Swiss glaciers continue to shrink despite heavy snow in 2021

A mild summer and a snowier than usual winter failed to help Switzerland's glaciers, which continue to recede.

This file photograph taken on August 25, 2021, shows a view of the Aletsch Glacier. Swiss glaciers lost 1percent of their volume in 2021 despite abundant snow and a cool summer, due to climate change, the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences revealed
Swiss glaciers lost 1percent of their volume in 2021 despite abundant snow and a cool summer, due to climate change, the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences revealed. This file photograph taken on August 25, 2021, shows a view of the Aletsch Glacier. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland’s glaciers are continuing to shrink as a result of climate change, even if snowfall was heavy this year and the summer comparatively cool, a top scientific panel said on Tuesday.

“The volume of Swiss glaciers decreased by almost one percent in 2021, in spite of plentiful snow in winter and a pretty cool summer,” the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences said in a report.

“In terms of weather, the conditions were right in 2021 to give the glaciers a breather,” the report said.

“Unfortunately, in times of climate change, even a ‘good’ year is not good enough for the glaciers: The loss of ice continued, albeit at a slower pace, despite abundant snow in the winter and a comparatively cool and mixed summer weather.”

The snowfall was heavier than usual in May, the panel said.

READ MORE: What will the ski season look like in Switzerland this year?

On the Claridenfirn mountain of 2,890 metres (9,500 feet), seven metres of snow fell — the most since observations began in 1914.

“Nevertheless, the melt had been considerable by the end of September, and throughout Switzerland some 400 million tonnes of ice had been lost over the last 12 months, almost one percent of the remaining glacier volume.”

The Swiss glacier monitoring network, GLAMOS, documented ice loss on all 22 glaciers, the scientists said.

“Although the losses were smaller than in recent years, no gains were recorded for any of the glaciers,” the report said.

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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