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Switzerland faces hotter, drier summers and snow-scarce winters: study

Switzerland can expect drier summers, more hot days, heavy rainfall and snow-scarce winters if greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked, according to new climate modelling.

Switzerland faces hotter, drier summers and snow-scarce winters: study
Slopes without snow in the Swiss Alps resort of Les Crosets in January 2017. File photo: AFP

The Climate Scenarios CH2018 study warns Switzerland could in future have to deal with problems like dry soil, tropical nights and increased flooding.

Read also: Switzerland is rapidly losing its snow (and climate change is probably to blame)

“We have to prepare for the changing climate and adapt,” said project leader Andreas Fischer from Switzerland’s Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss).

Researchers from MeteoSwiss, the University of Bern and Zurich's ETH technology institute mapped climate scenarios for the next 100 years to build their models.

That modelling indicates Switzerland could face drier summers with 25 percent less rainfall than is seen currently if climate change is not mitigated (a scenario which would mean a possible rise in average global temperatures of 2–3C by the middle of this century).

These drier summers would also lead to drier soils, according to a statement put out by ETH on Tuesday.

Hot summers like 2018 and the record-breaking summer of 2013 could also become normal with temperatures up 2C to 5.5C on today on the hottest days of the year. Heatwaves would be both more common and more extreme.

At the same time, rainfall could also become heavier: up to 10 percent on current single-day highs.

Lastly, winters could get as much as 2C to 3.5C warmer meaning a higher snow line and only half as much snow at low altitudes compared to now.

For their study, researchers also looked at a scenario where mitigation measures limited the global temperature increase to 2C above pre-industrial levels.

“With consistent climate mitigation, about half of the potential changes in Switzerland’s climate could be avoided by the middle of the 21st century, and about two thirds could be avoided by the end of the century,” says Reto Knutti, climate scientist at ETH Zurich.

But the best-case scenario still means adapting to increased global temperatures. There is no resetting the clock, according to the study models.

Read also: Survey- Swiss believe in made-made climate change but do little to combat it

WILDFIRES

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

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

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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