SHARE
COPY LINK

WEATHER

Climate change: Glacial melt in Switzerland has created 1,000 new lakes

Climate change has dramatically altered the Swiss Alp landscape -- at a quicker pace than expected -- as melting glaciers have created more than 1,000 new lakes across in the mountains, a study published Monday showed.

Climate change: Glacial melt in Switzerland has created 1,000 new lakes
The Jungfrau Aletsch Glacier. By Robert J Heath - Switzerland, Bettmeralp, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98224624

The inventory of Swiss Glacial lakes showed that almost 1,200 new lakes have formed in formerly glaciated regions of the Swiss Alps since the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850. Around 1,000 of them still exist today, according to the study published by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag).

That is far more than the few hundreds the researchers had expected to find at the beginning of the project.

“We were surprised by the sheer numbers,” Daniel Odermatt, head of the Eawag Remote Sensing Group that carried out the study, said in a statement.

He said the “marked acceleration in formation” was also surprising, pointing out that “180 have been added in the last decade alone”.

Glaciers in the Swiss Alps are in steady decline, losing a full two percent of their volume last year alone, according to an annual study published by the Swiss Academies of Science.

READ MORE: Swiss hold high-altitude ‘funeral march’ for lost glacier

And even if the world were to fully implement the 2015 Paris Agreement — which calls for capping global warming at at least two degrees Celsius — two-thirds of the Alpine glaciers will likely be lost, according to a 2019 study by the ETH technical university in Zurich.

The Eawag assessment showed that there was an initial peak in glacial lake formation in the Swiss Alps between 1946 and 1973, when nearly eight new lakes appeared on average each year.

After a brief decline, the lake formation rate surged between 2006 and 2016, with 18 new lakes appearing each year on average, while the water surface swelled by over 400 square metres (4,300 square feet) annually.

This, Eawag said, is “visible evidence of climate change in the Alps”.

The comprehensive inventory was made possible by large troves of data gathered from the Switzerland’s glaciers since the mid-19th century.

In total, the researchers were able to draw on data from seven periods between 1850 and 2016.

For each of the 1,200 lakes formed since 1850, the scientists recorded the location, elevation, shape and area of the lake at the different times, as well as the type of material of the dam and surface drainage.

Based on such basic information, researchers can estimate hazards, including the risk of a sudden emptying in the event of a dam failure.

Eawag warned that the growing number of glacial lakes increases the risk of such outbursts and thus the danger of flood waves for the settlements below.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

WEATHER

Weather: Switzerland prepares for ‘record-breaking’ hot summer

The hot weather of the past week makes us wonder what the summer months will be like in Switzerland. Will we walk around in shorts and flip-flops or thermal underwear and boots? Find out what the experts say.

Weather: Switzerland prepares for 'record-breaking' hot summer

It has been hot in much of Switzerland over the last few days, with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees in some parts of the country.  But this is just a ‘foretaste’ of what lies ahead.

While this week is expected to be a bit cooler — more seasonal lower 20s —forecasts for the summer months call for even more intense heat.

“It will be hotter than usual,” according to Thomas Buchel, head of SRF Meteo.

“New heat records are very likely. It would be surprising if it went in another direction”, he said.

While it is too early now to predict just how hot it will get, the temperatures in certain Swiss regions “could hit 40 degrees”, Buchel pointed out.

This is close to this century’s previous “hottest” summer on record — 41.5 degrees measured in Grono, Graubünden 2003.

Another meteorologist, Joshua Gehring from the official weather service MeteoSwiss, said hotter weather “is a direct consequence of climate change”.

Specifically, a phenomenon called “heat dome” is hovering over Europe. It is, according to Gehring, “a stagnant anticyclone that acts as a lid to accumulate and retain heat”.

READ MORE: Heatwave: Why is it so hot in Switzerland right now?

But the environment is not the only one that is “suffering”, as it were, from this phenomenon.

According to 20 Minutes, “nearly 400 million francs are lost each year in Switzerland due to the heatwave and the drop in productivity that it causes in companies. That’s twice as much as the seasonal flu”.

“What is ideal for swimming or barbecuing cripples the economy. When working outdoors, performance drops quickly at such high temperatures”.

The Federal Office of Meteorology (MeteoSwiss) confirmed the dangers of extremely high temperatures on humans and nature alike.

“Periods of hot weather place extreme stress on the human body and can endanger health. Among other things, they can trigger cardiovascular and respiratory conditions and impair mental and physical performance”, MeteoSwiss writes.

“A hot spell can also have adverse effects on nature and infrastructure. For example, bodies of water often heat up considerably, causing fish to die, while high temperatures can lead to buckling of road surfaces and deformation of railway tracks”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

So if you are a summer enthusiast and thrive in hot weather, you can look forward to sizzling temps.

But f you are more of a “cold” person, this article from April of this year may bring back fond memories:

Winter weather to continue in Switzerland this week

SHOW COMMENTS