Alpine glaciers melt at record rate after heatwaves

STORY: Heatwaves across Europe have claimed another kind of victim.

The Alps' glaciers are melting at a record rate in at least 60 years' worth of record keeping.

That's according to data shared exclusively with Reuters.

On the Swiss Morteratsch glacier, glaciologist Andreas Linsbauer is heading for emergency maintenance work

two months earlier than his usual September visit.

"At the first stake we measured, we had about two meters of melt and the most extreme here since we have been measuring was one meters per year. So we already have a melt of two meters and it's midway of summer."

Morteratsch already appears much changed from the glacier depicted on tourist maps.

The long tongue that once reached deep into the valley below has shrunk back by nearly 2 miles

while the depth of the snow and ice pack has thinned by up to more than 600 feet.

And it’s not just Morteratsch.

Glaciologists in Austria, France, and Italy confirmed that glaciers there were on track for record losses.

Most of the world's mountain glaciers are retreating due to climate change.

But those in the European Alps are especially vulnerable because they are smaller with relatively little ice cover.

Meanwhile, temperatures in the Alps are warming around twice as fast as the global average.

Since the 2021 winter, which brought relatively little snowfall, the Alps have sweltered through two big early summer heatwaves – including one in July marked by temperatures near 86 Fahrenheit in the Swiss mountain village of Zermatt.

A UN report from 2019 says if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the Alps glaciers are expected to lose more than 80% of their current mass by 2100.

The dire situation this year raises concern that the Alps' glaciers might disappear sooner than expected.

Vanishing glaciers are already endangering lives and livelihoods.

Swiss residents worry that the glacier losses will hurt their economy.

Some ski resorts of the Alps, which rely on these glaciers, now cover them with white sheets to reflect sunlight and reduce melting.

(Lisa Neyt, Tourist)

"Everyone knows there's global warming but you realise here it's the real business. You talk about it but you don't see it always in nature, the consequences, and now you really see it. 'Oh my God, I was here 15 years ago and now the snow is gone and the rivers in the mountains are not there anymore'. It's warmer. Normally, we had a hat and gloves, now we don't need it anymore because it's hotter. So yes, it's a big difference."

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