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Switzerland has the greatest volume of glaciers in Europe. But these have lost over 6% (3 cubic km) in volume so far in 2022. This according to the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) and the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network (GLAMOS). This is 3 times more than the levels already seen as generally unprecedented in the last century, and even higher than figures recorded during the 2003 summer heatwave.


“2022 was a disastrous year for Swiss glaciers: all ice melt records were smashed by the great dearth of snow in winter and continuous heat waves in summer,”
according to SCNAT.

 

 

In 2022, over six metres of ice melted at the Konkordiaplatz on the Great Aletsch Glacier south of Grindelwald in Central Switzerland. In South Eastern Switzerland, snow cover was exceptionally light, and a large deposit of Sahara sand caused the snow to absorb more heat. As a result, the Corvatsch glacier, made of 7’000 year old ice and which lies at 3’300m above the St Moritz valley, has now all but disappeared. This has happened despite it being painstakingly covered by white tarpaulins in recent summers.

Another study released this year claims that Switzerland’s 1,400 glaciers have lost more than half their total volume since the early 1930s. Records as far back as 1859, show that the glaciers have been receding every year, as can be seen at the Forno Glacier in Grisons…

Receding Forno Glacier

How the Forno Glacier has continually receded over the last 160 years

 

Summer 2022, which also brought a high risk of forest fires, is expected by SCNAT to represent the norm in the 21st century, and may well be even one of the cooler ones.

However Switzerland experienced a colder and wetter-than-average September in 2022. This has helped to compensate for the severe summer drought that has already destroyed a number of crops.

Over the centuries, there have been other notably disastrous weather years in Switzerland –  for example in 1916 when a massive snowfall resulted in avalanches that killed thousands of soldiers, and in the autumn of 1868, as extensive and severe flooding changed the way the Swiss dealt with such disasters. As far back as 1816, when the Tambora eruption in Indonesia from the previous year, caused severe famine in Switzerland.

As elsewhere on this planet, there is a definite trend of climate change. For Switzerland, this is highly visible in the rapidly shrinking Swiss glaciers.

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