Climate trends in Switzerland

Climate trends illustrate the development of temperature and precipitation in Switzerland since the beginning of systematic measurements in 1864. The deviations of the annual and seasonal values from the average of the period from 1961-2990 (normal period) are illustrated. This information is used to derive temperature and precipitation trends and visualise long-term changes.

Trends at meteorological stations

The change in temperature and precipitation is illustrated graphically for the measuring stations. Annual and seasonal climate trends are visualised.

Data basis

The data used for the temperature and precipitation diagrams is taken from measuring stations of the Swiss climatological network. The data from these stations is available homogeneously and is adjusted for effects arising from changes in the measurement conditions. In order to obtain an average for the whole of Switzerland or defined sub-regions, the measurement data from the individual stations is combined.

Temperature

For temperature, the individual stations are weighted according to their level of representativeness. The methodology applied for determining the weightings is published separately and the data can be accessed on the MeteoSwiss website.

 

Precipitation

A simple average from the following stations is used for precipitation:

  • All of Switzerland: Basel (BAS), Bern (BER), Château d'Oex (CHD), Chaumont (CHM), Davos (DAV), Engelberg (ENG), Geneva-Cointrin (GVE), Lugano (LUG), Säntis (SAE), Segl-Maria (SIA), Sion (SIO), Zurich / Fluntern (SMA).
  • Northern Switzerland below 1000 meters: Basel (BAS), Bern (BER) Geneva-Cointrin (GVE), Zurich / Fluntern (SMA).
  • Northern Switzerland above 1000 metres: no average available
  • Southern Switzerland: Lugano (LUG).

Temperature development since 1864

With regard to the long-term temperature development, the seasonal patterns are very similar for autumn and winter. The temperature patterns of spring and summer are even more alike.

Characteristics of autumn and winter

  • Between 1880 and 1890, winter temperatures were at an extremely low level, while autumn temperatures were likewise exceptionally low between 1880 and 1920.
  • From 1900 to 1980, winter temperatures developed remarkably calmly without any long-term change being recorded. The same was also true for autumn temperatures between 1920 and 1980.
  • In 1987/88, there was a sudden change to a pronounced period of warm winters, although this trend has been muted somewhat over the past 15 years with a few cooler winters.
  • No more extremely low autumn and winter temperatures were recorded toward the end of the 20th century.

Characteristics of spring and summer

  • The 1940s were warmer than average.
  • Temperatures held steady between 1960 and 1980.
  • During the course of the 1980s, temperatures rose markedly and have since remained at a high level.

Precipitation development since 1864

Different regional patterns can be observed in the series of precipitation measurements. This is due mainly to the fact that Switzerland has a contrasting northern Alpine and southern Alpine precipitation regime. The illustration of the precipitation development for all of Switzerland can mask considerable regional differences.

Long-term trends only in the north and during winter

  • A significant increase in precipitation can be observed on the north side of the Alps during winter for the entire measuring period starting from 1864.
  • The southern Alpine series of measurements for Lugano does not reveal a significant change in precipitation during winter.
  • No significant change in precipitation is determined for the other seasons in all the regions of Switzerland.

Distinctive current precipitation developments

  • A striking change toward drier conditions is observed in the south during spring after a phase of heavier precipitation around the 1980s.
  • In recent years, greater amounts of precipitation have fallen during the northern Alpine spring.
  • In winter, the amount of precipitation has decreased significantly at many measuring stations, especially in the Alpine region as well as in Switzerland’s west.

Further information

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