- Switzerland lost 4% of its total glacier volume in 2023, and 6% in 2022
- Switzerland is home to the most glaciers of any country in Europe
- As much ice has been lost in two years as between 1960 and 1990
Switzerland has lost 10 per cent of its glaciers in the past two years as hot summers and a lack of snow ‘dramatically’ accelerate the loss of ice.
A Swiss Academy of Sciences panel is reporting a dramatic acceleration of glacier melt in the Alpine country.
Switzerland is home to the most glaciers of any country in Europe.
It lost 4 per cent of its total glacier volume in 2023, the second-biggest decline in a single year on top of a 6 per cent drop in 2022, the biggest thaw since measurements began, the academy’s commission for cryosphere observation said.
Experts at the GLAMOS glacier monitoring center have been on the lookout for a possible extreme melt this year amid early warning signs about the country’s estimated 1,400 glaciers, a number that is now dwindling.
Switzerland has lost 10 per cent of its glaciers in the past two years as hot summers and a lack of snow ‘dramatically’ accelerate the loss of ice
Head of the Swiss glacier measurement network GLAMOS, Matthias Huss, checks the thickness of the Rhone Glacier near Goms, Switzerland
Switzerland is home to the most glaciers of any country in Europe
The academy said: ‘The acceleration is dramatic, with as much ice being lost in only two years as was the case between 1960 and 1990.
‘The two extreme consecutive years have led to glacier tongues collapsing and the disappearance of many smaller glaciers.’
Matthias Huss, head of GLAMOS, which participated in the research, said in an interview that Switzerland has already lost up to 1,000 small glaciers, and that ‘now we are starting to lose also bigger and more important glaciers.’
‘Glaciers are the ambassadors of climate change. They make it very clear what is happening out there because they respond in a very sensitive way to warming temperatures,’ he said.
‘The study underlines once again that there is big urgency to act now if you want to stabilize [the] climate, and if you want to save at least some of the glaciers.’
The team said the ‘massive ice loss’ stemmed from a winter with very low volumes of snow – which falls on top of glaciers and protects them from exposure to direct sunlight – and high summer temperatures.
All of Switzerland – where the Alps cut a swathe through most of the southern and central parts of the country – was affected, and glaciers in the southern and eastern regions melted almost as fast as in 2022’s record thaw.
Swiss meteorologists reported in August that the zero-degree Celsius level – the altitude where water freezes – had risen to its highest level ever recorded, at nearly 5,300 meters (17,400 feet), which means that all the Swiss Alpine peaks faced temperatures above freezing.