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WEATHER

Parts of Switzerland experience warmest January on record

Despite the huge amounts of snow that fell in some areas of the country in the last few weeks, this January was in fact the warmest on record in some low-lying places, according to meteorologists.

Parts of Switzerland experience warmest January on record
File photo: PositiveEnergy/Depositphotos
Geneva recorded an average temperature of six degrees, the warmest since records began, said MeteoSuisse
 
The weather station at Sion in the Valais expects an average of four degrees for January, around one degree higher than ever before.
 
And in many parts both to the north and south of the Alps it’s likely to be the second warmest since records began in 1864, added MeteoSuisse.
 
The higher temperatures are a consequence of frequent storms coming from the west and south-west, said meteorologists. Almost continuous warm air from the Atlantic has raised temperatures and prevented cold air from stagnating on the Swiss plains, which is what normally happens in winter. 
 
However it’s a different story at altitude, where temperatures have been about normal for the month. 
 
For some parts of the Swiss Alps, January has been characterized by huge amounts of snow that cut off some ski villages on two separate occasions
 
 
Speaking to the Tribune de Genève, meteorologist Didier Ulrich said it’s not unusual that an overall warm month should nevertheless bring lots of snow. 
 
“The coldest winters are not those when it snows the most,” he said. “In fact, it all depends on the direction of the winds.”
 
While normally Switzerland experiences a north-easterly bise in January, bringing cold, clear nights, this month westerly winds from the Atlantic have dominated, “bringing at the same time warmth, clouds and heavy precipitation”, he explained.
 
Geneva, while warm, had the fifth wettest January since 1864, with twice as much rain as normal, said the paper.
 
Sion in the Valais, near some the ski resorts rendered inaccessible by snow, saw 200mm of precipitation, four times the norm.
 
The Grand St Bernard pass at 2,500m altitude saw a whopping 850mm of precipitation in January, where normally it only gets 230mm.
 
The warm weather is a contrast to January 2017, which was the coldest for 30 years but didn't experience a great deal of snow. 
 
 

WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: 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.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: 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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