A glance at the climate change in Switzerland

In the summer 2015, many people wondered why Switzerland had not installed the air conditioner in most of houses. The Swiss people replied that the summer was not hot in the history of Switzerland, but nowadays the temperature can reach more than 30oC at noon. It is one of the evidences which prove the existence of the climate change in Switzerland.


Fig. 1 The tempertature of Switzerland increases faster than the global temperature of the north hemisphere (Christoph Angst, 2009)

The temperature rise varies in many regions in Switzerland. For example, Western Switzerland increased 1.6oC, while the German-speaking part rose 1.3oC, and the southern Alps raised up 1oC. Switzerland. In general, Switzerland was hotter from above 1 to below 2 oC (OcCC / ProClim, 2007). Its temperature climbed up faster than the global temperature in the north hemisphere (Fig. 1) because Switzerland is located inside the continent. The oceans can slow down the warming because of the water’s high heat capacity and its ability to mix heat vertically (NOAA, 2007). As many scientist said, 2 oC is the threshold of danger because it is the highest temperature during 100,000 years. We cannot predict what will happen exactly for the Earth, but certainly the Earth will face many adverse effects.


Fig.2. Rhone glacier river retreated in Switzerland from 1850 to 2010 (VAW-ETHZ, 2010)

Apart from the temperature is hotter, the sunshine duration is longer, and Switzerland is less foggy. The north Alps sunshine duration raised up 20%, and it was 10% for the south Alps; the period 1999-2008 was the least foggy (Stefan Brönniann et. al., 2014). The high temperature and the more sunny days evoke the less snow and glaciers. The river glaciers retreated in many regions in Switzerland, for instance, Triftgletscher, Steingletscher, Rhone (Fig. 2). As a result, the ski resort had to pray for snow. Some large resorts like Davos St. Moritz started to use snow cannons (BBC, 2011).

Moreover, the extreme events are one of climate change proof. First, the heat wave occured in Switzerland was double, and the frequency of hot days was triple from 1880 to 2005 (Stefan Brönnimann et. al., 2014). Second, Switzerland is called the « Water Tower of Euroupe ». The water resource of Switzerland is abundant, but it is surprising that people found droughts in many lakes such as the lake Gruyere, the lake Constance, the lake Klöntalersee of Glarus canton. Third, the ice storm was stronger than before, for example, the freezing storm in the lake Geneva in 2012.


Fig.3. A hardwood forest in Ticino, but the global warming makes Swiss latitudes attractive for palm trees (Thomas Reich, 2006)

Finally, the species is gradually adapting to the new climate. There is new species appearing in Switzerland. For instance, the tropical palm trees moved to the hardwood forest of Ticino in the Swiss territory (Fig. 3). Furthermore, Swiss wildlife is heading uphill very fast because of the global warming (Tim Radford, 2014).

Through many factual evidences, we would say that Switzerland will not face the climate change because it is facing this issue now. Switzerland should take the action and contribute to the important role for COP 21 at the end of 2015. A beautiful country with glaciers, snow, ski, lakes…will become a country with droughts, floods, less glaciers, less snow, less ski, and even everything can disappear. Let’s note it and take actions which contribute to adapt or mitigate the climate change, but how? You can find out by yourself or more easily, come with us, One Tree for Climate, to know more!

21 October 2015, EPFL, Switzerland

Khanh Nguyen