Swiss pass buried for at least 2,000 years as glaciers melt (photos)

Swiss pass buried for at least 2,000 years as glaciers melt (photos)

Last year’s weather conditions accelerated the melting of snow on the Col de Tsanfleuron, which was about fifteen meters thick until 2021.

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V.SThis stretch of land from the Col de Tsanfleuron has not been open for more than 2,000 years and in Roman times. The dry winters and heat waves that scorched Europe this summer made good on the still-resisting snow.

Another 15 meters of snow by 2021

The pass is located at the confluence of the Sanfleuron glacier and Saxe-Rouge at 2,800 meters above sea level between the Vaud and Valais regions in southwestern Switzerland. It is located in the Glacier 3000 ski area. For the past few days, a tongue of land has been completely exposed, while Glacier 3000 recalled in a press release, “Measurements in 2021 revealed the thickness of the ice. 15 meters at this point.

“The summer of 2022, followed by a winter short on precipitation, is truly catastrophic for the glaciers,” the report noted. A glaciologist at the University of Bern, Dr. For Mauro Fischer, “compared to the last 10 summers, this year the thickness loss of the glaciers in the Diablerets area will be 3 times higher on average”.

Half glaciers

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

Glaciers there have shrunk by half since 1931, according to a study published in August by scientists who for the first time reconstructed the glacier’s retreat 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 in previous decades researchers knew little about their evolution because only a few glaciers were followed. 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) reconstructed the topography of a collection of Swiss glaciers in 1931.

According to ETHZ and WSL, “Based on these reconstructions and compared to data from the 2000s, the researchers conclude that between 1931 and 2016 the size of the glaciers was halved.

Melts faster and faster

The study was published in the journal Science CryosphereGlaciologists note that 86% of Swiss glaciers use archival images (21,700 photographs taken between 1916 and 1947) covering the surface and stereophotogrammetry, which helps determine the nature, shape and position of an object through images.

According to scientists, glaciers have not retreated consistently over the past century, with even episodes of mass growth in the 1920s and 1980s. Despite this development over a short period of time, “our comparison between 1931 and 2016 clearly shows a significant glacial retreat during this period”, according to one of the authors of the study, Daniele Farinotti, professor of glaciology at ETHZ and WSL.

Glaciers are now melting at a faster rate.



While they lost 50% of their size between 1931 and 2016, it took them six years to lose 12% between 2016 and 2022, according to Swiss glacier survey network GLAMOS. Matthias Huss, director of GLAMOS, talks about the year 2022. “Other years like 2011, 2015, 2018 or 2019 have already seen very strong melting. 2022 is very different and breaks all records,” he told ATS-Keystone in September. He is due to release a full report in the fall.

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