Temperature is a key variable for monitoring global climate change. Here we perform a trend analysis of Swiss temperatures from 1959 to 2008, using a new 2 × 2 km gridded data-set based on carefully homogenised ground observations from MeteoSwiss. The aim of this study is twofold: first, to discuss the spatial and altitudinal temperature trend characteristics in detail, and second, to quantify the contribution of changes in atmospheric circulation and local effects to these trends.
The seasonal trends are all positive and mostly significant with an annual average warming rate of 0.35 °C/decade (∼1.6 times the northern hemispheric warming rate), ranging from 0.17 in autumn to 0.48 °C/decade in summer. Altitude-dependent trends are found in autumn and early winter where the trends are stronger at low altitudes (<800 m asl), and in spring where slightly stronger trends are found at altitudes close to the snow line.
Part of the trends can be explained by changes in atmospheric circulation, but with substantial differences from season to season. In winter, circulation effects account for more than half the trends, while this contribution is much smaller in other seasons. After removing the effect of circulation, the trends still show seasonal variations with higher values in spring and summer. The circulation-corrected trends are closer to the values simulated by a set of ENSEMBLES regional climate models, with the models still tending towards a trend underestimation in spring and summer.
Our results suggest that both circulation changes and more local effects are important to explain part of recent warming in spring, summer, and autumn. Snow-albedo feedback effects could be responsible for the stronger spring trends at altitudes close to the snow line, but the overall effect is small. In autumn, the observed decrease in fog frequency might be a key process in explaining the stronger temperature trends at low altitudes. Copyright © 2010 Royal Meteorological Society