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Solemn vigils for dying glaciers

Oct 14, 2019 / alpMedia
Many Alpine glaciers have already disappeared due to global warming. In September 2019, vigils in Italy and Switzerland drew attention to this fact.
Image caption:
30 years ago, the Lys Glacier reached as far as the point from which this photograph was taken. (c) Legambiente

At the end of September, the environmental organization Legambiente held a requiem for the vanishing Lys glacier in Italy’s Aosta Valley. The Lys glacier is now in the process of disappearing. As Vanda Bonardo explained on the occasion of the requiem, around 200 glaciers have already disappeared across the Alps in recent decades. She is the President of Legambiente and a member of the board of CIPRA Italy. “The glaciers of the Eastern Alps are retreating particularly fast because they are at lower altitudes.” A memorial service for the dying Pizol glacier in Switzerland, the first glacier to be removed from the Swiss monitoring network, also attracted attention. The glaciologist Matthias Huss from ETH Zurich has been researching this glacier for more than ten years. According to Huss, the cumulative effect of a number of extremely warm years has caused the Pizol glacier to decay. The Pizol commemoration was co-organized by the Swiss Climate Protection Association. With its glacier initiative, the association is calling for greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland to be reduced to net zero by 2050 at the latest. The Swiss Federal Council has adopted this goal.

The dramatic nature of the situation becomes clear on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. The unusual heat in September and the leachate from the melt may lead to the collapse of huge glacier masses. In concrete terms, up to 250,000 cubic metres of glacier ice could break off (as of 9 October 2019). The affected Planpincieux glacier is being continuously monitored and roads in the valley have been closed for safety reasons. In the long term, the retreat of the glaciers will not only lead to a rise in sea levels, but will also affect the availability of fresh water for agriculture and households in the Alpine region.


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