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Heatwave in Switzerland set to continue until Friday

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Heatwave in Switzerland set to continue until Friday
The heatwave has pleased humans but represents an existential threat for fish in Swiss water bodies. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.
11:13 CEST+02:00
With record temperatures for the year recorded in certain areas last weekend and the temperature of waters in certain rivers reaching new heights, there is finally an end in sight to the heatwave that has gripped the Alpine nation in recent weeks.

Rainy storms across Switzerland are scheduled for between Thursday and Friday and are set to reduce temperatures across the country, bringing some relief to farmers, wildlife and people in what has been one of the driest and hottest seasons on record, according to Switzerland's Federal Office for Meteorology and Climatology. 

The western Swiss city of Sion registered its hottest day of 2018 last Saturday when temperatures peaked at 36.3 degrees Celsius, writes 20 Minutes. 

The cities of Basel, Bern and Lucerne are set to live the longest stretch of days with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius since 1980, reports Swiss news outlet SRF – should temperatures exceed 30C on Thursday too. 

While occasional storms can be expected in the late afternoons and evenings across Switzerland before Thursday, temperatures are nevertheless expected to exceed 30 degrees until then in most parts of the country. Some areas will still have to contend with scorching day temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius. 

It has been one of the hottest and driest summers for Switzerland since records began in 1864. Last Saturday, August 4th, the water temperature in the Aar river in Bern reached 23.5 degrees Celsius, beating the previous record from 2003; the Rhine surpassed 27 degrees in a stretch of the river near Geneva, reports Swiss news portal 20 Minutes. 

The heatwave has caused a glacial lake to form –  seen here on August 3rd – where parts of the Rhone Glacier melted. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

Glaciers that have stood strong for centuries are melting, such as the Rhone Glacier, the source of the Rhone river, on the borders of the cantons of Uri, Valais and Bern. "The volume of the ice cover is currently decreasing by ten centimeters per day," glacier expert David Volken told Swiss daily Blick last month.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 litres per second are melting off the glacier, according to Volken, and have formed a new glacial lake (pictured above). Parts of the remaining bare ice have apparently been covered with white cloths to preserve it. 

The hot weather has pleased bathers and tourists but the government has issued warnings to the elderly and those with young children to take additional safety measures during particularly hot days. 

Fish continue to face an existential crisis and have been relocated from several bodies of water to cooler habitats for their survival.  Water supplies have been curtailed and wildfire alerts have been raised in many cantons.

READ ALSO: Sizzling temperatures leading to 'catastrophe' for fish in Swiss lakes and rivers

The unpredictable weather has oscillated between extreme highs to tempestuous storms in the last month – which have flooded roads, torn down trees and caused the emergency services substantial headaches, especially in the northeast of the country. 

Such hot weather is rare but not unprecedented. In 2003, temperatures of more than 41 degrees, the hottest ever south of the Alps in the country, were recorded in Grono in the canton of Grisons, according to 20 Minutes. 

Sunflowers near Gampelen, Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.

The Union of Swiss Farmers has called on the government for support as harvests are threatened by the lack of rainfall. "The situation is very worrying because the drought is likely to continue," Jacques Bourgeois, head of the union told Swiss news agency Keystone, adding that his organization would be presenting a series of "proposed measures" to the government on Tuesday. 

Mountain farmers have had water delivered by helicopter in some cases while corn, potato and sugar beet harvests across the country "are threatened," according to another report by 20 Minutes. 

READ MORE: Switzerland experiencing the hottest summer since 1864 

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