January 2024 one of the hottest Januarys on record in Switzerland
Even before the month had ended, a new report from MeteoSwiss confirmed that January 2024 as a whole was one of the warmest since records began in Switzerland. The weather at the start of the year has been characterised by warm winds and fluctuating temperatures, leading to the mercury being far higher than average for the time of year.
Temperatures in Switzerland 2,5 degrees higher than pre-industrial average
According to the report, temperatures in the alpine nation averaged minus 0,5 degrees celsius in January 2024, 1,8 degrees above the January average between 1991 and 2020. More alarmingly, the government noted that average temperatures for the month will be 2,5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels - bear in mind that the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 seeks to limit average global warming to well below two degrees.
The last 31 days have been characterised by fluctuations in temperature. After a few cold snaps, temperatures in some parts of the mountains rose by over 10 degrees in less than two days. The Ticinese community of Biasca saw temperatures rise to 20 degrees on January 25, breaking the record for the region. Other parts of Canton Ticino saw highs of 22 degrees.
In Sitten in Valais, January 2024 was the second warmest since records began, coming in at 2,6 degrees above average for the time of year. It was also the fifth warmest in Bern (2,5) and Lugano (1,5). In what will be bad news for hay fever sufferers, MeteoSwiss found that the warm temperatures in December and January mean that the first hazel pollen of 2024 is already starting to emerge.
Why were temperatures so warm in Switzerland this January?
MeteoSwiss noted that after a stormy and snowy start to 2024, strong-warm foehns and other winds have kept temperatures stubbornly high throughout January. This was most pronounced on January 22, when a strong wind saw the snow line rise from the lowlands to 2.000 metres above sea level in practically half a day.
The heavy storms experienced by parts of northern Europe have not found their way to Switzerland, but the amount of rainfall has risen in some areas and fallen in others. In northeastern Switzerland, over 200 percent more rain than normal fell on cities and cantons, while places in Ticino, Valais and Graubünden saw less precipitation - in Piotta, the amount of rainfall was less than 50 percent of the norm.
While experts are always quick to note that weather and climate are not the same thing, January temperatures already exceeding the temperature targets set by governments for warming brings the issue of climate change into sharp relief.
A study by the University of Oxford last year found that Switzerland faces the biggest rise in uncomfortably hot days thanks to climate change. This is due to the fact that temperatures in the alpine nation are set to rise faster than the global average and that Swiss housing is particularly ill-prepared to handle higher temperatures.