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WEATHER

Switzerland marks driest December in 150 years

Switzerland has just experienced its driest December in more than 150 years and one of its driest months on record, meteorologists said on Saturday.

Switzerland marks driest December in 150 years
A webcam shows the Jungfraujoch peak on New Years Day morning. Photo: Web Cam screen grab.
With an average of just 2.0 millimetres (0.079 inches) of precipitation this month, the Swiss lowlands saw their driest month since record-taking began in 1864, the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, or MeteoSuisse, told public broadcaster RTS.
   
Many places in the west of the country did not see a single snowflake or drop of rain, it said, pointing out that usually the Swiss plains get nearly 90 millimetres of precipitation on average in December.
   
Before this year, the driest December on record was in 1963, when the Swiss lowlands saw an average of 4.8 millimetres of precipitation, MeteoSuisse said. The usually wet month of December ticked in this year as the third driest month on record, after September 1865, which saw 1.7 millimetres of rain, and April 1893, which got only 1.1 millimetres.
   
Meanwhile, many places in the Swiss Alps experienced unusually high temperatures, with the 3,466-metre (11,371-foot) Jungfraujoch peak for instance registering its third-warmest December on record, MeteoSuisse said. See here for a web cam
   
The meteorologists did not provide an explanation for the unusually dry and warm weather.

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WILDFIRES

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

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

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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