Snowfall ends Switzerland’s Indian summer

Distinctly chilly temperatures and widespread precipitation brought the mild, sunny autumn to an end over the weekend, with snow falling in the Alps and down to 600m altitude in some parts of the country on Sunday night.

Snowfall ends Switzerland’s Indian summer
The webcam at Wengen, in the Bernese Oberland, on Monday morning. Image: Wengen webcam
A cold front crossed the country on Sunday, said MeteoSuisse, bringing cold air from the north-east in the form of a chilly bise wind gusting above 50km/hr in many parts.
The snow limit dropped to 800m on Sunday night, with abundant precipitation in the Alps, said MeteoNews, predicting it would drop further to 600m during the course of Monday.
Above 1,500m in the Alps up to one metre of snow is expected. 
Indeed, many alpine resorts were showing fresh snow on their webcams and social media feeds on Monday morning, including Nendaz and Verbier in the Valais, resorts in the Bernese Oberland and the Val d'Anniviers.
The sudden drop in temperatures was preceded by a warm foehn wind on Saturday which kept the air mild, particularly in eastern parts of the country where temperatures reached 19 degrees in places.
In general October was unusually warm, dry and sunny, with temperatures 1.3 degrees above the norm for that time of year. In parts it was the sunniest October since records began.  


Swiss ski resorts will be hoping this change in the weather marks the start of the winter season. However early snow does not guarantee a prolonged ski season. Last year snow arrived in November but was followed by an exceptionally dry December and no fresh snow until January in many parts of the country. 

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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.