Delayed snowfall is a small glimmer of hope for Swiss glaciers | panorama

Thanks to the snowfall of the late last few weeks, Swiss glaciers escaped the absolute minimum amount of snow on record this year. However, there is hardly more snow everywhere almost anywhere than in 2022, the head of the Glamos glacier measurement network, Matthias Haas, told the dpa news agency.

“Glaciers are ambassadors of the climate crisis,” he wrote on Twitter last week. Glamos measures the amount of snow on about 20 glaciers and has just evaluated the most recent data.

The lack of snow at the beginning of winter does not bode well, said glaciologist Andreas Boder of ETH Zurich. Due to the snowfall since Easter, the large snow deficit has been somewhat reduced. In addition, winter does not end at high altitudes above 3,000 meters until May, so more snowfall is possible. Compared to the average for the years 2013 to 2022, there is currently a much lower than average amount of snow on most Swiss glaciers.

For the overall balance of glaciers, winter is only one side of the coin, Boder says. The decisive factor is the thawing during the summer. In 2022, winter ends early, followed by a rapid summer meltdown. “We had record losses across all glaciers,” he said. According to experts, several snowy and very cold years will be necessary to compensate for this.

“The alarm sounded a long time ago.”

Prior to 2022, the winter that had the least snow in the 10-year period from 2013 to 2022 was the winter of 2016/17. 2016 was the hottest year since industrialization (1850-1900) in terms of average global temperature. Man-made greenhouse gases are responsible for climate change, with worldwide implications: consequences include severe floods, droughts, severe storms, and sea level rise.

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The year 2016 coincided with the El Niño weather phenomenon. Every few years in the South Pacific, it causes a rise in the temperature at the sea surface and also contributes to warming. Experts see signs that another El Niño will develop in 2023.

“Alarm bells have been ringing long and loud,” Boder says of the development. His concern is that the amount of snow present, which provides protection from the summer sun, is not enough. White snow reflects the sun’s rays well. When it disappears and dark ice appears, the melt intensifies, even in summers that aren’t particularly hot or radiant.

There are 1,400 glaciers in Glamus, Switzerland. The largest of these is the 20 km long Aletsch glacier in the Valais canton. It has prominent medial moraines that make it look like a giant highway. It is formed by the meeting of several glaciers.

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