Switzerland has a mostly continental climate that varies significantly by location and altitude. Much of the Central Plateau has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb). A significant section in the north exhibits an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb). A small area in the south-central region enjoys a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa). The foothills of the Alps are subarctic (Köppen Dfc), with cool summers and cold winters. The climate above the tree line in the Alps is alpine (Köppen ET). Switzerland is a landlocked country in Western, Central, and Southern Europe. Austria and Lichtenstein are in the east, Italy lies in the south, France in the west, and Germany in the north. The temperate latitudes and the Alps chiefly influence the climate.
Switzerland lies between 45°N and 47°N of the equator. The country is mostly hilly and mountainous, with elevations ranging from 193 meters to 4634 meters. The Swiss Plateau or the Central Plateau in the north, the Jura Mountains in the northwest, and the Alps in the south form the three major geographical regions. The Alps cover 60% of the country's total area. Forty-eight mountain peaks are more than 4000 meters high. The Swiss Plateau has west to east orientation and consists of rolling hills, pastures, forests, and lakes. Switzerland has over 1500 lakes, which, along with glaciers, constitute 6% of the total area. Dufourspitze, a mountain peak of Monte Rosa, is the highest point in Switzerland at 4634 meters above sea level. Lake Maggiore is the lowest point at 193 meters. The longest river is the Rhine, with a length of 234 miles. Lake Geneva is the largest lake in Switzerland.
Summers are cool to warm and humid in Switzerland based on region and altitude. Temperatures above 30°C (86°F) are possible but last for brief periods in the summer. Summer is rainier than the winter. Winters are cold and less humid. The temperatures are freezing between December and March. On the Plateau, the average temperature is 8.9°C (48°F). The Jura and the Alps are snowy and frigid in the cold season. Spring occasionally sees snowfall in the Central Plateau, while the Alps receive snow, even in early summer. The weather is generally unstable, varies from year to year, and the climate has no strictly predictable periods. The Fohn winds occur throughout the year and bring warmth with them. The cold Bise winds occur mostly in winter and spring and blow from the north-east. The High Alps and the southernmost canton of Ticino have the wettest conditions in the country.
The annual rainfall in Switzerland is in ample in the range of 812.8mm (32") to 2387.6mm (94"). Rainfall is throughout the year. Summer is the wettest season of the year. Late autumn to early spring receives the least amount of rain. The average precipitation on the Central Plateau is between 812.8mm (32") and 1320.8mm (52"). The Jura and the Alps foothills receive between 1219.2mm (48") and 1625.6mm (64"), while the High Alps get up to 2489.2mm (98"). Snowfall ranges between 508mm (20") to 1524mm (60") on the Plateau and foothills. The High Alps and the Jura mountains receive an average of 2540mm (100") to 5080mm (200") of snow. The highest annual snowfall amounts go up to 9779mm (385") in Weissfluhjoch and 11125.2mm (438") in Santis. The annual sunshine is moderate and ranges between 1400 hours to 2000 hours. Zurich receives only 1566 hours of sunshine annually, while Bern registers 1682 hours. The average annual humidity is in the comfortable range of 66% to 80% in Switzerland.
The highest temperature on record in Switzerland is 41.5°C (106.7°F) in Grono, Moesa District, set on August 11, 2003. The lowest temperature on record is -41.8°C (-43.2°F) in La Brevine, set on January 12, 1987.
The best time to visit Switzerland
The best time to visit Switzerland is from May to September. The temperatures are mild to warm, and the landscape is free from snow. Late spring has moderate temperatures and sees an increase in sunshine. The High Alps is a popular tourist destination in the summer. Some resorts are open for skiing, even in June. The best time to explore the mountains is from June to August. Summer temperatures are in the pleasant range of 10°C (50°F) to 26.7°C (80.1°F) on the Central Plateau. The rainfall begins to decrease by early autumn in September, which has mild to warm temperatures.
The worst time to visit Switzerland
The worst time to visit Switzerland is in the cold winter season from December to February. The Central Plateau registers freezing temperatures and receives significant snowfall. The mountains receive heavy snowfall, and even the day temperatures register below freezing. The sunshine is weak in the winter and hardly lasts above 2 hours every day. The days are short, and the conditions quickly become cold and dark after sunset. February is ideal for skiing in the winter, with relatively long days and plenty of snow. The sunshine is better than the peak of the winter season.
