Switzerland set for cold snap after ‘warmest January day on record’

A cold front is set to sweep across Switzerland from Wednesday evening onwards, after several regions of the country hit record temperatures on Tuesday.

Icicles along a rock wall in the Swiss canton of Graubünden
After one of the warmest starts to the year on record, Switzerland will now experience a drop in temperatures. Photo by Sereina on Unsplash

Five days into January, Switzerland is set for some January style weather from Wednesday evening onwards. 

Swiss weather service Meteonews predicts showers for much of the country, with snow at elevations higher than 500 metres. 

Temperatures between 2 and 5 degrees are predicted in cantons all across the country, other than Ticino where the mercury will reach double figures. 

Depending on your outlook, the shift will be a positive change towards traditional weather or the end of a premature springtime. 

So far in 2022, the weather has resembled that of mid-March, rather than the coldest and darkest part of the year. 

Switzerland brought in the new year with the second-highest temperature ever recorded. 

Poschiavo, in Graubünden, recorded 19.2 degrees on New Year’s Eve, which is slightly lower than the highest ever recorded of 20.6 degrees in 1917. 

Several parts of the country experienced their highest ever January temperatures on Tuesday, with much of the Swiss lowlands well into double figures. 

In the central regions of Gersau and Giswil the temperatures almost hit 20 degrees on Tuesday, while Schaffhausen and Buchs broke previous records by hitting 16.1 degrees. 

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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).