CThis strip from Col de Sanfleuron was not in the open air for more than 2,000 years and in Roman times. A dry winter and heatwaves that have scorched Europe this summer have further enhanced the still-resistant snow.
15 meters of ice again in 2021
The pass is located between the cantons of Vaud and Valais in southwestern Switzerland, at an altitude of over 2,800 meters above sea level, at the junction of the Tsanfleuron glacier and the Saxe-Rouge. It is located in the Glacier 3000 ski area. For the past few days, a tongue has been completely in the open air, while, as Glacier 3000 recalls in a press release, “Measurements in 2021 revealed the thickness of the ice. 15 meters at this location.
“The summer of 2022, following a rare winter of rain, will certainly be devastating for glaciers,” the statement noted. Glaciology at the University of Bern Dr. For Mauro Fischer, “Glacier thickness loss in the Diablets region will be on average 3 times greater this year than in the last 10 summers”.
About half are glaciers
But the phenomenon of melting – now accelerated melting – is far from isolated to this part of Switzerland.
The glaciers there have lost half their volume since 1931, according to a study published in August by scientists who were the first to reconstruct glacier retreat in the 20th century.
Melting glaciers in the Alps, fueled by global warming, have been closely monitored since the early 2000s, but researchers have known little about their evolution in recent decades because few glaciers are closely monitored. To better understand their evolution, researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) and the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) reconstructed the landscape of Swiss glaciers as they existed in 1931.
“Based on these reconstructions, the researchers conclude that glacier volumes halved between 1931 and 2016 compared to data from the 2000s,” ETHZ and WSL say.
Melting faster and faster
The study was published in the journal Scientific CryosphereArchive images covering 86% of the Swiss glacial surface (21,700 photographs taken between 1916 and 1947) indicate that glaciologists used stereophotogrammetry, a technique used to determine the nature, shape and location of an object through images.
According to scientists, glaciers have not retreated consistently over the past century, not even during episodes of massive growth in the 1920s and 1980s. Despite this growth over a short period of time, “our comparison between 1931 and 2016 clearly shows a significant glacial retreat during this period,” says Daniel Farinotti, professor of glaciology at ETHZ and WSL, one of the authors of the study.
Glaciers are now melting rapidly.
While they lost 50% of their volume between 1931 and 2016, it took six years for them to lose 12% – between 2016 and 2022 – according to the Swiss glacier survey network GLAMOS. Matthias Huss, Director of Glamos, talks about the record year 2022. “Other years like 2011, 2015, 2018 or 2019 have already seen strong melt. The year 2022 is really different, breaking all the records,” he told ATS-Keystone in September. He will publish a full report in the fall.
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