Ordinarily, Swiss glaciers are the image of the cliché that sticks to the skin of the Helvetians: they take their time.
A melting of 2% of the volume over one year was previously considered an “extreme” year, notes the Cryosphere Measurement Network Expert Commission of the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences.
But the year 2022 is definitely in all the blows of climate change, which has changed gear.
Thus, under the effect of a dry winter and then the abominable summer heat wave, three cubic kilometers of ice melted, or 6% of the total volume.
Three times more than the worst years.
And the worst is yet to come.
“It is not possible to slow down the melting in the short term”, warns doctor Matthias Huss, who is an authority on the subject and directs the Swiss Network of Glaciological Surveys (Glamos).
If we reduce CO2 emissions and protect the climate, “this could save around 1/3 of the total volumes in Switzerland in the best case scenario”.
Otherwise the glaciers will have practically disappeared in Switzerland “by the end of the century”, according to him.
"The damage was catastrophic for small glaciers", underline the Swiss experts.
At 3,000 meters above sea level, in the Engadine region in south-eastern Switzerland and in the southern part of Valais "a layer of ice 4 to 6 meters thick has disappeared, it is sometimes two times more than the maximum" recorded so far.
Other glaciers, such as the Pizol, for which a funeral was celebrated in 2019, the Vadret dal Corvatsch or the Schwarzbachfirn have "virtually disappeared", and the measurements have been stopped.
According to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in the spring, the melting of ice and snow is one of the ten major threats caused by global warming.
In early July, the collapse of a huge block of the Marmolada glacier, the highest peak in the Italian Alps, left eleven dead and demonstrated the seriousness of the situation.
The phenomenon will go on accelerating, notes the report: “Observations show that many tongues of ice are crumbling and that islets of rocks appear in the middle of the glacier when the ice is not very thick.
So many processes that further accelerate degradation”.
"These developments also show the importance of glaciers during hot and dry years for the supply of water and energy", explain the experts.
A crucial point for a country where hydroelectricity provides more than 60% of the country's total energy production.
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