Northern exposure: Swiss winter makes March comeback

It's a case of "now you see me, now you don't" as the Swiss spring takes a break in the north of the country.

Northern exposure: Swiss winter makes March comeback
Photo: George Mills

After a snowy weekend in some places, much of Switzerland is set for a cold and grey start to this week with maximum temperatures in the north of the country only just above freezing.

While Geneva can expect to bask in a decidedly more spring-like maximum temperature of 8C on Monday, in Zurich, Bern and Basel the mercury is set to top out at 3C. Meanwhile, in St Gallen it will be a decidedly cold -1C.

There isn’t much relief in sight either: weather in the north of Switzerland is expected to remain on the chilly side until the weekend. Night time temperatures will be between -3C and -6C up until Friday. On the plus side, skies should brighten from Tuesday onwards.

And while this week’s relatively cold spell has nothing on the arctic front that slammed Switzerland recently, SRF Meteo noted that is unusual to get some many cold days in a row from mid-March on.

Source: Meteosuisse

The northwest of the country has borne the brunt of the recent weather. With a top temperature of -0.9C, Basel on Sunday shivered through its coldest March 18th since 1975. It was also the second coldest March 18th on record.

The city of Basel also saw some five centimetres of new snow while the Basel region and the canton of Solothurn were blanketed with up to ten centimetres of the white stuff.



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Water flown in by helicopter: How Switzerland has been hit by drought

Parts of Switzerland will get some much-needed rain in the coming days. But will that be enough to fix the current drought situation?

Water flown in by helicopter: How Switzerland has been hit by drought

Switzerland is drying up. Extreme heat, with the alpine country going through one of the hottest summers in history, and prolonged drought are transforming the landscape in Switzerland and making authorities take somewhat drastic measures to combat the effects of the climate crisis.

Pastures are in danger of dying in the Alps, so the Swiss army is airlifting water for the cows using helicopters – a measure that has been taken before and should become more common as temperatures rise.

The long dry spell has also impacted Switzerland’s production of milk and cheese, as The Local reported. While some cantons opted to fly water up the Alps, others, such as Vaud, are bringing their cattle to lower ground earlier than usual.

The situation is similarly dire in the canton of Fribourg, where the famous Gruyère cheese has been produced for centuries.

READ ALSO: ‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

“The situation is tense, even critical”, according to Frédéric Ménétrey, director of the Fribourg Chamber of Agriculture, who said that 15 alpine pastures that are inaccessible by road are being supplied by private helicopters.

With a “lack of water and dry grass”, milk production could be reduced by “20 to 30 percent”, Said Dominique de Buman, president of the Fribourg Cooperative of Alpine Cheese Producers.

Different trails and views

Some classic Swiss hiking routes had to be closed off as warmer temperatures speed up glacier melt, making them full of hazards like falling rocks released from the ice. Once green mountains are becoming arider, transforming Switzerland into Tuscany.

The transformations will have a significant effect on a country with a tourism industry heavily dependent on winter and skiing. Some cantons have covered glaciers to protect them from melting – again, not a new measure, but one that should become more necessary in the future.

The arid look extends to the famous Swiss lakes, with many of them at historic low points this season. Rivers are also low on water, exposing banks and creating dry islands. Even from one year to another, the change is evident:

As water temperatures rise, fish are also in danger. The Swiss Fisheries Federation (SPF) has warned of fish deaths in “historic proportions” nationwide due to persistent heat and high exploitation of rivers for electricity generation.

In Schaffhausen, authorities have fished out stocks and brought them to cooler zones, as hot water temperatures can be deadly for the animals.

The risk of forest fires is also extremely high, with the entire country currently in danger of wildfires, as The Local reported. The risk is higher in the south of Switzerland.

READ ALSO: MAP: The Swiss regions in danger of wildfires and the measures in place to avoid them

Rain prospects offer little hope

The weather is about to change this week in Switzerland, Meteonews reports.

While some areas of Switzerland have been hit by thunderstorms in the past days, providing some relief for agriculture and nature in general, the amount of rain has not been sufficient to counteract the effects of the drought that has impacted much of the country.

However, as rainfall is expected in much of the country, there could be some relief – though “it would take several weeks of almost daily rain to see a real and lasting improvement”, meteorologist Vincent Devantay said.

The rain will also bring in “much cooler temperatures”, but the summer weather will come back from Sunday, “with increasingly warm temperatures and no clear deterioration is in sight for the future”.

READ ALSO: Switzerland to get rain this week — at last