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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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.