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Austrian scientists race to reveal melting glaciers’ secrets

Such ice formations are a unique time capsule
Such ice formations certainly are a unique time capsule.

Jumping from rock to rock to rock over a creek formed off Austria’s Jamtal glacier, scientist Andrea Fischer worries that precious scientific data will undoubtedly be irreversibly lost because the snow and ice melt faster than ever before.

“I couldn’t have imagined that it could ever melt as dramatically as come early july… Our ‘archive’ is melting off,” says the glaciologist.

Fischervice director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research at the Austrian Academy of Scienceshas spent a lot more than 20 years surveying Jamtal and four other Alpine glaciers across Austria’s highest peaks for the oldest regions of ice.

For scientists seeking to reconstruct the Earth’s climate in the distant past, such ice formations certainly are a unique time capsule stretching back a large number of years.

The glaciers contain a great treasure trove of dataas they grew, the ice encapsulated twigs and leaves, that may now be carbon-dated, Fischer explains.

And in line with the age of such material and the depth where it had been found, scientists can infer when ice grew during colder periods, or when warmer conditions caused it to melt.

However now the glaciers are melting rapidlyincluding the main one in the remote and narrow Jamtal valley, not definately not where tourists found the stunningly preserved 5,300-year-old mummy of Oetzi, the Iceman, in the 1990s.

Temperatures in Europe’s highest mountains have risen by nearly two degrees Celsius during the past 120 yearsalmost double the , based on the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA).

The Alps’ roughly 4,000 glaciers have since become among the starkest signs of global warming.

'If this continues, in five years, Jamtal glacier won't be a glacier anymore,' says scientist Andrea Fischer
‘If this continues, in five years, Jamtal glacier will not be a glacier anymore,’ says scientist Andrea Fischer.

Disappear completely?

The Jamtal glacier has been losing about one meter (three feet) from its surface annually, but this season it has recently lost greater than a meter, Fischer says.

“And we have at least 8 weeks of summer left… where in fact the glacier is entirely subjected to sunlight,” she warns.

Snow usually protects the majority of the glacial ice from sunlight until September, however the little snow that fell last winter had already melted by early July.

“This season is outrageous when compared to average of days gone by 6,000 years,” says Fischer.

“If this continues, in five years, Jamtal glacier will not be a glacier anymore.”

By the finish of the summertime, Fischer fears that about seven meters of depth could have melted off the surfaceor about 300 years of climate “archives”.

“We are in need of the info the glaciers hold to comprehend the climate of the pastand to generate types of what awaits us later on,” she says.

Fischer and her team have drilled on both Jamtal along with other nearby glaciers to extract data, taking right out ice samples around 14 meters deep.

As temperatures rise and the glaciers are more unstable, they’re compelled to take additional safety precautions11 people died in a glacial ice avalanche in the Italian Dolomites in July, your day after temperatures there rose to new records.

In Galtuer, the nearest village to Jamtal glacier, the Alpine Club is already offering a "Goodbye, glacier!" tour
In Galtuer, the nearest village to Jamtal glacier, the Alpine Club has already been supplying a “Goodbye, glacier!” tour.

‘My heart is bleeding’

In Galtuer, the nearest village to Jamtal with 870 residents that are mostly influenced by tourism, the Alpine Club has already been supplying a “Goodbye, glacier!” tour through the once ice-filled valley to improve awareness concerning the ramifications of climate change.

Where in fact the ice has retreated, scientists discovered that within 3 years about 20 species of plants, mostly mosses, took over. In a few areas, larches are growing, in accordance with Fischer.

“If the glacier is fully gone in five years, that is clearly a pity, because it’s portion of the landscape,” says Sarah Mattle, who heads the Alpine Club.

“But there’ll also be new paths, and perhaps there’ll be a less strenuous hike on the mountains than on the ice. It’ll all be considered a matter of adapting,” the 34-year-old adds.

Other locals like Gottlieb Lorenz, whose great-grandfather was the initial manager of the two 2,165-meter-high Jamtal cabin setup as a refuge for mountaineers, are heartbroken.

“My heart is bleeding when I believe about how exactly magnificent and mighty the glacier was and just what a miserable tiny pile it really is today,” the 60-year-old says.

He points at a black-and-white photo used 1882 showing a thick ice sheet flowing at night cabin.

Today, the ice is really a 90-minute hike away.



2022 AFP

Citation: Austrian scientists race to reveal melting glaciers’ secrets (2022, August 7) retrieved 8 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-austrian-scientists-reveal-glaciers-secrets.html

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