Germany’s glaciers are melting faster than expected, according to a new report indicating the country could lose its last in a decade.
Earlier forecasts estimated that the glaciers would last until at least the middle of the century, but the melt has accelerated dramatically in the past few years.
The researchers used NASA satellite images to analyze all of the nearly 220,000 glaciers in the world, the first study to do so.
They determined that if greenhouse gas emissions were not limited, glaciers in the European Alps could lose nearly all of their remaining ice by the end of the century.
Experts say the continued loss of alpine glaciers is one of the “clearest indicators” of climate change.
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Schneeferner is the largest glacier in Germany. Experts predict that it may fade within 10 years if current climate change rates continue
Glaciers are a massive accumulation of ice, snow, rocks and sediments, usually forming over centuries, and are constantly moving due to their sheer weight and gravity.
There are five glaciers in Germany in Bavaria, in the southeast: the highest and largest of them, Schifferner, is located on the South Zugspitze Plateau, the country’s highest peak.
But the Minister of the Environment in Bavaria, Thorsten Glauber, warned that “the last glacier in the Bavarian Alps could disappear within 10 years.”
“The days of glaciers in Bavaria are numbered,” Glauber said. “Even faster than expected.”
Map showing loss of thickness of glaciers in the European Alps between 2000 and 2019 (red), as well as any gains (blue)
Scientists had previously estimated that Germany’s glaciers would still exist until the middle of the century, but the melting has increased dramatically: in the past decade, they have lost about two-thirds of their size and their surface areas have shrunk by a third.
Scientists had previously estimated that glaciers would exist until the middle of the century.
But glaciers in Germany have lost about two-thirds of their volume in the past decade and have shrunk their surface areas by a third, according to a report by the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.
Glaciologist Christoph Meyer, who worked on the analysis, said, “The mutual causes and effects are definitely in climate change.”
“The floating ice is not just a monument to the history of the earth in the form of snow and ice, it is a thermometer of the state of our climate,” Glauber said.
According to a new study published in The Cryosphere, 4,000 glaciers located in the European Alps could lose up to 90 percent of the remaining ice by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed.
Even if covered, nearly half of the region’s ice will be lost by 2050, thanks to pre-existing conditions.
“Glaciers in the European Alps and their recent development are among the clearest indications of ongoing climate change,” said co-author Daniel Farinotti of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
4,000 glaciers located in the European Alps could lose up to 90 percent of the remaining ice by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. Pictured: A park crossing the Watzmann Glacier in Bavaria, Germany
“The future of these glaciers is already in jeopardy, but there is still potential to limit their future losses.”
The picture is bleak on glaciers around the world as well, which are drastically losing their mass.
In the first 20 years of the 21st century, the world’s glaciers lost an average of 294 billion tons of ice every year – enough to submerge Switzerland under nearly 20 feet of water, according to research published this week in the journal Nature.
Globally, glaciers are losing 30 percent more snow and ice annually than they were just 15 years ago.
The regional glacier map changes from 2000 to 2019. Globally, the world’s nearly 220,000 glaciers lose 30 percent more snow and ice annually than they did 15 years ago
An international team used detailed NASA space observations to analyze all 217,175 glaciers around the world for the first time, except for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Co-author Roman Hugonet, a geophysicist at the University of Toulouse, said the loss to Himalayan glaciers is “particularly worrying”.
“During the dry season, the glacial meltwater is an important source that feeds the major waterways such as the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Sundus rivers,” Hugonit said.
Currently, this increased melt acts as a buffer for the people who live in the area, but if the glacial recession in the Himalayas continues to accelerate, densely populated countries like India and Bangladesh may face water or food shortages within a few decades.
Melting ice and ice sheets will have a ‘dramatic effect’ on global sea levels
Global sea levels could rise by 10 feet (3 meters) if the Thwaites Glacier collapsed in West Antarctica.
Sea-level rise threatens cities from Shanghai to London, to low-lying areas of Florida or Bangladesh, and to whole countries like the Maldives.
In the United Kingdom, for example, a height of 6.7 feet (2 meters) or more could place areas such as Hull, Peterborough, Portsmouth, parts of East London and the Thames Estuary at risk of inundation.
A glacier collapse, which could start by decades, could flood major cities like New York and Sydney.
Parts of New Orleans, Houston and Miami in the southern United States will be especially hard hit.
A 2014 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists looked at 52 indicators of sea level in communities across the United States.
It found that tidal floods will increase dramatically in many locations of the east coast and the Gulf, based on a conservative estimate of projected increases in sea level based on current data.
The results show that most of these communities will experience a sharp increase in the number and intensity of tidal flood events over the coming decades.
By 2030, more than half of the 52 societies are expected to experience, on average, at least 24 tidal floods annually in exposed areas, assuming moderate sea level rise projections. Twenty of these communities could see tidal flood events triple or more triple.
The Central Atlantic Coast is expected to see some of the largest increases in flood frequency. Places such as Annapolis, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. can expect more than 150 tidal floods annually, and several locations in New Jersey can experience 80 or more floods.
In the UK, two meters (6.5 feet) by 2040 will almost completely submerge large parts of Kent, according to research results published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in November 2016.
The southern coast regions such as Portsmouth, Cambridge and Peterborough will also be severely affected.
Cities and towns around the Humber Estuary, such as Hull, Scunthorpe and Grimsby will also experience severe flooding.