ZURICH, Sept 28 (Portal) – Switzerland’s glaciers suffered the second highest rate of melting this year after record losses in 2022, shrinking by 10% over the past two years, watchdog GLAMOS said on Thursday.
The one-two punch for the Swiss glaciers in the third warmest summer of all time means they have lost as much ice in two years as in the three decades before 1990, it said, describing the losses as “catastrophic”.
“This year was very problematic for the glaciers because there was really little snow in the winter and the summer was very warm,” Matthias Huss, head of glacier monitoring Switzerland (GLAMOS), told Portal.
“The combination of these two factors is the worst thing that can happen to glaciers.”
More than half of the glaciers in the Alps are in Switzerland, where temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average due to climate change.
According to GLAMOS, low winter snowfall combined with an early start and late end to the summer melt season caused the heavy losses this year.
According to the Swiss weather service, the altitude at which precipitation freezes reached a new record of 5,289 meters (17,350 feet) overnight in August, the month with the highest melting point, an altitude higher than the summit of Mont Blanc. This exceeded last year’s record of 5,184 meters.
Images Huss posted on social media in recent weeks during data-collection trips showed for the first time in record time new lakes forming next to glacial tongues, streams of meltwater pouring through ice caves and bare rock poking out of thinning ice. In some places, long-lost bodies have been recovered as the ice cover has shrunk.
“We’re really losing the small glaciers,” Huss said. “The remaining ice will be covered by stones and boulders, regions that have been covered by snow and ice in recent decades and centuries will become black slopes, dangerous from falling rocks.”
In some places, GLAMOS had to stop monitoring due to the melt.
“We stopped one of our monitoring programs on a small glacier in central Switzerland because it simply became too dangerous to measure,” Huss said. “It became very small and therefore unrepresentative.”
Swiss records go back at least to 1960, and for some glaciers even to 1914.
Writing by Emma Farge; Edited by Timothy Gardner
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