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Climate crisis: the largest glacier in the Alps melted by 6 meters Life and knowledge

Climate crisis: the largest glacier in the Alps melted by 6 meters Life and knowledge

This man was closer to heaven than before…

The crew that dr. Matthias Haas on this Photo It is more than six meters long. More than three times its height, that’s how much ice has melted away on Concordiaplatz this year with the sweltering summer. Konkoridiaplatz is part of the Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps.

A shock that even scientists did not expect. Huss is Professor of Glaciology at ETH Zurich. How many meters per year does a glacier usually melt?

Haas en Bild: “How much you melt depends entirely on where you are in the glacier and how big it is. A lot melts down below each year. Values ​​in the Alps can sometimes reach more than 10 meters per year, while at the summit (in normal years – if something Like that still exists today) Snow is added. The situation in the photo is special because Concordiaplatz is relatively high on the Aletsch glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps. Something else melted there, but much less. For example, the distance in the year was Only last two meters instead of more than 6 meters like this year.”

Did you expect such a big crash?

Hoss: “Such extremes were expected to happen in the future. You can’t pin it to a particular year, because outliers are very difficult to predict. But I would have expected such huge losses at this point in a few decades.”

Are you shocked?

Hoss: “On the one hand, yes, when you face that reality. On the other hand, no, because we learned from other glaciers that the summer of 2022 was really tough for glaciers. I would say: We feared it.”

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How long have you been studying this glacier?

Hass: “I went to the Aletsch glacier for the first time in almost 20 years (when I was still a student). Measurements were taken simultaneously for over 100 years. However, only 3 years ago did we condense the measurements, as it was not It was previously easy to collect data on this large iceberg from a logistical point of view.”

Is there anything that can save glaciers?

Haas: “Quite simply: faster, more consistent and comprehensive climate protection. Unfortunately, this is no longer useful for many alpine glaciers, it is too late. But about a third of the volume of ice can still be saved, especially on large glaciers, if The goals of the Paris Agreement have been met. And most importantly – a lot can be saved if we think about the polar regions, which are very important for sea level rise.”

Realism seen: How long will we have glaciers in the Alps?

Haas: “Small glaciers, like the few still in Germany: a few years to maybe decades. At the turn of the century we will almost certainly still find some ice at high altitudes on the Aletsch glacier. But the landscape will look very different from what it is. it today.”

No more glaciers means no skiing. How long will this last in the Alps?

Hoss: “I don’t want to be too pessimistic: winter sports should still be possible at high altitudes in the future, not just between the end of October and June as in some places today. However, lower and mid-altitude ski areas will soon have problems in Open its lifts regularly. But this challenge is well known and we now have time to refocus accordingly.”

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Snow cannons are already used. Is this justified?

Haas: “Assessing acceptability is not easy for the world – it has to be analyzed in the local context. Snow guns are often the only way to deliver the quality customers want. As long as the ski areas calculations are correct and the consequences for the environment (water and energy consumption, vegetation) are carefully assessed. I consider this practice fully justified.”