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Thick snow cushion set to significantly slow glacial melting in Switzerland

Thick snow cushion set to significantly slow glacial melting in Switzerland

Following two years of high temperatures and low snowfall, the Swiss glaciological survey network (GLAMOS) has given the glaciers of Switzerland their first piece of good news in a long time. Heavy snowfall in the mountains over the winter means alpine glaciers are expected to melt much less this year.

Healthy snow blanket covers Swiss Alps ahead of summer

In the report, GLAMOS confirmed that a near-record-breaking “snow cushion” has blanketed the Swiss Alps and glaciers ahead of the melting season this summer. Among the 14 separate glaciers measured, the amount of snow cover has increased significantly over the winter and is now between 12 and 60 percent higher than the average recorded between 2010 and 2020.

By extrapolating the findings to all of Switzerland’s 1.400 glaciers, GLAMOS estimates that there is currently 31 percent more snow cover than average, the second-highest value since 2010. The heaviest snow cover was found in Ticino and near the ski resorts and glaciers of the Engadine Valley. The mountainous regions of Vaud, Valais and central Switzerland also received a bountiful blanket of snow over the winter.

Glaciers in Switzerland set to shrink much less in 2024

Experts noted that the more snow accumulates on the glaciers as the weather in Switzerland warms, the less the glaciers will melt. The snow blanket on the glacier serves as a sunshade for glacial ice, and once melted typically freezes as it seeps into the glacier itself, adding to its size. Therefore, GLAMOS predicted that glaciers will shrink much less during the summer of 2024, especially compared to 2023 and 2022.

However, while this year may see glaciers maintain their size, the good news comes after a tumultuous century for the Alps. A 2022 study from the government and ETH Zurich revealed that Swiss glaciers have shrunk by more than half their size in the last 90 years, mainly due to periods of little snowfall and heatwaves made more likely and long-lasting by climate change. 

Speaking at the time, glaciology professor Daniel Farinotti noted that “glacier retreat is accelerating.” According to the report, 12 percent of Swiss glacial ice disappeared between 2016 and 2021 alone. 

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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