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Climate change Extreme winters in Switzerland are becoming more frequent

As coronavirus continues its devastation, it is easy to lose sight of the major crisis before the pandemic: climate change. We delve into the official temperature figures to show how this winter became the warmest on record in Switzerland.   

This animated map shows how winter temperatures (metereological winter, December to February) have been developing on average in the three different climate zones of Switzerland over the last 155 years.

The Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, known as MeteoSwiss, divides Switzerland into three climate regions: north of the Alps and lower than 1,000 metres above sea level (MASL); north of the Alps and higher than 1,000 MASL and south of the Alps.

In 2020, the national average winter temperature rose to 0.7°C. Extreme winter temperatures, with a national average of over 0ºC, have only occurred four times since temperature records began in 1864. Extremely warm winters like these are a phenomenon of the last 30 years, when the average Swiss winter temperature was just under -2°C.

At the same time, cold winters with temperatures well below -4°C seem to have disappeared from Switzerland's current climate.

Comparing the pre-industrial period of 1871-1900 to the current period of 1991-2020, Swiss winters have become almost 2°C milder. In their 2019/2020 climate bulletinexternal link MeteoSwiss infers that the increase in the standard winter temperature, the extreme winters above 0°C and the disappearance of really cold winters are clear signals of ongoing climate change.

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