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Recent Heat Wave Threatens Severe Melt Again This Year After Record 2022, Warns Swiss Glacier Watcher

By 09/01/2023 3:05 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff


A leading expert on glacier monitoring has expressed concern that Switzerland’s glaciers may have melted severely due to a recent heat wave and early summer’s warmth, which might make 2023 the country’s second-worst year for ice loss following a record thaw last year.

Full data won’t be available until late September, according to Matthias Huss of the GLAMOS glacier monitoring center, but recent high-altitude snowfall and a sharp drop in temperature may have prevented more damage.

However, preliminary data from five sites and modeling findings across Switzerland indicate that significant damage may have already been done.

Huss stated in an interview this week that “we can definitely say that we had very high melting in Switzerland and in Europe in general because the temperatures were extremely high for a long time, a more than one week heat wave.

The zero-degree Celsius level reached its highest point since records on it began in Switzerland about 70 years ago, according to Swiss meteorologists, who also noted that all of the summits in the Alpine nation experienced temperatures above freezing.

This year’s late-summer heat wave was particularly destructive to glaciers because earlier in the summer, when temperatures were high, practically all of the protective snow cover had already melted, leaving “almost all glacier ice kind of naked,” according to Huss.

The albedo effect, which is the process of energy from sunlight being reflected back upward, plays a critical role in safeguarding glaciers when a white snow cover covers them.

The estimated 1,400 glaciers in Switzerland, which have the highest count of any nation in Europe and serve as a proxy for the effects of climate change, had an unusually difficult year last year. Huss stated that although “we’re definitely not going to beat the records of last year,” “it seems that we’re on track to be perhaps the second-most negative year.”

Low winter snow cover, early summer heat, later summer heat, and weather patterns that brought orange-colored dust from the Sahara Desert up to Switzerland—coloring the snow and ice—all combined to create a nearly perfect storm in 2022. In just one year, Switzerland lost a startling 6% of its glacier volume.

Huss’ team has already had to stop three of its 20 monitoring projects, where precise measurements are made, due to recent strong melting and glacier retreat.

One was terminated this year at the Saint Annafirn glacier, south of Andermatt, because measurements there were no longer useful.

The glacier has shrunk so much that there is a lot of rock falling, he said. “The glacier is so small at this point and dangerous.

The effects will still be felt because places like the town of Zermatt, at the base of the Matterhorn, reached 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) last week.


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