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Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers melting faster

Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers melting faster
People stay static in front of the Bernina mountain group with the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers in Pontresina, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 10, 2022. Credit: Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP

Switzerland’s 1,400 glaciers have lost over fifty percent their total volume because the early 1930s, a fresh study has found, and researchers say the ice retreat is accelerating at the same time of growing concerns about climate change.

ETH Zurich, a respected federal polytechnic university, and the Swiss Federal Institute on Forest, Snow and Landscape Research on Monday announced the findings from the first-ever reconstruction of ice loss in Switzerland in the 20th century, located in part on an analysis of changes to the topography of glaciers since 1931.

The researchers estimated that ice volumes on the glaciers had shrunk by half on the subsequent 85 yearsuntil 2016. Since that time, the glaciers have lost yet another 12%, over just six years.

“Glacier retreat is accelerating. Closely observing this phenomenon and quantifying its historical dimensions is essential because it we can infer the glaciers’ responses to a changing climate,” said Daniel Farinotti, a co-author of the analysis, that was published in The Cryosphere.

By area, Switzerland’s glaciers total about half of all total glaciers in the European Alps.

The teams drew on a variety of long-term observations of glaciers. That included measurements in the field and aerial and mountaintop photographsincluding 22,000 extracted from peaks between your two world wars. Through the use of multiple sources, the researchers could complete gaps. Just a few of Switzerland’s glaciers have already been studied regularly through the years.

Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers melting faster
An individual stands while watching Bernina mountain group with the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers in Pontresina, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 10, 2022. Credit: Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP

The study involved using decades-old ways to enable comparisons of the form and position of images of terrain, and the usage of cameras and instruments to measure angles of land areas. The teams compared surface topography of glaciers at different moments, enabling calculations concerning the evolution in ice volumes.

Not absolutely all Swiss glaciers have already been losing ice at exactly the same rates, the researchers said. Altitude, levels of debris on the , and the flatness of a glacier’s “snout”its lowest part, that is the most susceptible to meltingall affect the speeds of ice retreat.

  • Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers melting faster
    A fleece covers snow while watching Bernina mountain group with the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers in Pontresina, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 10, 2022. Credit: Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP
  • Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers melting faster
    An individual stands while watching Bernina mountain group with the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers in Pontresina, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 10, 2022. Credit: Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP
  • Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers melting faster
    People take pictures while watching Bernina mountain group with the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers in Pontresina, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 10, 2022. Credit: Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP
  • Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers melting faster
    A fleece covers snow while watching Bernina mountain group with the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers in Pontresina, Switzerland, Wednesday, August 10, 2022. Credit: Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP

The researchers also discovered that two periodsin the 1920s and the 1980sactually experienced sporadic growth in glacier mass, but that has been overshadowed by the broader trend of decline.

The findings may have broad implications for Switzerland’s long-term energy sources, since hydropower produces nearly 60% of the country’s electricity, in accordance with government data.



More info: Erik Schytt Mannerfelt et al, Halving of Swiss glacier volume since 1931 observed from terrestrial image photogrammetry, The Cryosphere (2022). DOI: 10.5194/tc-16-3249-2022

2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material might not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Citation: Study: Already shrunk by half, Swiss glaciers melting faster (2022, August 27) retrieved 28 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-shrunk-swiss-glaciers-faster.html

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