Switzerland routinely faces natural weather hazards, such as floods, landslides, rock falls, avalanches, and storms. Earthquakes are rare but pose a non-zero risk. Forest fires occasionally occur in the summer. Floods are a danger during the spring and summer. The melting of snow in the spring sees a significant rise in water levels in streams and rivers. The average damage due to floods, debris flows, and fall processes between 1972 and 2017 was $330 million per year. The flood of August 2005 alone accounted for $3.26 billion in damages. Thunderstorms occur in the summer, especially in the high mountains. Blizzards occur regularly in the winter in the high mountains.
Weather in January
January is usually the coldest month of the year in Switzerland. Bern, the capital, in the Central Plateau, sees freezing nights, with average temperatures in the -3.9°C (25°F) to 2.8°C (37°F) range. Zurich at 400 meters above sea level is cold between -2.2°C (28°F) and 2.8°C (37°F). The skies are cloudy and dark, and the daily sunshine in most places is between 1 hour and 3 hours. The days are short between 8.5 hours and 9.5 hours. The high mountains and canton of Ticino receive more sunshine than the rest of the country in the winter. Lake Geneva keeps the weather in Geneva moderate, with average temperatures in the -1.1°C (30°F) to 3.9°C (39°F) zone. Snowfall is rampant between 635mm (25") and 1270mm (50") in the mountains. Frost is regular, and snowfall measures 127mm (5") to 254mm (10") on the Plateau. The precipitation is to the tune of 25.4mm (1") to 76.2mm (3"). Warm winter clothes, including jackets, scarves, and gloves, are necessary for outdoor visits. Ski-lovers find plenty of snow in the Southern Alps in January in Switzerland.
Weather in February
February is cold and snowy in Switzerland. The snowline is low on the northern side of the Alps, which brings abundant snowfall in Switzerland. In Davos, in the east, average temperatures are in the frigid zone of -9.4°C (15.1°F) to 1.1°C (34°F). The average low temperatures in the mountains are between -17.8°C (-0°F) and -9.4°C (15.1°F). Zermatt is between -7.8°C (18°F) and 1.7°C (35.1°F) in the canton of Valais, which has a dry microclimate. Snowfall is abundant and registers between 1270mm (50") and 1524mm (60") in the high mountains. The daily sunshine lasts between 3 hours and 4 hours. The everyday average wind speeds are between 9.7km/h (6mph) and 11.3km/h (7mph), the highest of the year. The daylight increases from 9.5 hours in the beginning to 11 hours at the end of the month. The snow depth, relatively less cold, and long days are the best times for skiing in the winter. February is the driest month of the year in Switzerland, with an average precipitation of 25.4mm (1") to 63.5mm (2.5").
Weather in March
March is cold in Switzerland, as the winter holds sway over the landscape. The days are cold and dull, even though the daily sunshine lasts up to 4 hours in early spring. March has overcast skies up to 57% of the time. Zurich is gloomy, with average temperatures in the range of 2.2°C (36°F) to 10°C (50°F). In Lugano in the southeast, conditions are better, with average temperatures in the mild zone of 5°C (41°F) to 12.8°C (55°F). Nights are freezing in the Southern Alps. The average precipitation is to the tune of 63.5mm (2.5") to 101.6mm (4") in most regions. The daily average wind speeds are within 0.1 miles of 10.8km/h (6.7mph) in March in Bern, and the wind direction is predominantly from the west. The daylight stretches from 11 hours to 12 hours over the month. Warm jackets are mandatory for protection from cold, rain, and snow during outdoor activities. March weather draws snow-lovers to the snowy mountain slopes in Switzerland.
Weather in April
April is mild to cold as the spring season unfurls in Switzerland. The days are mild and the nights are above freezing in most regions except for the mountains. Snowfall is mostly absent on the Plateau but is ample in the mountains. Frost occurs regularly, although the snow gradually disappears from the ground. The average temperatures in Bern are in the mild zone of 2.8°C (37°F) to 13.3°C (55.9°F), and the precipitation is slightly above 76.2mm (3"). Davos in the east is cold between -2.2°C (28°F) to 7.2°C (45°F) but receives 5 hours of daily sunshine. The daily sunlight is between 4 hours and 5 hours in most of the country. The daylight increases rapidly to register 14 hours and 20 minutes over the month. The cloud cover lifts gradually, and the skies remain bright up to 45% of the time in April. Expect the temperatures to rise gradually by the middle of the spring season. Cold air fronts routinely occur in April in Switzerland.
