Dust from the Sahara Desert covers parts of Switzerland

If you woke up this morning in your Swiss home and the world outside your window is yellow, this is why.

Dust from the Sahara Desert covers parts of Switzerland
Pedestrians walk as sand from the Sahara that fell overnight covers the Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

It would seem that the world is getting stranger by the minute.

Now a cloud of dust is covering parts of  Switzerland, giving it an unusual yellow glow, with the normally blue sky taking on an orange-brown hue.

If you are concerned that this clash of yellow and blue in the sky has something to do with the war in Ukraine, be reassured: the dust cloud comes from northwest Africa, according to the Federal Meteorological Office.

Reader question: Is Switzerland’s Sahara dust cloud dangerous?

The reason: a depression over Morocco and Algeria, which raises the fine sand of the Sahara desert, which heads towards Switzerland.

‘Blood rain’

Despite the ominous name, “blood rain” is simply what happens when rainwater is combined with the desert dust. It’s a natural phenomenon — though admittedly not that natural for Switzerland.

All this is actually good news as it means the end of winter and beginning of spring and warm weather, according to Klaus Marquardt, a meteorologist at Meteonews.

“Wednesday could be the hottest day of the year so far. The bar of 20 degrees will even be crossed in the Rhine valley and in Basel”.

However, it is necessary to see to what extent the Sahara cloud will influence the evolution of temperatures, Marquardt said.

“Because weather models don’t account for desert dust, it could end up being cooler than originally thought.”  

That’s  because In the presence of a lot of dust, solar radiation can be attenuated.

The other outlook, however, is promising: Thursday too, apart from a few areas of high fog, the weather will remain quite sunny and the temperature will be around 16 degrees.

On Friday it will be slightly cooler, but the weather will probably also be quite sunny. The forecast for Saturday is similar, Marquardt said.

READ MORE: Is spring already springing up in Switzerland?

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Heatwave: Why is it so hot in Switzerland right now?

Not so long ago we complained about the cold and rainy weather in Switzerland, wishing for sunnier and warmer days. Our wish has come true — but why exactly is it so hot and what can we expect for the coming weeks?

Heatwave: Why is it so hot in Switzerland right now?

The temps have reached high 20s across much of Switzerland in the past days, but the best (or the worst, depending on who you ask) is yet to come: meteorologists forecast the high of 32 degrees for Friday.

“The current heat wave is relatively extreme for a month of May”, meteorologist Joshua Gehring from official weather service MeteoSwiss said in an interview with Watson news platform.

Why is it so unseasonably hot right now?

One reason should come as no surprise to anyone: “What we are currently experiencing, that is to say a relatively early heat wave, is a direct consequence of climate change”, Gehring noted.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

Specifically, a phenomenon called “heat dome” is hovering over Europe. It is, according to Gehring, “a stagnant anticyclone that acts as a lid to accumulate and retain heat”.

This is pretty much what happens when you put a lid over a boiling pot — the heat therein is captured and can’t escape.

What can we expect for next week?

The forecast calls for the heat wave to end from the beginning of next week, with more seasonal, 20-degree-plus temperatures expected throughout the country.

This is what the forecast looks like for Tuesday:

MeteoSwiss screenshot

What can you do in the meantime to cool down?

Indoor air-conditioning is rare in Switzerland, but keeping cool is easier outdoors.

For instance, the abundance of lakes and rivers in Switzerland provides a welcome relief on hot days.

And if you like swimming pools, the good news is (at least during a heat wave) that some are turning off heating to boycott Russian gas, so you could have a nice, cool swim.

READ MORE: Swiss pools go cold in boycott of Russian gas

Also, most public fountains in Switzerland spout cold water you can drink and splash yourself with.

If all else falls, head for the glaciers (while they last).