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Glaciers melting faster than anticipated

The tongue of the Morteratsch Glacier/CH has been melting steadily.

The tongue of the Morteratsch Glacier/CH has been melting steadily. © CIPRA-International

A new study by Zurich University using satellite images to analyse the surface area of 930 glaciers has shown that Switzerland's glaciers lost around 18% of their surface area between 1985 and 2000.
By comparison glaciers had receded by only 1% over the period 1973 to 1985. Projections for the entire alpine region even show a total loss of 22% between 1985 and 2000, which means that glacier shrinkage is now already on a scale originally not anticipated until another twenty years' time.
Smaller glaciers have been particularly affected by the shrinkage. So far these glaciers had not appeared in the inventory lists of the glacier report published annually, which only takes account of the length data of 120 larger glaciers. Researchers were able for the first time to analyse by automated means data provided by the Landsat satellite using modern methods of digital image processing and geo-informatics. For the past 20 years the satellite has been flying over parts of the alpine region every 16 days, recording a strip of land 185 km in width.
Source and information: www.dissertationen.unizh.ch/2004/paul (de/en)