The Foehn and Spring

13 Apr 2011 | by Whitney


It is absolutely amazing to me that two weeks ago there was endless snow in the mountains and we were still in the throes of winter. Now the snow is melting and the evenings have become lighter and all of a sudden spring is here. The birds are waking up and the temperatures are slowly rising. For someone who is used to having pretty much one season for the whole year this has been quite an experience. The other thing is that the cows are all out in their pastures again.

“Some people imagine that Switzerland is as cold as Alaska, but this is far from the truth. In the plain, temperatures can rise to 30ºC (86ºF) in the summer, and even in the mountains the sun is hot. In the winter, temperatures rarely drop below minus 5ºC (41ºF) in the entire country, save the mountaintops.

The mountainous character of Switzerland is responsible for spectacular differences in the weather among different regions. It is very common to move from a cold, cloudy and rainy landscape to a beautiful clear blue sky with hot sun in just a few minutes.

The warmest parts of the country are Montreux (where palm trees line the lake-side), Ticino and Valais. In Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton South of the Alps, there are over 298 sunny days a year and daily mean temperature in July are over 26ºC (79ºF). In Valais, kiwis, peaches, figs and tomatoes are grown in orchards and tiny scorpions can be found.” From – Climate in Switzerland

I also learned why we were having such warm, windy weather. It is due to a weather pattern called the Foehn winds. It is defined as warm dry wind coming off the lee slopes of a mountain range, especially off the northern slopes of the Alps. The past few days have been very sunny but very windy, feeling almost like tropical winds from home but slightly drier.

The winds are created by the rain shadow of the Alps. Strangely enough they are even cited as the cause of some mental illnesses that show up at this time of the year.



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