Covered in ice for 2,000 years, it can now walk freely. This development brings us closer to climate change
Two glaciers in the Swiss Alps parted for the last time when Christ walked this earth. In all subsequent years, a thick layer of snow always covered the gap between them. But not anymore.
This summer, the unprecedented heat recorded at the highest points of the planet caused the snow to melt, revealing for the first time a rock passage between two glaciers, where there was once a permanent layer of ice several meters thick.
According to officials at the Glacier 3000 ski resort near the village of Les Diablerets in western Switzerland, the trail has been covered with ice for at least 2,000 years.
But as reported, the amount of ice that melted this year alone over a wide area is more than three times the average ice melt over the past ten years. Thus, the ice between the Scex Rouge and Zanfleuron glaciers retreated, exposing bare rock. Now, visitors can walk from one glacier to another located at an altitude of 2,800 meters.
“About 10 years ago I measured 15 meters of ice here, and since then all this ice has melted,” Mauro Fischer, an expert at the University of Bern, told Reuters.
“What we’ve seen this year and this summer is really extraordinary, far beyond what we’ve estimated,” he said, referring to the rate of ice retreat.
Glacier 3000 officials believe that by the end of this month, all traces of snow will be gone on the new route.
Last winter, snowfall was very limited by the region’s standards, and it didn’t help that the Alps went through two heat waves earlier in the summer. The village of Zermatt, in the foothills of the Alps and at an altitude of 1,620 meters, recorded temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius in July.
During these heat waves, the height at which water can freeze reached a record number of 5,184 meters, which is higher than the height of the White Mountain, which reaches 4,808 meters and is the third highest peak in Europe. In summer, the average water begins to freeze at 3,000-3,500 meters.
The hot and dry summer not only caused the snow to melt, but also the lack of rain, which meant that there was very little material to replace the ice.
In fact, experts estimate that Europe’s largest mountain range will be lost this year, with the largest amount of snow recorded in at least 60 years.
For several years, scientists have been warning that almost all of the world’s mountain glaciers, which have roots in the distant Ice Age, are retreating due to climate change. However, Alps glaciers are considered to be among the most vulnerable on the planet because of their relatively small size. The fact that temperatures in the Alps are rising by around 0.3 degrees per decade – almost twice as fast as the rest of the planet – doesn’t help matters.
The figures are particularly alarming. Scientists estimate that if carbon emissions continue at current rates, Alpine glaciers could lose more than 80 percent of their volume by 2100.
In fact, according to a report presented by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2019, the situation is even bleaker. Even if no action is taken against carbon dioxide emissions, many glaciers in the Alps are doomed to disappear forever.
*Middle photo shows special “blankets” placed in hopes of preventing snow melt. In the end it didn’t work…
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