Climate Change

The increasing volumes of greenhouse gases emitted by modern society into the atmosphere have resulted in the warming of the earth’s climate. Climate change is also an increasing focus of attention in politics and the media.

› How is the climate changing?

› What can be done about climate change? 

› How does climate change affect other natural hazards? 

How is climate change manifesting itself in Switzerland?

According to the 2014 IPCC report on climate change, the global temperature increased since the end of the 19th century by around 0.85°C. An increase of 1.7°C was recorded in Switzerland and the alpine regions (OcCC, 2012). Current trends for Switzerland can be viewed on the website of MeteoSwiss, the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climateology.


Annual precipitation in Switzerland increased by around 120 mm (8%) over the course of the 20th century. This significant increase is mainly due to the rise in mean winter precipitation which grew by 20-30% in the northern and western Alpine region in particular. However, a reduction in winter precipitation has been observed on both sides of the Alps since the 1990s. Hence it is not possible to provide a clear trend forecast for the development of precipitation from the early 20th century.


Because natural hazard processes often arise at extreme ends of the scale, while climate is defined in terms of the mean values of meteorological parameters in geographical areas and over periods of time, it is difficult to make definitive statements about the development of natural hazards in the course of climate warming. This has the following consequences for research: 


  • knowledge that is based on less dramatic and, therefore, less spectacular changes is more meaningful or of greater statistical relevance;
  • for this reason, direct conclusions can be drawn about the further development of these ‘small-scale’ climatic adaptations;
  • the forecasts for extreme events can only be deduced on an indirect basis, that is from the interaction of the different aspects of the knowledge gained.


This text was compiled in cooperation with MeteoSwiss. Further documentation/source literature can be consulted in the column on the right under the heading Infomaterial.