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Switzerland TravelSwitzerland guide / Switzerland weather & climate

Switzerland weather & climate

Switzerland's weather is good for tourism year round, and that's one reason so many tourists go there. Of all of western Europe, Switzerland has what is arguably the best climate throughout the year
Switzerland's weather is good for tourism year round, and that's one reason so many tourists go there. Of all of western Europe, Switzerland has what is arguably the best climate throughout the year. Of course, in winter you're more likely to find mountain passes closed, but for skiers, Switzerland is as good as it gets.

For non-skiers, however, spring, summer, and autumn will probably be better. In June and July, the alpine wildflowers are at their peak of beauty, but it is possible for some of the highest alpine peaks to receive snow at any time of the year. Summer is when Switzerland takes in its largest numbers of tourists, so it is imperative that you book summer vacations in Switzerland well in advance. If you visit Switzerland in the spring, summer, or autumn, meteorologists advise that you bring a sweater, lightweight raincoat, and an umbrella to cope with changing conditions.

With the varied landscapes and altitudes in Switzerland, the weather varies widely. A mountain near Montreux (on the eastern shores of Lake Geneva) receives around 260 cm of precipitation per year. Because of weather moving in off the Atlantic, western Switzerland has higher rainfall totals, generally speaking. However, Lugano, in Ticino receives 175 cm of rain per year. Winds blowing clouds in from the south run up against the alps and drop their water. North of the Alps, summers are dry and warm.

The dry and warm weather north of the Alps often accompanies the heavy Foehn winds. These are strong winds that produce views of the mountains that make them appear closer than they are. Foehn winds are known to cause headaches and are believed to increase the severity of clinical depression.

Elevation and temperature are closely correlated.That is, the temperature falls by about one degree centigrade for every increase of 200 meters of elevation.

The climate in Lucerne, in the heartland, has few extremes, with high temperatures reaching into the 20s (centigrade) in July and dipping below 0 degrees C in December, January, and February. The spring and summer months draw the most tourists to Lucerne for the great hiking and cycling. In winter, however, cross country skiing is a possibility if there are enough heavy snowfalls. Regardless of season, bring some warm clothes, because even days that are hot are often followed by chilly nights.

Geneva's climate is influenced by its closeness to the mountains and to Lake Geneva. Typically the weather is mild with warm summers. Though Geneva gets rain year-round, the nearby mountains produce a rain shadow effect, resulting in Geneva being one of Switzerland's drier locations. Geneva's 370 meter elevation causes the area to receive strong, cold northerly winds called "Bise" winds in the winter. While January is cold, and there is some frost, the cold is not extreme. Because July and August are the warmest months, many people here plan parties and outdoor activities for these months. Autumn is decidedly cooler, though daytime highs easily reach 16 to 18 degrees C.

Zurich's weather and climate are influenced by a number of factors: its position inland, its location near the northwest side of Lake Zurich, and hills to the north. Humid breezes off the Atlantic Ocean also affect Zurich's climate. But all these influences are for the good, for Zurich rarely experiences seasonal weather extremes. Summers in Zurich are perfect for visitors: warm, usually sunny, and long hours of daylight. In summer, high temperatures average around 23 degrees C, and rain showers float through on occasion. September and October are also relatively warm and make good months to visit Zurich and its historic attractions.

Basel is located north of the Alps, and it has a typical central European climate. The winters are mild, with temperatures averaging 3 to 6 degrees C. Summers, the temperatures usually range between 21 and 25 degrees centigrade. Basel is located on the Rhine River and close to the German Black Forest. The elevation of Basel is low: 250 meters or so below sea level. Because of its excellent climate featuring breezes in the summer from the Mediterranean, summer is a very busy time in Basel. Summer highs approach 25 degrees C or higher, so pack accordingly. Also, because weather is most changeable this time of year, it is a good idea to bring a sweater and rain gear. Winter brings snow and excellent skiing in the ski resorts to the southeast of Basel. Winter daytime temperatures average around 3 degrees C or less.

Switzerland is graced with a climate that provides definite changes of season, but without the extremes that often go with it. The mountains, the lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, and even the Mediterranean influence the climate in Switzerland, smoothing out the highs and lows, and making Switzerland an excellent place to visit year round.

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