Spectrum of science12/2023 A strange substance made of light
One of the most impressive experiences of my studies was visiting an alpine glacier in Graubünden: we hiked up the glacial tongue of the Cerva Glacier to look closely at typical features such as crevasses and ice moraines, overlying moraines and lateral moraines. The battlefield with the Glacier Gate, Meltwater Lake, and Terminal Moraine was also very exciting. We now saw things firsthand that we had previously known only through lectures on the Ice Age and landscape evolution.
This visit was over 20 years ago, and it was clear that the glacier was already retreating at that time. Our professor there conducted studies on the succession of plants in areas that have been exposed to ice at different times since then. Since then, the decline of the Cerva Glacier has accelerated, a fate it shares with many ice giants in the Alps and around the world.
Despite observations of less-than-permanent ice in the mountains, some of which has persisted for more than 100 years, glaciologists are still discovering new phenomena and details about melting glaciers. Our article on page 54 – which is impressively illustrated – explains the mechanisms, for example, that contribute to the collapse of entire glaciers. Years ago, patterns in the ice could be used to identify rapid retreats that were beginning to occur. The collapse of ice worlds due to climate change will have serious and tangible consequences for us. It still serves as a water storehouse in the summer and its meltwater is used to alleviate drought and falling river levels. The summer of 2022 in northern Italy offered a preview of the time after the expected end of most Alpine glaciers: a winter with little snow followed by a dry spring, the Po River greatly shrinking, and Lake Garda a better pond. The little water reaching the rivers used to come from stricken glaciers – and that’s not much anymore.
Yahya is concerned
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