Alpine passes close as snow hits Switzerland

Strong winds and cold air brought snow to many alpine areas in Switzerland on Sunday and Monday, closing many alpine passes.

Alpine passes close as snow hits Switzerland
The Susten pass on Tuesday morning. Photo: webcam
Driven by north-westerly winds, polar air hit Switzerland on the weekend, with snow falling above 1,200m, said MeteoSuisse
On Monday up to 50cms of snow fell in places, with the snow line dropping from 2,500m on Saturday to around 1,000m on Monday morning.
Snowfall was at its deepest in the east of the country, said MeteoNews
The snow caused many alpine passes to close on Monday. 
According to automobile association Touring Club Switzerland (TCS), passes including the Susten, Grimsel, Fluela, Furka, St Gotthard and San Bernardino were all closed on Monday. 
Others, including the Great St Bernard pass, were open but snow-covered, with TCS advising cars be properly equipped for winter driving.
The view from the Grimsel Hospiz, on the Grimsel pass, on Tuesday morning. Photo: webcam
Only the canton of Ticino was spared the chill, with temperatures remaining over 20 degrees and no precipitation, influenced by an anticyclone over the Mediterranean, said news agency ATS.
As for the rest of the country, winter is likely to disappear as quickly as it arrived. Mild, dry weather is expected to return in the middle of the week, said MeteoNews. 
The wintry blip spoiled an otherwise golden autumn in Switzerland, which has experienced weeks of blue skies and mild temperatures. 
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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.