Record-breaking heatwaves across Europe are causing the Alps glaciers to melt at an alarming rate. According to data shared exclusively with Reuters, the glacial mass is on track for the highest losses in at least 60 years of record keeping. Since the mild winters of last year, the Alps have experienced two intense early summer heatwaves, with one in July bringing temperatures as high as 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Swiss mountain village of Zermatt.
‘It’s very clear that this is an extreme season,’ Swiss glaciologist Andreas Linsbauer told Reuters. Mountain glaciers have a fragile ecosystem because warmer temperatures can cause glacial loss. The European Alps are especially vulnerable because they are smaller and have less ice cover. According to Reuters, temperatures in the Alps have been rising at a rate of about 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade, roughly twice as fast as the global average. As a result, many people are concerned about the massive loss of ice cover.
According to a 2019 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the Alps glaciers could lose more than 80% of their current mass by 2100. The head of Glacier Monitoring Switzerland, Matthias Huss, told Reuters that there is concern that the Alps glaciers may begin to recede earlier than anticipated due to the dire circumstances this year.
‘We are seeing model results that were predicted a few decades ago happening now… I did not expect to see such an extreme year so early in the century,’ he was quoted as saying. The changes are already visible. Glaciologists in Austria, France, and Italy said their glaciers were on track for record losses. According to Andrea Fischer, a glaciologist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the glaciers there ‘are snow-free up to the summits’.