Thursday, July 25, 2019

Update on Eastern Alpine Glaciers

It was a pretty good snow year in the eastern Alps, but due to global warming, it's damn hard to have a year in which there isn't a net loss of glacier mass.

When we left Innsbruck at the end of June, the seasonal snow still covered much of the high eastern Alps, but that's changed in the past three weeks.  Seasonal snow on the Hintereisferner, Austria's best studied glacier, is disappearing rapidly, leaving grey glacier ice. 

Hintertuxer Glacier is Austria's only year-round ski area.  Here too, the deep seasonal snow cover is disappearing rapidly. 

Finally, there is the Schneeferner on Zugspitze, which is to the right of the building pictured below. It's beginning to suffer too.

I suspect at the end of summer, we'll see a net loss of mass for most of the glaciers in the eastern Alps.  Even in a good snow year, the summertime temperatures that exist today do their damage.  Additionally, the prolonged exposure of grey glacier ice results in increased absorption of solar radiation, further accelerating the loss. 


  1. I spoke with a couple while in Zermatt last week who had been going there every year for the past 42 years. They were pointing out to me where the glaciers went to when they were younger. Quite sad (and amazing) to see how much they had retreated over a few decades. There was also a glacier lake "burst" while we were there which flooded some parts of the town.

    1. Those glacier lake outburst floods are very dangerous everywhere, but especially so in developing countries that lack both monitoring and mitigation infrastructure.