Swiss summer of 2019 was ‘third hottest on record’

Switzerland has just experienced its third hottest summer on record according to preliminary figures, thanks in part to heatwaves that hit the country in June and July.

Swiss summer of 2019 was 'third hottest on record'
Switzerland was hit by a drought in 2018. File photo: AFP

When it comes to hot summers in Switzerland, 2003 has become the yardstick. That year as Europe sweltered and thousands of people died across the continent as a result, Switzerland recorded its highest temperature ever of 41.5C in Grono in the canton Graubünden.

But while it could be some time before Switzerland sees a summer like that again, this last summer was not far behind.

Official meteorological figures won’t be released until September 13th, but a new preliminary analysis by Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung shows Switzerland has just had its third hottest summer on record.

Some Swiss train rails were painted white this summer to prevent buckling in the heat. Photo: AFP

That puts its slightly ahead of the long, hot summer of 2018, which came in fourth place, and 2017 in fifth. The second hottest summer was in 2015.

This means four of the last five Swiss summers have been among the five hottest since records began.

June and July particularly hot

Looking at the summer in more detail, June (an overall national average of 15.3C) and July (an average of 16.2C) were particularly warm. Switzerland had its equally second warmest June ever and its sixth warmest July.

New June temperature records were measured at 50 weather stations, while there were also 15 all-time weather records set during the month. The overall national average was 3.4C above the figure for the period 1981 to 2010. In addition, some mountain peaks saw an average of 5C above the norm for 1981 to 2010.

August 2019 was just the 14th warmest on record, but the average temperature of 15.1C was still 1.5C over that for the period from 1981 to 2010, climatologist Stephan Bader told SonntagsZeitung.

Climate change 'the sum of individual weather events'

Bader stressed that a single extreme event could not be explained as evidence of climate change. But he said 2019 was not a one-off and that the extremely warm summers of the last 20 years, combined with heatwaves, were a sign of climate change.

“With the increasingly warm summers and more frequent heatwaves, the character of the summer climate in Switzerland has changed. The signals of climate changes are therefore the sum of individual weather events,” he said.

READ ALSO: Switzerland boosts green goals with aim to go carbon neutral by 2050

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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

As temperatures climb again, many people may struggle to get a good night's sleep in Switzerland. Here are some expert tips to help you even when it's sweltering hot.

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

Switzerland’s summers tend to get hotter and this season has seen its share of heatwaves, bringing temperatures closer to 40C and making it almost impossible to sleep.

This could mean trouble for residents of a country better prepared to bear the cold weather than the extreme heat.

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has three ‘golden rules’ for how to make it through heatwaves; avoid exercise during the hottest part of the day, keep the heat out of your house however you can, drink and eat smart (fresh foods and lots of water).

With night temperatures in some regions above 20C, Swiss residents will also need some help getting through the night.

Here are a few tips to keep cool overnight and enjoy better sleep despite the heat of the night.

Don’t sleep naked

It’s tempting to ditch the PJs when it’s this warm overnight. But sleep experts say this is a mistake, as any moisture from sweat accumulates on your body.

Cotton pyjamas and cotton sheets are very effective in absorbing and removing sweat from your body.

Give a little help to your internal clock

Many people think that it is only the extreme heat in summer making your sleep seem a bit worse than in the colder months. But the fact that days are brighter for longer makes a huge difference.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland’s largest cities are combating the heat

As light suppresses our body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that signals that it is time to sleep, the longer days irritate our internal clock, according to sleep experts.

The old tip of turning off your devices to avoid the blue light is also extra crucial. So around one hour before going to bed, you can start your “darkening” ritual throughout your home.

In that sense, it’s also better to avoid naps during the day to keep a better sleep routine.

Try to cool your room and yourself

Of course, the cooler temperatures are in your bedroom when you go to sleep, the better. You can help get temperatures a few degrees down by following these tips: keep the blinds and windows shut during the worst of the day and ventilate the cooler night breeze during the night.

Sleeping during a heatwave can be difficult. Photo: Yuris Alhumaydy / Unsplash

You can also moisten your curtains just before bedtime and leave the window open; the water evaporation will make it a bit cooler. If you can, another tip is to put your mattress on the floor as hot air rises – excellent advice for those sleeping on a bunk bed.

Don’t forget to turn off (and unplug!) electrical appliances, as those are heat sources.

READ ALSO: Eight great swimming spots to escape the Swiss summer heat

To cool yourself, you could take a lukewarm evening shower (not a hot one, those will make your body react by generating heat).

Fans and humidity help

As long as you’ve kept your room relatively cool, fans work. They help evaporate sweat which, in turn, helps your body regulate its temperature.

Putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help cool the room.

Some people swear by dampening their sheets before going to bed. But if you’re not used to it, the feeling can be a little disconcerting. You can also place multiple ice containers in the corners of your room, which will melt slowly overnight and cool the air.

Why is it essential to have a good night’s sleep?

Several days of scorching temperatures can cause heat stress, according to the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

If the nights are not cool enough, the body can’t recover from the heat of the day, creating a dangerous condition called “thermal stress”, which can be fatal for the elderly and other vulnerable people.

While there are no statistics showing how many people have fallen victim to heat stress during the most recent heatwave, several cantons have implemented a system of home visits and frequent phone contact with this at-risk group.

READ MORE: How to keep your cool during Switzerland’s heatwave