New Study: Alps Warming At Double The Average Global Rate

SnowBrains | | WeatherWeather
Alto dell'Ortles glacier
Italian Alps and glaciers.  photo:  AP

Some of the best skiing in the world lives in the European Alps.  The terrain is daunting, the elevations are high, and the culture is vibrant.  The Alps own a large part of skiing’s soul.

Things are changing fast in the Alps, however.  In a recent study, scientists discovered that the Alps are warming at double the average global rate of warming.

“Of particular interest to the researchers is why temperatures in the Alps are increasing at twice the global rate. As the highest glacier in the eastern Alps (2.4 miles, or 3.9 km, above sea level), Alto dell’Ortles is located in the heart of Europe — one of the most industrialized and populated areas of the world.” –

alps from space
The alps from space.

In 2011, a scientific team found a 2,600-year-old larch conifer needle 262-feet deep in the Alto dell’Ortles glacier in the Italian Alps.  From that leaf and the ice around it they were able to determine that the ice within the glaciers in that area had not melted for many thousands of years.  This pine needle was found only 19 miles from where they found the bronze age ice man, Otzi in 1991.  Both the pine needle and Otzi confirm that for at least the past 5,000 years, the alps remained frozen throughout the year.

Alto dell'Ortles glacier
Alto dell’Ortles glacier, where the larch needle was found. photo: J&Konrad

This is no longer true.  For at least the past 30 years, the European Alps do not stay frozen year round any longer.

“Our first results indicate that the current atmospheric warming at high elevation in the Alps is outside the normal cold range held for millennia. This is consistent with the rapid, ongoing shrinking of glaciers at high elevation in this area.” – Paolo Gabrielli, of Ohio State University

larch leaf in glacier
This 2,600-year-old larch leaf was found buried in ice atop Mt. Ortles in Italy. photo: Ohio State University

Paolo Gabrielli just gave a presentation in San Francisco, CA to the American Geophysical Union.  At this gathering, Paolo announced his findings and shocked the audience by reporting that the Alps are warming at twice the global rate.  He also stated that the glaciers in the alps are all in retreat.

The future of snow and ice and skiing in the Alps is very uncertain and according to these latest findings, the glaciers of the alps could be the first to melt away.

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