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Swiss Glaciers Melting Away at an Accelerating Rate

by VR Sreeraman on  December 21, 2008 at 11:11 AM Environmental Health   - G J E 4
 Swiss Glaciers Melting Away at an Accelerating Rate
Two new studies have suggested that the Swiss glaciers are melting away at an accelerating rate and many will vanish this century if climate projections are correct.

According to a report by BBC News, both studies have been done by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
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One assessment found that some 10 cubic km of ice have been lost from 1,500 glaciers over the past nine years.

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The other study, based on a sample of 30 representative glaciers, indicates the group's members are now losing a meter of thickness every year.

"The trend is negative, but what we see is that the trend is also steepening," said Matthias Huss from the Zurich University's Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology.

"What really matters is how much ice we have in the big glaciers, because the small ones will disappear; that seems clear," he explained.

"Glaciers are starting to lose mass increasingly fast," he added.

The retreat is being driven largely by longer melting seasons. The other key factor in glacier health - the amount of winter snowfall to replace ice melt - shows no long-term changes.

In one study, Daniel Farinotti, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and his team, tried to assess the total volume of ice in Swiss glaciers -1,500 of them, from the mighty Aletschgletscher to small ice fields that cover less than three square km.

The research used direct measurements where available, and combined this with modelling to estimate ice volumes for areas that are data-deficient.

The assessment found a total ice volume present in the Swiss Alps of about 75 cubic km by the year 1999. It is a bigger figure than previously thought.

"However, 1999 is quite some time ago now, so what we did was try to calculate the volume lost since this baseline; and we estimate a figure of 13 percent - from 1999 to today," explained Farinotti.

For 2003, remembered for its strong heatwave across Europe, the team estimates that 3-4 percent of the volume in Switzerland at that time was lost in that one year alone.

The study by Huss and his team takes a slightly different approach. It considers just a key group of 30 glaciers, representing all sizes, types, and locations.

Again, using a mixture of direct data and modelling, the scientists analysed the mass trends from 1900 to 2007.

In general, over the period, there is a retreat; and in the last 30-50 years, the shrinkage has accelerated.

Source: ANI
SRM
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