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WIREs Clim Change
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Climate change in Switzerland: a review of physical, institutional, and political aspects

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Climate change is clearly discernible in observed climate records in Switzerland. It impacts on natural systems, ecosystems, and economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and energy, and it affects Swiss livelihood in various ways. The observed and projected changes call for a response from the political system, which in Switzerland is characterized by federalism and direct democratic instruments. Swiss climate science embraces natural and social sciences and builds on institutionalized links between researchers, public, and private stakeholders. In this article, we review the physical, institutional, and political aspects of climate change in Switzerland. We show how the current state of Swiss climate science and policy developed over the past 20 years in the context of international developments and national responses. Specific to Switzerland is its topographic setting with mountain regions and lowlands on both sides of the Alpine ridge, which makes climate change clearly apparent and for some aspects (tourist sector, hydropower, and extreme events) highly relevant and better perceivable (e.g., retreating glaciers). Not surprisingly the Alpine region is of central interest in Swiss climate change studies.

Switzerland is characterized by its variety of landscapes, comprising the Jura Mountains in the northwest, the Alps, and in between the densely populated Swiss Plateau. Massa denotes the runoff measurement station used in Figure 6. (Satellite Image: © CNES/Spot Image/swisstopo, NPOC).
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Stamp visualizing temperature change and retreating glaciers in Switzerland, issued 2009 (© Die Post).
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Swiss greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 according to the Kyoto Protocol and the CO2 act. Targets are indicated with dashed lines.
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Observed and modeled annual mean runoff at Massa (blue and gray curves) (see Figure 1 for location), a catchment that includes the Aletsch Glacier. The dashed line indicates annual mean precipitation. Top: Contribution of ice melt, snow melt, and rainfall to runoff and fraction of glaciated area (red dashed). (Reprinted with permission from Ref , Copyright 2012 FOEN)
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The three pathways of past and future anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions used in CH2011, along with corresponding projected annual mean warming and summer precipitation change over Switzerland for the 30‐year average centered at 2085 (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2011 C2SM, MeteoSwiss, ETH, NCCR Climate, and OcCC and Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2011 C2SM, MeteoSwiss, ETH, NCCR Climate, and OcCC.)
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Annual mean precipitation in Switzerland 1864–2012 shown as ratios to the mean of 1961–1990 based on 12 long series of the NBCN. The years with ratios greater than 1 (wetter) are shown in green and those with ratios lower than 1 (dryer) in brown. The black line shows 20‐year Gaussian low pass filtered data.
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Annual mean temperature anomalies in Switzerland 1864–2012 shown as deviation from the mean of 1961–1990 based on 12 long series of the National Basic Climatological Network (NBCN). Years with positive anomalies (warmer) are shown in red and those with negative anomalies (cooler) in blue. The black line shows 20‐year Gaussian low pass filtered data.
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Percentage of scientific papers published by Swiss scientists in areas related to climate change. (Source: ProClim)
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