Switzerland's Glaciers Vapourising in 'Mind-Blowing' Meltdown

By Leo Rodriguez September 28, 2023

Switzerland's glaciers continue to dwindle at an unprecedented pace, losing 10% of their total volume due to a blend of diminished snowfall and rising temperatures.

Swiss glaciers are experiencing a fast-paced shrinkage that has left experts stunned. A staggering 10% of the total ice cover has melted away in only two years, propelled by a lethal mix of significantly decreased snow and skyrocketing temperatures causing rapid thawing, the data released on Thursday reveals.

In the year 2023 alone, a concerning 4% of the aggregate glacier volume was lost, informs the Swiss Commission for Cryosphere Observation of the Swiss Academy of Sciences. This alarming melt rate is only second to 2022's startling record when 6% of glaciers were lost.

In comparison, the volume of ice lost over this two-year period equals the quantity of ice that disappeared in the thirty-year span from 1960 to 1990. “The losses we’ve seen in 2022 and 2023 are simply mind-blowing and beyond everything we have experienced so far,” expressed Matthias Huss, head of the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network (GLAMOS). The organization, affiliated with the Swiss Academy of Sciences, compiles and scrutinizes glacier data. “Even though glaciers have constantly and quickly been losing mass for many decades, this is a tremendous acceleration,” Huss added while attributing the extreme conditions to climate change.

Such extraordinary years have caused many small glaciers to collapse and disintegrate, including the once prominent St. Annafirn glacier, located in the Uri canton in central Switzerland, which has retracted so much that GLAMOS ceased its monitoring. Record-breaking ice losses were also noticed at lofty altitudes, typically spared such extensive declines.

"Epic glacier meltdown” continues to alter the high-alpine landscape drastically and create treacherous conditions due to the threat of unstable and potential rockslides," warned Huss. An unexpected result of the receding glaciers has been the unearthing of past mountaineering tragedies, such as the recovery of a German mountain climber who had been missing for 37 years.

Water runoff from the melting glaciers has brought temporary relief for drought-hit areas and aided in filling the country's hydropower reservoirs. However, Huss cautions that this advantage is fleeting. As glaciers continue to contract rapidly, its pivotal role of providing water supply in times of need diminishes. “This will aggravate water scarcity during heat waves in the near future,” stated Huss.

Alarm bells are ringing for Switzerland's glaciers, with relentless shrinkage and retreat looming. Even with Swiss voters recently ruling in favor of a new law to drastically cut planet-heating pollutants to protect the glaciers, the future projections remain bleak. Advanced research indicates that even if ambitious climate goals are achieved, we may witness the face of the planet altering irrevocably with up to half the world's glaciers wiped out by the close of the century, highlights the severity of climate change impact.