The tongue of the land that makes up the Tsinfloron Pass has not been open since 2000 years and Roman times. The dry winter and heat waves that scorched Europe this summer have overcome the still-moldering ice.
The pass is located at the junction of that glacier and the Scex Rouge glacier, at an altitude of about 2,800 metres, between the cantons of Vaud and Valais, in southwestern Switzerland. It is located in the Glacier 3000 ski area.
For several days, the Earth’s tongue can be seen completely exposed, Glacier 3000 said in a statement, despite the fact that “in 2021, measurement revealed an ice thickness of about 15 meters in that area.”
For Mauro Fischer, a glaciologist at the University of Bern, “the loss of glacier thickness in the Diablerets will, on average, be three times higher this year than in the past 10 years.”
“What we’ve seen this year and this summer is just something extraordinary and really beyond anything we’ve measured so far,” he added, referring to the speed with which the ice has been melting.
Glaciers have lost 50 percent of their volume since 1931, according to a study published in August in the scientific journal La Cryosphère by researchers who, for the first time, have been able to reshape the retreat of glaciers in the 20th century.
Alpine snowmelt – which experts blame on climate change – has been closely monitored since the early 2000s, but until now, little was known about its development in previous decades.
According to these experts from the Polytechnic Institute of Zurich (EPFZ) and the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), “compared to data from the 2000s (…) it halved between 1931 and 2016”.
The study authors also found that glaciers did not retreat consistently over the past century: in fact, there were times of mass gain in the 1920s and 1980s.
But today, the ice is melting faster and faster: In just six years (between 2016 and 2022), they have lost 12 percent of their volume, according to the Swiss glacier monitoring network Glamos.
Matthias Haas, director of Glamos, highlighted the severity of the situation this year. “In other years, like 2011, 2015, 2018, or even 2019, we’ve really seen very strong melting. (But) 2022 is really different and it’s breaking all records,” he told ATS-Keystone.
Since last winter, which brought relatively little snow, the Alps have suffered two major heat waves in early summer. The data showed that the Alpine glaciers are now on track to suffer their largest mass losses in at least 60 years of records.
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