For the first time, researchers have used historical images to reconstruct a visual timeline of Swiss glaciers, which lost half their volume between 1931 and 2016. In the past six years alone, they have lost another 12% of their volume. volume.
And in the 85 years that ended in 2016, Swiss glaciers lost an area the size of Manhattan every decade.
The before and after pictures are stunning.
Given the record high temperatures that shrouded large swaths of the northern hemisphere this summer, Daniel Farinotti, glaciologist and co-author of the study, told CNN he expects the loss of glaciers to this year is the worst.
“The year 2022 is extreme – not only did we have a very snow-poor winter, but we also had an extremely hot summer, and this combination is really the worst case scenario,” Farinotti said. “We expect this year’s losses to be greater than those of 2003, which so far has been the ‘record year’, in the negative sense, for glacier mass loss.”
The loss of glaciers leads to the loss of the ecosystem of plants and animals. It also affects the appearance of the landscape and impacts local tourism. And, more importantly, glaciers are a critical source of fresh water for drinking and agriculture that is disappearing as the ice recedes.
“If the glaciers were to completely disappear, various regions could face water supply issues, especially during the summers we’ve had and still have this year,” Farinotti said.
Farinotti said researchers expect to see another 60% loss of glacier mass by the end of the century – even if the world meets the climate targets set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
“If climate change were to continue unabated, we may well end up with a virtually ice-free European Alps,” Farinotti warned.