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CLIMATE CRISIS

Climate change transforming Switzerland ‘into Tuscany’, scientists warn

Rising temperatures in Switzerland caused by climate change are gradually transforming the famous Alpine scenery so it looks more like the dryer region of Tuscany, an environmental group has warned.

Climate change transforming Switzerland 'into Tuscany', scientists warn
Switzerland is taking on the colour of Tuscany., scientists warn. An aerial picture taken on September 15, 2020 shows the Castello di Brolio castle (Rear) towering over the Ricasoli company lands and vineyards, the most extensive in the Chianti Classico area, in Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

Global warming is leading to a “tuscanisation” of Switzerland’s landscape, the Swiss Foundation for the Protection and Management of Landscape (Sl-Fp) warned on Monday.

And the transformation could have major consequences on the country’s tourism industry.

The increasing number of heatwaves and dry periods over the past twenty years in Switzerland have already had a big impact on the landscape.

On Monday the foundation warned that as these episodes increase, the colour of the Swiss landscape will visibly change due to the reduction in the amount of water feeding the landscapes.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

It warned that “the romantic ideal of a ‘green’ and water-rich Switzerland seems to be undergoing a lasting transformation”.

They dominant colour of green will be replaced by lighter shades of yellow and brown that are reminiscent of the dry landscapes of the Tuscan valleys, the foundation wrote in a press release.

It also warned that at higher levels the retreat of glaciers and drop in the volume of water means the moraines high up in the mountains will vegetate at a much slower rate, meaning the Swiss mountains will be less green.

Natural streams and waterfalls are also drying up, a situation seen in Italy, in the Piedmontese and Ligurian Alps, notes the foundation.

READ ALSO: ‘An impossible dream’: Will we come to dread Swiss summer in future?

According to the foundation, increasing water loss and warmer temperatures have an impact on biodiversity and reduce landscape variety.

The changing landscape will also reduces the recreational value of the mountains and therefore hit the tourism industry hard, it warned.

A 2014 report by scientists that looked at the tangible ways the climate crisis will change Switzerland said that whilst melting glaciers was the most talked about change there are other ways the country will be affected.

“Agriculture will face increased heat stress for livestock, and tree species distribution will change. The tourist industry will have to cope with shorter ski seasons  and the urban population will be exposed to more heat days,” the report said.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

‘By a substantial margin’: How summer 2022 was Europe’s hottest on record

The summer of 2022 was the hottest in Europe's recorded history, with the continent suffering blistering heatwaves and the worst drought in centuries, the European Commission's satellite monitor said on Thursday.

'By a substantial margin': How summer 2022 was Europe's hottest on record

The five hottest years on record have all come since 2016 as climate change drives ever longer and stronger hot spells and drier soil conditions.

And that created tinderbox forests, increasing the risk of devastating and sometimes deadly wildfires.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said temperatures in Europe had been the “highest on record for both the month of August and the summer (June-August) as a whole”.

Data showed August was the hottest on the continent since records began in 1979 by a “substantial margin”, beating the previous record set in August 2021 by 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 Fahrenheit). Temperatures from June through to August 2022 were 1.34C hotter than the historical 1991-2020 average, while August itself was 1.72C higher than average.

READ ALSO: ‘A code red’: Will Europeans change their habits after climate crisis reality check?

An aerial view taken on August 4, 2022 in Les Brenets shows the dry bed of Brenets Lake (Lac des Brenets), part of the Doubs River, a natural border between eastern France and western Switzerland, as much of Europe bakes in a third heatwave since June. – The river has dried up due to a combination of factors, including geological faults that drain the river, decreased rainfall and heatwaves. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

That puts summer in Europe well within the temperature range at which the Paris Agreement on climate change seeks to limit global heating.

The 2015 accord commits nations to cap average global temperatures at “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to strive for a safer guardrail of 1.5C.

Although satellite data only stretches back a few decades, a Copernicus spokeswoman told AFP the service was confident that 2022 was the hottest summer in Europe going as far back as 1880 — at the early stage of the industrial age.

Europe has been battered by a string of heatwaves this year, with temperature records tumbling in many countries and the mercury topping 40C for the first time in Britain.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) said last month that 2022 was already a record year for wildfires, with nearly 660,000 hectares torched in Europe since January.

‘Summer of extremes’

CAMS said fires in France had seen the highest levels of carbon pollution from wildfires since records began in 2003.

The EU said last month that the current drought parching the continent was the worst in at least 500 years.

The European Commission’s Global Drought Observatory latest bulletin said 47 percent of the continent is currently covered by drought warnings — meaning the soil is drying out.

An additional 17 percent is under drought alert, meaning that vegetation is showing signs of stress, fuelling concerns about the continent’s autumn harvest.

“An intense series of heatwaves across Europe, paired with unusually dry conditions, have led to a summer of extremes with records in terms of temperature, drought and fire activity in many parts of Europe, affecting society and nature in various ways,” said senior C3S scientist Freja Vamborg.

“Data shows that we’ve not only had record August temperatures for Europe but also for summer, with the previous summer record only being one year old.”

On a global level, August 2022 was the joint warmest August on record. The average temperature was 0.3C higher than the 1991-2020 average for the month, the monitor said.

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