Swiss glaciers experience worst melting on record in back-to-back heatwaves

Swiss glaciers have recorded their worst rate of melting since records began more than a century ago, losing 6% of their remaining volume this year, nearly double the previous record from 2003, the body said on Wednesday. GLAMOS monitoring.

The melting has been so extreme this year that bare rock that had lain buried for millennia has reappeared at one site while bodies and even a plane lost elsewhere in the Alps decades ago have been recovered. Other small glaciers have practically disappeared.

« We knew with climate scenarios that this situation would occur, at least somewhere in the future, » Matthias Huss, head of the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network (GLAMOS), told Reuters. « And realizing that the future is already here, right now, was perhaps the most surprising or shocking experience of this summer. »

More than half of the glaciers in the Alps are in Switzerland, where temperatures are rising about twice the global average.

Alpine scientists, including Huss, were forced to carry out emergency repair work at dozens of sites across the Alps because melting ice risked dislodging their measuring poles and destroying their data.

This year’s heavy losses, which amounted to about 3 cubic kilometers of ice, were the result of unusually low winter snowfall combined with consecutive heat waves. Snowfall replenishes ice lost each summer and helps protect glaciers from further melting by reflecting sunlight back into the atmosphere.

Hus walking on the Gries glacier.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, glaciers in the Alps are expected to lose more than 80% of their current mass by 2100. Many will disappear, regardless of emissions measures taken now, thanks to global warming fueled by past emissions, according to a 2019 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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