The melting of Swiss glaciers is accelerating. Between 1985 and 2000, ie in 15 years, Swiss glaciers lost 18% of their surface; whereas between 1973 and 1985, ie over the previous 12 years, the melting was limited to 1%. The small glaciers were the most affected: while they constitute only 18% of the surface glaciers, their melting represents 44% of the total decrease.
This acceleration of the melting is partly due to the warm years of the decade 1990. During the last 150 years, the average temperature in the Alps has climbed from 1 to 1,5 ° C, while the average increase on the planet for the same period is 0,6 C. The inventory of Swiss glaciers was carried out by geographers from the University of Zurich.
Scientists relied on images taken by the Landsat Thematic Mapper earth observation satellite, which has been revolving around our planet for 20 years and which passes over the same point every 16 days. The objective of this vast study, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), was to complete, refine and facilitate the national inventory. But it was also a pilot study for a much larger program, called GLIMS, which aims to regularly inventory all of the some 160 glaciers on the planet, of which only 000% are known today.
- Dr Frank Paul - Geographischen Institut, Universitat Zurich-Irchel,
Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich - tel. +41 1 635 51 75 - email:
- Dr Andreas Kaab - Geographischen Institut, Universitat Zurich-Irchel,
Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich - tel: +41 1 635 51 46 - email:
Sources: Press release from the University of Zurich, 15/11/2004
"Alpiner Gletscherschwund starker als erwartet"; Le Temps, 16/11/2004 "Seen
from space, Swiss glaciers are melting much faster than expected ";
Der Bund, 16/11/2004 "Eis wird Wasser - immer rascher"