November one of warmest on record despite early snow

Swiss ski resorts may have opened particularly early this year, but the past month was one of the mildest Novembers since records began in the 19th century, according to meteorologists.

November one of warmest on record despite early snow
File photo: Renate Dodell

Over the month, temperatures were 0.5 to 0.7 of a degree warmer than the average, said MeteoSuisse in a statement.

In some places, such as Altdorf in the canton of Uri and Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland, temperatures were 2.5 degrees higher than normal, making it one of the warmest Novembers on record.

That was mainly due to the warm foehn wind that dominated the weather in the second half of the month, said MeteoSuisse.

However it was a month of two halves, with a cold front bringing snow to the country’s alpine resorts in the first fortnight of November.

In Crans-Montana in the Valais, 51cms of snow fell in 24 hours, said MeteoSuisse.

“Towards mid-November the mountains were covered with a thick coating of snow. But a few days later temperatures in the valleys of the northern Alps climbed over 20 degrees with a persistent foehn,” it said.

The foehn ended on November 25th, and was followed by a strong bise wind and lower temperatures.

Several of Switzerland’s ski resorts opened limited slopes in mid-November, including Verbier, Laax and Crans-Montana.

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‘Critical situation’: Drought threatens Switzerland’s cheese production

The long dry spell has impacted much of the country’s agriculture, including the production of milk and cheese in some Swiss regions.

‘Critical situation’: Drought threatens Switzerland’s cheese production

It is difficult to imagine Switzerland without its cheese, but the heatwave and lack of water is playing a part in this worst-case scenario, with even the iconic Gruyère under threat. 

Usually, Swiss cows spend the summer high up the mountains, grazing on Alpine pastures until they are brought down – sometimes with a bit of local ceremony – from the mountains onto the plain in the fall.

But this year’s heatwave  and drought have disrupted this traditional process – with parched meadows running short of both grass and water, forcing farmers in canton of Vaud to bring their cattle to the lower ground in the middle of summer.

Vaud agricultural authorities estimate that 60 out of Jura’s 200 mountain pastures are “in acute lack of water” and even though the canton is supplying water to the breeders, “the unprecedented heatwave will in any case affect the production of milk and cheese”, Le Temps daily reported.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why are cows so important in Switzerland?

The situation is similarly dire in the canton of Fribourg, where the famous Gruyère cheese has been produced for centuries.

“The situation is tense, even critical”, according to Frédéric Ménétrey, director of the Fribourg Chamber of Agriculture, who said that 15 alpine pastures that are inaccessible by road are being supplied by private helicopters.

With “lack of water and dry grass”, milk production could be reduced by “20 to 30 percent”, Said Dominique de Buman, president of the Fribourg Cooperative of Alpine Cheese Producers.

This also means that less Gruyère will be made this year and, if heatwaves and droughts become a standard summer weather, “we must reflect on how to adapt the alpine economy and agriculture to global warming”, Éric Mosimann, manager of the Vaud Society of Alpine Economy, pointed out.
 READ MORE: How Switzerland is protecting its cheeses from foreign influence