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Climate change in the Alps: Swiss mountain pass is free of ice for the first time in 2000 years


Even the Romans trudged through snow and ice over the Zanfleuron Pass. In September it could become ice-free for the first time due to the dramatic melting of the glaciers in the region - this also has consequences for skiing.

Enlarge image

Jogger runs along the Zanfleuron glacier

Photo: Anthony Anex / KEYSTONE / picture alliance

A pass in the Swiss Alps that has been completely covered in ice since at least Roman times is gradually being uncovered again.

The Zanfleuron Pass in the Glacier 3000 ski area in Les Diablerets should be completely ice-free by the end of September, those responsible for the ski area announced on Thursday.

The pass at an altitude of 2800 meters - after more than 2000 years under permanent ice - is already partially uncovered.

The Glacier 3000 glacier area at 3000 meters can be reached by cable car.

The slopes there are among the highest in Switzerland.

In 2012, an ice thickness of around 15 meters was measured on the Zanfleuron Pass.

Current melting in the glacial area will also affect skiing as the once-icy pass between the Scex Rouge and Zanfleuron glaciers provided a link for skiers.

Now a strip of earth separates the two glaciers.

It would be considered how the existing infrastructure could be adapted, explained the director of the cable cars of Glacier 3000, Bernhard Tschannen.

record ice loss

On the site of the Scex Rouge glacier, which lies at an altitude of 2971 meters – like Zanfleuron also part of the Glascier 3000 – a natural lake will probably form in the next 10 to 15 years, according to researchers.

Glaciologists estimate that it could then have a depth of around ten meters and a water volume of 250,000 cubic meters.

The glaciers are melting at an above-average rate throughout the Alps due to a previous dry winter and now hot summers this year.

As early as July, the loss of glacier mass broke the records previously measured.

According to this, the Morteratsch glacier in the Swiss canton of Graubünden is losing five centimeters a day and was already more dissolved in the past month than at the end of an average summer.

The five German glaciers are also melting at record speed (read more about this here).

Current pictures show impressively that the ice surface has receded significantly within just one year.

The southern Schneeferner on the Zugspitz massif could finish off this summer.

According to forecasts, the last glacier on German territory will have disappeared in about ten years.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-08-12

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