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Melting Glaciers on the Alps Reveal Ancient Hiking Path

Melting Swiss glaciers
Melting Glaciers on the Alps Reveal Ancient Hiking Path Credit: Henk Monster/Wikimedia Commons

After Europe’s hottest summer on record, an ancient hiking path between two glaciers on the Alps that was buried in ice, has been made visible for the first time in at least two thousand years.

This year’s ice melt was about three times the ten-year normal, according to the ski resort Glacier 3000 in the Les Diablerets region of western Switzerland.

Mauro Fischer, a glaciologist at the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern, states that “ten years ago I measured about 15 meters of ice. So more than 15 meters of ice and snow have melted.’’

At a height of 2,800 meters, bare rock is already visible between the Scex Rouge and Zanfleuron glaciers. By the end of this month, the path is anticipated to be totally exposed.

Two significant early summer heatwaves have plagued the Alps since last winter, which saw comparatively little snowfall. In addition to melting snow and ice due to a hot, dry summer, there wasn’t much rain to make up for the lack of snowfall either.

In reference to the rate at which the ice has melted, Fischer adds that “what we saw this year and this summer is just extraordinary, and it’s really beyond everything we have ever measured so far.” 

The analysis indicates that the Alps’ glaciers are currently on track to see their largest mass losses in at least sixty years of record-keeping.

The Glaciers’ Ice Quantities Had Decreased by Half

Researchers calculated that over the last eighty-five years, the glaciers’ ice quantities had decreased by half. In just six years since 2016, the glaciers have lost an overwhelming amount of their mass.

Additionally, the 1920s and the 1980s both saw rare increases in glacier mass, but these were overwhelmed by the overall pattern of reduction, according to the study.

Since hydropower generates approximately sixty percent of Switzerland’s electricity, the findings could have a significant impact on the country’s long-term energy sources.

Of all the glaciers in the European Alps, Switzerland has the largest number of glaciers by area.



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