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Six percent ice volume: the Swiss glaciers have never melted as fast as in 2022


Little snow in winter, heat in summer: 2022 was a dramatic year for the glaciers in Switzerland. Never before have they lost ice mass faster – this also had something to do with Saharan dust.

Enlarge image

Tourist on the Tsanfleuron Pass in Switzerland: The thick layer of ice has melted away

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

The glaciers in Switzerland have probably never melted as quickly as this year.

They have lost more than six percent of their ice volume.

As reported by the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT), very little snow in winter and a persistent heat wave in summer ensured that all ice melt records were broken.

According to the study, around three cubic kilometers of glacier ice have been lost since the beginning of the year.

For comparison: Previously, years with two percent ice loss were already described as “extreme”.

»It was a drama with announcement«

According to SCNAT, small glaciers suffered particularly badly: the Pizol glacier or the Vadret dal Corvatsch, for example, have practically disappeared.

According to scientists, a layer of ice four to six meters thick melted at an altitude of 3,000 meters above sea level in the Engadin and in southern Valais.

Ice loss is further accelerated by the fact that many glacier tongues are disintegrating and rock islands are emerging from the thin ice.

According to the report, the year had already started badly for the glaciers: the snow depth in the Alps was lower than usual, especially in southern Switzerland.

Large amounts of Saharan dust in spring amplified the effect: the contaminated snow absorbed more sun rays - the glaciers already lost the protective snow in early summer and the persistent, sometimes massive heat in summer caused the glaciers to melt even faster.

"It was a drama with announcement," says the message.

Winter snowfall occurred in early November for most glaciers, which is roughly the norm.

According to the information, the snow cover disappeared around a month earlier than usual at all altitude levels.

By mid-September there would have been only a few centimeters of fresh snow in the high mountains, it is said.

(The SPIEGEL climate report - the latest developments, research results and background information on the climate crisis as a newsletter: every week directly in your e-mail inbox. Register now.)

Among other things, glaciers are of great importance as water reservoirs and therefore also important for the generation of energy with hydroelectric power plants.

In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted in a special report on the oceans and global ice and snow deposits: Due to ongoing global warming, low-lying glaciers such as in the Alps and Scandinavia will lose around 80 percent of their mass by the end of this century.


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-09-28

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