Famous UK Snow Patch Survives Summer in the Scottish Highlands

Reed Philips | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Scotland’s most durable snow patch, Garbh Choire Mòr, Braeriach, Cairngorms. Photo Credit: Ronofcam/ Wikimedia Commons

Famous for having melted entirely just 8 times in the last 300 years, Scotland’s Sphinx (as it is affectionately referred to as) will survive the summer of 2019 after having melted the past two years in a row. This patch of snow resides in a corrie called Garbh Choire Mor on the third highest peak in the UK, Braeriach, in the Scottish Cairngorms.

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Location of Garbh Choire Mor on Braeriach, Scotland.

According to BBC News, in the past 300 years that records have been kept regarding its existence, the snow patch at Garbh Choire Mor has reportedly only melted completely in 1933, 1953, 1959, 1996, 2003, 2006, 2017, and 2018. The acceleration in the rate of annual disappearances of this snow patch is not lost on Scottish snow patch researcher Iain Cameron. As he explained to the UK Times:

“Things were looking pretty bleak for the Sphinx  I thought it was going to vanish for the third year in a row,’ said Mr Cameron. ‘The rate of disappearance over the past 15 years has accelerated dramatically so I expected this small patch of snow to go again this year.”

Mr. Cameron informed the Times that there is anecdotal evidence going as far back as the 1700s that seems to confirm that at least some snow had always been present in Scotland up until the first recorded total melt in 1933. He likened the disappearing pockets of snow to “canaries” of climate change (referring to the canaries once carried by miners to serve as the first indicators of the presence of dangerous gases) because they “persist right on the margins” and are highly sensitive to the slightest changes in temperature.

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Iain Cameron holding ‘The Sphinx’ in his hands. Credit: Iain Cameron

Despite the fact that concern over the survival of a snow patch in the Scottish Highlands is a grim reminder of the larger ongoing climate change debate, with global implications, perhaps there is some measure of comfort and hope to be found in the words of Iain Cameron Himself. In his online account of the trek to conduct his welfare check on the Sphinx just last week, upon confirming that it would indeed survive this year, he wrote:

“…I drove back home to Stirling with an incredible sense of satisfaction and achievement, knowing that a tiny relic of last winter lived on to fight another summer.”

To learn more about the terrain at Garbh Choire Mor on Braeriach, check out Steep Scotland.


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