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Spring begins with heavy snowfall

Some Swiss braved the elements over the Easter weekend Keystone

Spring officially began last Thursday, but much of Switzerland has remained in the grip of unusually severe weather, with fresh snowfalls covering most of the country by Tuesday.

This content was published on March 25, 2008 - 13:52

It was also the coldest Easter in 28 years, with the lowest temperature of the whole winter – minus 28.4 Celsius – recorded at La Brévine on Sunday night.

Jacques Ambühl of the Federal Meteorology and Climatology Office (MeteoSwiss) told swissinfo that it was extraordinary to have this much snow so late in the year.

"We have incredible amounts of snow at high altitude," he said.

But for Swiss skiers, the Easter weekend deluge may have been too much of a good thing.

Some resorts were disappointed with the numbers of visitors – day-trippers had been put off by bad weather forecasts.

Tourism officials had hoped the early Easter weekend would bring more visitors to the slopes, but television pictures from the weekend showed deserted runs despite near perfect powder conditions.

"We did not reach the numbers we were hoping for," one tourism official told the newspaper 20 Minuten.

Those who fail to take advantage of the last significant spell of snowy weather this season may have to wait until next winter, according to meteorologists.

They say the 20-year trend of mild spring weather is set to re-establish itself soon.

Last big snowfall

By Tuesday, some alpine stations reported up to four metres of accumulated snow. At lower altitudes, snow lay 20 to 35 centimetres deep on Tuesday morning with temperatures staying around freezing.

And where has the cold weather come from?

"The origins of the air masses we experienced in the past few days are clearly from the Arctic," Ambühl said.

"For the next few days we will have more precipitation, and next week will see average temperatures. However the two weeks that follow will be relatively dry and mild with temperatures above average," he added.

Road conditions have caused traffic to slow down considerably, and one of Switzerland's main motorways was closed for three hours following an accident.

However the railways and airports are managing to run smoothly.

Since 1988 spring in Switzerland has become "massively warmer", according to MeteoSwiss. Average temperatures have remained one degree Celsius above average in the 20-year period since then, and last year this difference increased to more than three degrees.
 

Winter weather

MeteoSwiss takes measurements and observes the weather at over 800 locations all over Switzerland. Its lookback over the winter is as follows:

February 08 was mild, extremely sunny and dry thanks to stable high pressure.

January 08 had record mild temperatures, far above average for the time of year.

December 07 was mixed in terms of precipitation and sunshine, with temperatures slightly above average.

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