Melting glaciers reveal Swiss Pass buried for at least 2,000 years (photo)

Melting glaciers reveal Swiss Pass buried for at least 2,000 years (photo)

Weather conditions over the past year have accelerated the melting of ice in the Col de Tsanfleuron, which by 2021 was about fifteen meters thick.

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VsThis strip of land in the Col de Tsanfleuron had not been in the open air for more than 2,000 years and since Roman times. A dry winter and the heat waves scorching Europe this summer got the better of the snow that was still resisting.

Another 15 meters of snow in 2021

The pass is located between the cantons of Vaud and Valais in south-western Switzerland at the junction of the Tsanfluron Glacier and the Sx Rouge at an altitude of more than 2,800 m above sea level. This Glacier 3000 is located in the ski area. For the past few days, a tongue of land has been completely open air, while Glacier 3000 recalls in a press release, “Measurements in 2021 revealed an ice thickness of 15 m at this location.

“The summer of 2022, which is followed by a sparse winter in rainfall, is truly devastating for glaciers,” the statement said. For Dr. Mauro Fischer, a glaciologist at the University of Bern, “the loss of thickness of glaciers in the Diablerets region will be on average 3 times greater this year than in the past 10 summers”.

more than half the glacier

But the melting phenomenon – now accelerated melting – is not isolated to this part of Switzerland.

Glaciers have lost half their volume since 1931, according to a study published in August, the first time scientists have reconstructed the retreat of glaciers in the 20th century.

The melting of glaciers in the Alps – which experts attribute to global warming – has been closely monitored since the early 2000s. But researchers didn’t know much about their evolution over the past decades, as only a few glaciers followed. from close. To better understand their evolution, researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) and the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) have reconstructed the topography of the set of Swiss glaciers that existed in 1931.

According to ETHZ and WSL, “Based on these reconstructions and comparing them with data from the 2000s, researchers have concluded that glaciers had halved in volume between 1931 and 2016.”

fast melting

This study is published in the Scientific Journal cryosphereindicates that glaciologists used archive images (21,700 photographs taken between 1916 and 1947), which cover 86% of the Swiss glacial surface, and stereophotogrammetry, a technique that captures the nature of an object through images. , makes it possible to determine the size and position.

According to scientists, glaciers have not retreated consistently over the past century, even with episodes of massive development in the 1920s and 1980s. Despite this increase in the short term, “our comparison between 1931 and 2016 clearly shows that there was a significant glacial retreat during this period”, according to one of the study’s authors, glaciology at ETHZ and WSL. Professor Daniel Farinotti.

Glaciers are melting fast now.



They lost 50% of their volume between 1931 and 2016, according to the Swiss glacier survey network GLAMOS, but it took them only six years to lose 12% – between 2016 and 2022. GLAMOS director Matthias Huss talks about the record year 2022. “Other years like 2011, 2015, 2018 or even 2019 had already seen a very strong melt. The year 2022 is really different and breaks all records,” he told ATS-Keystone in September. He is due to publish a full report in the fall.

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