The Americanisation of Swiss Weather Forecasting

Page content

A few days ago they announced a “cocktail météorologique explosif” but the result I saw from my vantage point was some medium rain, and plenty of rain and thunder. The thunder was constant for quite a while.

When I saw the weather warnings my fear was that we would end up with hail. I have seen the damage that hail can do to nature. It shreds trees, destroys veluxes and more. That we had rain and lightning is fine.

In Valais the Rhone overflowed, as well as in Tessin and apparently there was a torrential flow from the Col Du Simplon.

Rivers in Valais are overflowing but that’s ordinary. The Rhone has a flood plain. People built in the flood plain so when heavy rain falls it rises, and as it rises it reaches homes, and so people are affected. To make things worse plenty of new roads, new buildings and more surfaces are switched from nature, trees and more, to tarmac and concrete. When rain does fall it has nowhere to go, but into the first low lying ground it finds, whether basements, parkings, or other.

Fear of Hail

My fear was hail, because when hail falls it shreds everything it hits. Trees are thrashed, car windows are broken, veluxes break, and upstairs floors get soaked. Luckily we didn’t have this. I have personally experienced the destructive power of hail on veluxes.

They say that we should expect damage but the reason for that damage, is partially due to the weather dumping more rain, faster than usual, but it’s also due to urbanisation, building where rivers used to flood, and removing gardens and more from other parts.

Bétonification / Tarmacificiation

As I walk from village to village I see that where individual houses once stood you have tarmac parkings and concrete buildings and gardens are an afterthought. When it rains the rain that would have fallen onto a tree, and then dripped to the ground, is now falling straight to tarmac, tile roofs and concrete. Where houses were once slightly above the nearby road, they are now flat against it.

Nowhere for Water to Flow

When rain falls it can’t pool in a garden, or rest in a tree before trickling to the ground. It hits the hard surfaces and flows like a river, down roads, into basements, garages and other places. It flows through homes as well.

Invisible Problem Due to Droughts

We have had five years of drought. During that time a lot was built, and now that the drought is on a break people are realising that they have built where rivers want to flow. They have found that the building they did on the hills, is affecting areas downstream, such as in Morges, and along the Rhone.

Volatile Weather

Yes, the weather is more volatile, but nature has also been replaced, so that water flows straight from where it lands into rivers, which causes flooding. The point is that the weather is becoming more extreme, so the coverage is partly right, but by being alarmist about the weather, it deflects from the responsability of developers in regards to how they build where they shouldn’t, without considering rainfall and water flow.

Un urbaniste de l’EPFL dézingue les villes suisses: «Notre modèle de développement urbain a généré l’inondation de Morges»

And Finally

Human activity has released carbon dioxide and methane into the sky and it will take at least two hundred years for that carbon dioxide to degrade. In that time rainfall patterns will shift, which will lead to more droughts and floods. By building in the wrong places, without thinking of rain, we are amplifying the effects of heavy rain, rather than mitigating them.

Weather forecasters sensationalise the effects, without speaking about how to mitigate and avoid the risks. That the alert went up to five yesterday shows what an effect urbanisation has had.

Weather weirding does have an impact on weather, but so does bad urban planning. With approrpiate urban planning flash floods and heavy rain are taken into consideration to mitigate risk.

As I write this I see that Canal9, a local TV station has been taken offline due to flooding in Valais.

And finally, although the rain might be a lot heavier than usual, urbanisation does play a role, and this should be discussed, and measures should be taken to mitigate such risks.