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Alpine glaciers to disappear within decades?

Year of publication2006
Author(s)Michael Zemp
Co-authorsWilfried Haeberli, Martin Hoelzle, Frank Paul
JournalGeophysical Research Abstracts
Magazine No.Vol. 33
Publication typeJournal article
Past, present and potential future glacier cover in the entire European Alps has been assessed from an integrated approach, combining in-situ measurements, remote sensing techniques and numerical modeling for equilibrium line altitudes. Alpine glaciers lost 35% of their total area from 1850 until the 1970s, and almost 50% by 2000. Total glacier volume around 1850 is estimated at some 200 km3 and is now close to one-third of this value. From the model experiment, we show that a 3°C warming of summer air temperature would reduce the currently existing Alpine glacier cover by some 80%, or up to 10% of the glacier extent of 1850. In the event of a 5°C temperature increase, the Alps would become almost completely ice-free. Annual precipitation changes of ±20% would modify such estimated percentages of remaining ice by a factor of less than two.