The climate that changes the peaks 30 of the glacier

The climate that changes the peaks: 30% of the glacier volume lost in 10 years

by Massimo Sideri

The experts: “Exactly the same phenomena take place at the South Pole and on the Greenland coast: the base melts and the river below lets the ice slide, over which it breaks as it falls. We’ve reached the point of collapse now”

Glaciers don’t fold. They flee at the border. But we know they break. And their nickname is a reminder of their hostile nature: they have been dubbed the world’s “third pole” by climate researchers. But unlike its two older brothers, the Arctic and Antarctic, it is a pole divided into millions of mountains scattered across all surfaced lands. A neural network, almost an extraterrestrial species, capable of telling us about the world millions of years ago and knowing how to listen to them in their silence. What are they telling us? That is the question for the next day. Since the Marmolada was supposed to break on Sunday, in terms of tornadoes and earthquakes, it’s difficult not to ask: could science have predicted this in some way? Is tragedy an unwanted child of climate change?

The questions raised by the tragedy

“We know for sure that glaciers are very sensitive systems and that they have already started to feel the effects of climate change,” explains Luisa Cristini, a climate scientist who has worked in Hawaii, Portugal and now co-leads Alfred’s research projects at the Wegener Institute in Germany, the most important polar science study center in Europe. “It’s always difficult to find a cause-and-effect link between any episode and global warming. But we have learned that mountain and pole glaciers are systems that change rapidly in a few years ».

The numbers change

Peaks, seracs and valleys carved by ancient glaciers are perhaps the most important alarm bell we have today precisely because, like diamonds, they can be very hard and very fragile at the same time. And they’re not forever like we think they are. “Glaciers are essentially indirect variables of climate because they are very sensitive to the environment,” says the 2019 study from the University of Trieste, Cnr-Ismar, Aberystwyth University, University of Genoa and Arpav, published in Remote Sensing of Environment right on the «recent development of the Marmolada glacier». The figures leave no doubt: the glacier area has increased from 1,402,000 square meters in 2004 to 1,097,000 square meters in 2014: -22% in just one decade. Ice volume had decreased by 30% over the same period (from 25.2 million cubic meters to 17.5 million cubic meters).

The story in pictures

It’s true: Many photographs also gave an idea of ​​this retreat and flight of the ice. In the 2012 documentary Chasing Ice, James Balog and his team compiled images from different years on many glaciers to create a chronicle of a predicted death. However, the importance of the massive 2019 study derives from the fact that the 3D reconstruction of the Marmolada’s “two” glaciers, that of 2004 and that of 2014, was obtained using GPS technology. Undeniable numbers that gave voice to the cry of the ice giant.

The analogies to Everest

We already knew that the glaciers were breaking: anyone familiar with the Nepalese side of Everest knows that there is a fierce competitor for the danger of the same area of ​​death above 8,000 meters. And it’s right above the base camp at 4,900 meters: the Khumbu Glacier and Serac. With their instability and fragility, they claim victims every year. The single episode can be caused by one bloody extraordinary day, by the unpredictability of the weather. From a thousand unfortunate causes decided by fate. But Luisa Cristini is concerned about the repeatability of the ice break due to climate change. “Exactly the same phenomena are happening at the South Pole and along the Greenland coast, which we are carefully studying: the base is melting and the river below slides the ice over which it breaks as it falls. What we should be asking is have we reached the point of glacial collapse?

The clues to capture

The clues are there: like the crags that had emerged from inside the glacier in the images of the study published in 2019, turning into hot fractures. Science can try to understand them. can we listen to them

July 4, 2022 (change July 5, 2022 | 09:36)