Weather in May
May brings warm and comfortable weather in the late spring season in Switzerland. The landscape is beautiful due to the blooming flowers and melting of snow. The average high temperatures are in the warm range of 10°C (50°F) to 21.1°C (70°F). The average low temperatures are in the mild range of 2.8°C (37°F) to 12.8°C (55°F) on the Plateau. The evenings and nights are cold in the mountains. The precipitation increases significantly to register in the 101.6mm (4") to 152.4mm (6") range. May registers up to 15 wet days in many places. Snowfall is absent on the Plateau. The high mountain slopes receive 508mm (20") to 635mm (25") of snow. The thawing of snow brings ample water to the rivers and lakes. The daily sunshine lasts between 5 hours and 6 hours on the Central Plateau. In Bern and Zurich, the daylight increases to 15.5 hours by mid-May. Pack warm clothes for the late spring season. Expect tourist numbers to rise significantly by the second half of May in Switzerland.
Weather in June
June is the beginning of the beautiful summer season in Switzerland. The average temperatures range between 12.2°C (54°F) to 23.3°C (73.9°F) in Geneva and 11.7°C (53.1°F) to 24.4°C (75.9°F) in Sion in the west. Basel in the central region is between 12.2°C (54°F) and 22.8°C (73°F), while Engelberg is in the 8.3°C (46.9°F) to 18.3°C (64.9°F) zone. In the east, Davos has mild temperatures in the 5°C (41°F) to 15.6°C (60.1°F) range. The days are warm in most places, and the nights are cold. The daily sunshine lasts between 6 hours in the east and 7 hours in the north and central regions. The average precipitation at altitudes below 500 meters is in the 101.6mm (4") to 177.8mm (7") range. The average humidity is as little as 67% in Geneva and reaches a high of 83% in Santis. Mountains are sunny till afternoon and cloudy later on. Thunderstorms are standard in the mountain regions. June 20 is the longest day of the year in Bern, with 15 hours and 53 minutes of daylight. June is an excellent time to visit Switzerland.
Weather in July
July is the sunniest and warmest month of the year in Switzerland. The daily sunshine is the highest in the west at 8 hours in Geneva, Lausanne, and Sion. In the east, Lugano receives 8 hours of sunlight amid 154.9mm (6.1") of rainfall. Bern in the central region receives 8 hours of sunshine, while Zurich receives just 7 hours. The average high temperatures are in the warm 16.7°C (62.1°F) to 27.2°C (81°F) range. The average low temperatures are in the mild 7.2°C (45°F) to 17.8°C (64°F) zone. The day temperatures occasionally rise to 30°C (86°F), but the nights remain cozy in most regions. July is an ideal time to explore the Southern Alps. However, afternoons are prone to thunderstorms in the high mountains. July has clear skies up to 62% of the time, the clearest of the year. The daily average wind speeds in Zurich gradually decrease from 9.2km/h (5.7mph) to 8.4km/h (5.2mph). July has comfortable weather in the summer in Switzerland.
Weather in August
August is warm and bright in Switzerland, with the average high temperatures in the 17.2°C (63°F) to 23.9°C (75°F) range. Nights are cool to mild in the zone of 8.3°C (46.9°F) to 17.2°C (63°F). In the southeast, Lugano sees at least 10 wet days that bring an average of 160mm (6.3") of rain. The average temperatures in the southeast are in a comfortable range of 17.2°C (63°F) to 26.1°C (79°F). In Biel, in the northwest, temperatures are slightly cold between 13.9°C (57°F) and 25°C (77°F). The average precipitation in the northwest is 101.6mm (4") to 127mm (5"). The skies remain clear up to 63% of the time in August. The daily sunshine lasts between 6.5 hours and 7.5 hours. The daylight recedes from 15 hours in the beginning to 13.5 hours at the end of the month. The daily average wind speeds are between 8.5km/h (5.3mph) and 9.2km/h (5.7mph), the calmest of the year. Add a jacket and long pants for the evening to light summer clothing during the day. August sees crowds in Switzerland due to the pleasant weather.
