The detachment of a glacier on the Marmolada mountain, in the Italian Alps, has caused at least eight deaths and 22 missing people, according to the latest information from the Italian authorities, who continue to search through the icefall with dogs, drones and helicopters.

The tragedy

bears the signature of warming in at least two ways

: first, the collapse follows unusually high temperatures in the area;

but, in addition, the loss of glaciers is one of the main 'thermometers' we have to measure the effects of climate change.

The rate at which they are fading has skyrocketed in recent years, and everything indicates that it will continue.

"The collapse occurred after weeks of very high temperatures in the Alps. Last Saturday, in Marmolada, a temperature of 10 °C was reached at the summit, something out of the ordinary and recorded right in the middle of a wave of heat in Italy. In addition,

the snow cover of the Alps has disappeared this year earlier than normal

, which has also undoubtedly contributed", indicates Mar Gómez, doctor in Physical Sciences and head of meteorology at 'Eltiempo.es'.

"However, this has the imprint of climate change," he continues.

"The glacier now appears divided into three different glaciers, which are breaking up. As the rocks emerge, they heat up in the sun. And as they heat up, they melt even more of the ice around them," he says.

So, will these kinds of landslides become more and more frequent?

"Yes, without a doubt. We will see more events of this type and a world with less and less ice," says Gómez.

In the Alps, as in the glacial territories of the poles, the temperature is increasing twice as fast as the global average.

One consequence of this trend, coupled with increased rainfall, is that vegetated areas high up in the mountains, above the tree line, have increased by 77% since 1984 in the alpine landscape.

But, at the same time,

the snow cover has significantly weakened in 10% of the area it covered

, according to estimates by a recent study, published just a month ago in

Science

.

"Mountains are hot spots for biodiversity and ecosystem services," point out the authors of the research, before warning that climate change is especially affecting this kind of environment.

The increasing greening observed in the Alps could have some beneficial effect, by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, but scientists consider it "

unlikely to outweigh the adverse implications

" that will accompany this transformation, warns Sabine Rumpf, first author of the study from the University of Basel (Switzerland), and colleagues.

Among the adverse effects of warming, the researchers list habitat loss, melting ice, and reduced albedo, or light reflected by snow.

This last aspect is worrying because, by returning less solar radiation to space, it increases heating even more.

A vicious circle, common to almost all mountain glaciers in the world.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the retreat and disappearance of mountain glaciers is "

among the most dramatic evidence that the Earth's climate is warming

."

To know more

Italy.

Eight dead and at least 14 missing after the Marmolada glacier broke off: "The victims could be double or triple"

  • Editorial: EL MUNDOMadrid

Eight dead and at least 14 missing after the Marmolada glacier broke off: "The victims could be double or triple"

Since 1989, every year there has been a loss of ice from all the planet's glaciers.

Many could disappear over the course of this century, including 90% of those now in the Alps

, according to models for worst-case scenarios, that is, emissions continue to rise at the current rate (something that the treaties international, in theory, will avoid).

In a more limited warming scenario, Cryosphere

magazine published in April 2019

, they would still lose two-thirds of their current volume.

And it's not just the models.

Satellite images confirm this worrying scenario.

"Climate change has already melted more than 9.6 trillion [million] tons of glacial ice in the world since 1961, according to a satellite study by the University of Zurich, published in 2019.

The shrinking of glaciers has been precipitated in recent years

, going from 227,000 million tons of ice lost annually between 2000 and 2004 to 298,000 between 2015 and 2019", explains Gómez.

To know more

Stories.

This is how ice detectives work: "Climate change is the common enemy"

  • Writing: TERESA GUERREROBilbao

This is how ice detectives work: "Climate change is the common enemy"

Among the fastest disappearing glaciers are those of the Alps, Iceland or Alaska.

But we also have a clear example in Spain, since the Pyrenees have lost more than half of their glaciers since 1983. "We are seeing clear evidence that the average global temperature, by increasing, is causing the melting of the polar caps and the retreat of the glaciers", summarizes Gómez.

"Given the rate at which temperatures are rising,

it is very likely that they could disappear in many areas in the future

."

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