Swiss glaciers melt at an unprecedented rate

A new report says Switzerland lost three cubic kilometers of glaciers this year which accounts for more than six percent of total volume

RH Desk
September 28

The year 2022 was a disastrous year for glaciers in Switzerland and melt rates have far exceeded the previous records from the hot summer of 2003, Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network (GLAMOS) has said in a new report.

“2022 was a disastrous year for Swiss glaciers: all ice melt records were smashed by the great dearth of snow in winter and continuous heatwaves in summer,” the report by the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences said.

It said the glaciers have lost around 3 cubic kilometers (0.72 cubic miles) of ice in 2022; more than 6 % of the remaining volume.

“By way of comparison, up to now, years with an ice loss of 2 percent have been described as “extreme,” the report said.

According to the report, the loss was particularly dramatic for small glaciers.

“The Pizol Glacier in the canton of St. Gallen, Vadret dal Corvatsch in Grisons, and the Schwarzbachfirn in Uri have practically disappeared – measurements were discontinued,” the Commission said. “But the trend also reveals how important glaciers are to the water and energy supply in hot, dry years. The ice melt in July and August alone would have provided enough water to fill all the reservoirs in the Swiss Alps from scratch.”

According to Commission, last winter produced very little snow in general, particularly on the Swiss plateau and in Southern Switzerland.
“Basel and Lucerne recorded no snow at all. Snow was particularly scant on the southern slopes of the Alps, especially in Ticino and the Simplon area. In many areas, almost no snowfall occurred below the 1600 m level,” the report said. “At several measuring stations in Ticino, the average depth of snow recorded was the lowest since measurements began in 1959.”

It noted that above 2000 meters, “the average depth of snow on the southern slopes of the Alps was only around half the usual level.” 

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