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  • Sajda Jaward

Glaciers vanishing at record rate in Alps after heat waves

Picture Credit: Helmut Liebelt

Many of the country's fairy tales include the glaciers of Switzerland. Glaciers serve as enormous mirrors, reflecting sunlight from the surface of the Earth back into the atmosphere and regulating the temperature of the globe. They are crucial to the effort to combat global warming. Runoff from glacial melting produces rivers that give people access to fresh water all around the world.

According to data supplied exclusively with Reuters, the glaciers in the Alps are on track to have their biggest mass losses in at least 60 years of records. Scientists can determine how much a glacier has decreased in any particular year by comparing the difference between, how much ice melts in the summer and how much snow falls in the winter.

Since the comparatively mild winter in 2021, the Alps have had a significant early summer heat wave in July, bringing temperatures as high as 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) to the Swiss alpine hamlet of Zermatt. During this heat wave, the elevation at which water froze was observed at a record high of 5,184 meters (17,000 feet), at an altitude higher than Mont Blanc (9,800-11,500 feet).

If greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, the Alps glaciers are expected to have lost more than 80% of their current mass by 2100. The dire condition this year prompts concern that the glaciers of the Alps may disappear earlier than anticipated.

According to glaciologist Andrea Fischer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the glaciers are snow-free up to the summits in Austria. In addition to restoring the ice lost over the summer, seasonal snowfall shields glaciers, from further melting by providing a white surface that reflects sunlight back out to the atmosphere more effectively, than darker ice that has been tarnished by dust or pollution.

Since several of the glaciers had previously lost their lower-lying snouts, the scientists were rather taken aback by the Alpine ice losses this year, which were observed even before August, when there was the greatest amount of melting.

According to Marco Giardino, deputy president of the Italian Glaciological Committee, one can readily predict the end results after summer, and it will be a substantial loss of glacier coverage in the Italian Alps.

'National heritage' existence and means of subsistence are already in threat due to melting glaciers. According to Reuters, geologists expect the Himalayan glaciers to lose a record amount of ice this year and some glaciers had already reduced dramatically, after a heat wave that lasted from March to May and brought temperatures surpassing 48C to northern India.

A trail leading to a mountain hut originally covered a summer snowfield on top of the Chessjen Glacier, which is located above the Swiss municipality of Saas Fee. In order to reflect sunlight and slow melting, certain ski resorts in the Alps that rely on these glaciers now cover them with white sheets.

Humanity currently relies on using fossil fuels to preserve the way of life which has unnaturally sped up global warming. In order to help the glaciers recover, individuals can use alternative energy sources, increase global energy efficiency, and reduce individual carbon footprints.

Picture Credit: Physics World Website

August 12th 2022| 06:30 PM

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