Weather in September
September is mild to warm in the autumn in Switzerland. The average high temperatures are in the comfortable range of 12.8°C (55°F) to 21.1°C (70°F). Night temperatures are mild to cold and register in the 4.4°C (39.9°F) to 10°C (50°F) zone. Late September witnesses a beautiful landscape as the leaves begin to turn colors. The daily sunshine fades gradually and lasts between 5 hours and 6 hours in most places. The skies remain bright up to 56% of the time. The precipitation decreases to register between 76.2mm (3") and 127mm (5") in most places. Lugano, receives 185.4mm (7.3") in September, its highest of the year. The daylight registers at 12 hours on September 22, the autumn equinox. The daily average wind speeds in Bern are constant within 0.1 miles of 8.9km/h (5.5mph), and wind direction is predominantly from the west. Pack warm winter clothes if the plan is to camp overnight in the mountains. September is a comfortable and colorful month in Switzerland.
Weather in October
October witnesses the peak of the fall foliage in Switzerland. Brilliant shades cover the landscape. The days are mild to cool, but nights are cold. Geneva registers average temperatures between 7.2°C (45°F) and 15.6°C (60.1°F). Zurich is in the range of 5.6°C (42.1°F) to 14.4°C (57.9°F). Davos is cold between 0.6°C (33.1°F) and 11.1°C (52°F), with occasional freezing nights. October sees a significant decrease in precipitation. Much of the country receives 50.8mm (2") to 127mm (5") of rainfall. The first snowfall occurs in the mountains, followed by the first snowflakes on the Plateau. The skies remain overcast up to 53% of the time. The sunlight is weak and averages 3 hours to 4 hours every day. The days are short, and the daylight recedes to 10 hours by the end of the month. The average humidity is in the comfortable range of 78% and 84%. October is an alternative for budget travelers in Switzerland, who do not mind a little cold.
Weather in November
November is cold in Switzerland, as the precipitation ranges between 76.2mm (3") to 177.8mm (7") in the country. The average temperatures fall rapidly and register in the cold range of -3.9°C (25°F) to 8.9°C (48°F). The precipitation reduces significantly to measure between 50.8mm (2") and 88.9mm (3.5") in most regions. In the mountains, the rainfall goes up to 203.2mm (8"). Snowfall is heavy on the mountain slopes between 508mm (20") and 1016mm (40"). The Plateau receives moderate snowfall. Davos receives 508mm (20") of snow, while Engelberg gets up to 457.2mm (18"). In the west, Zermatt and Montana receive 406.4mm (16") of snowfall. The daylight reduces drastically from 10 hours in the beginning to 9 hours by the end of the month. The daily sunshine in most places is below 3 hours and drops below 2 hours in many areas. The daily average wind speeds remain within 0.2 miles of 10.1km/h (6.3mph) in Lausanne. Wind direction is mainly from the south. Late autumn is a time for warm winter clothing. Expect chilly conditions in November in Switzerland.
Weather in December
December is the beginning of the cold and snowy winter in Switzerland. The average low temperatures are in the -14.4°C (6.1°F) to -0.6°C (30.9°F), while the average high temperatures are in the -8.9°C (16°F) to 5.6°C (42.1°F) zone. Lausanne in the west has slightly better conditions between 1.7°C (35.1°F) and 5.6°C (42.1°F). Prevailing cold winds from Northern Europe, the Bise, frequently blow to push down the temperatures. Frost and fog are standard. Much of Switzerland receives between 50.8mm (2") to 101.6mm (4") of rainfall. The weak sunlight lasts between 2 hours and 4 hours in the short days of December. Snowfall is rampant, with at least 5 days to 15 days of snow in the month. Weissfluhjoch receives 1287.8mm (50.7"), while Santis registers an average of 1567.2mm (61.7") of snowfall. December 21 is the shortest day of the year, with 8 hours and 31 minutes of daylight in Bern. Christmas is mostly white as the landscape is under a blanket of snow. December is the snowiest month of the year in Switzerland.