Big chill: Switzerland suffers icy start to week

Switzerland woke to bitterly cold conditions on Monday with temperatures below -10C recorded in many locations across the country.

Big chill: Switzerland suffers icy start to week
Lake Geneva during the notorious cold snap of 2012. Photo: AFP

In what is the coldest morning of this winter to date, the temperature in Zurich was -10.6C at 6am on Monday, while Bern was not much warmer at -9.4C. In Geneva the thermometer was at -6.2C, according to MeteoNews.

Maximum temperatures on Monday will be between -10C and -3C degrees but the wind chill factor will mean it will feel between 10C and 20C colder, the weather service reported.

The current cold snap is expected to last until Wednesday with temperatures slowly climbing after that and reaching a spring-like 10C on the weekend.

The freezing conditions across much of Europe at the start of this week are related to what is known as a Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event above the North Pole, according to World Meteorological Organization. This has resulted in freezing easterly winds sweeping into Europe from Siberia.

It also means that temperatures in Switzerland are far below those in the Arctic Circle where conditions are up to 25C are warmer than usual for this time of year.

Authorities in Geneva and Lausanne reacted to the intense cold over the weekend by laying on a combined extra 580 beds emergency beds. In German-speaking Switzerland, many cities saw patrols with homeless people offered a place in a shelter or a winter sleeping bag.


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.