano Zappa, also warns that current very high temperatures and no rain could speed up the drought across Switzerland, especially as Swiss rivers and streams “have a lower flow than the average of previous years”.

Water rationing could become inevitable, he said.

 “In Spain and southern Italy, for example, people know how to get by with little water, because they have been educated to meet their daily needs with less. But this is not part of Swiss mentality”, Zappa said.

The heat wave could also impact railway installations as well as electronic devices, according to Le Temps newspaper.

“Overheated smartphones, expanding rails, and computer fans running at full speed: high temperatures put a strain on infrastructure and our everyday objects, while requiring more energy”, Le Temps said.