The melting of Swiss glaciers has been extreme over the past year, scientists point out

2017 - 10 - 31
The melting of Swiss glaciers has been extreme over the past year, scientists point out

Swiss glaciers have extremely shrunk over the past year, with the loss of ice between the beginning of October last year and the end of September this year among the greatest in the past 100 years, according to the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences.

Two dozen monitored glaciers in the Alps confederation lost a total of three per cent of their volume, i.e., about 1.5 billion cubic metres. Scientists noted that melted water from the glaciers in the period could be used by each Swiss household to fill a 25-metre-long pool.

The loss of ice this summer was even greater than in 2015, when Switzerland was hit by a heat wave. The glaciers lost a greater volume than in the period under review only in 2003.

Scientists believe that the reason for the reduction was a short winter with insufficient snowfall. Last December was one of the driest months of its kind since weather forecast measurement began in Switzerland 150 years ago. The warm months of July and August have also left their mark on the condition of glaciers.

Glacier ice was lost across Switzerland, but glaciers found in the cantons of Bern and Wallis, such as Tsanfleuron, suffered the most, while smaller losses were recorded for glaciers in the Saint-Gotthard Massif.

According to scientists, the melting of glaciers is an irreversible matter. Scientists said that most of the approximately 1,500 Swiss glaciers will melt by the end of the century. Even any immediate halt to greenhouse gas production can no longer prevent this.

“Climate change is not only reflected in the Pacific islands on the other side of the globe. We can also see it in European countries. The white mountain peaks which for centuries were an integral part of the typical Swiss Alp panorama may become a thing of the past within a couple of decades,” warned Dalibor Dostal, director of the conservation organization European Wildlife.

The melting of glaciers has a great effect on tourism. Glacier skiing faces the greatest risk. However, warming and the delayed onset of winter have consequences for other winter resorts as well. For example, new ski infrastructure projects are no longer being pursued below an elevation of 1,600 metres.

Photo: Pixabay / Denis Linine

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