GLAMOS Glacier Monitoring Center, 28 September 2023
High summer heat and low winter snowfall have created the perfect storm for extreme ice loss in the European Alps. The Swiss Academy of Sciences reported that 2023 saw a 4% reduction in the volume of Swiss glaciers, adding to all-time high loss of 6% in 2022. These updated measurements show that 10% of the ice volume in the Swiss Alps has disappeared in the last two years with the rapid acceleration in global temperature rise caused by unrelenting fossil fuel emissions. As a comparison, the amount of ice lost in the last two years is the same amount that took three decades to melt between 1960 and 1990. These high losses, which have already decreased the thickness of glaciers in southeast Switzerland by 3 meters on average, increase as summer air temperatures rise. Very low volumes of snow in the winter expose the ice to the sun for extended periods and exacerbate melting, preventing the glaciers from recovering after warm summer months. With 80% of glacier ice in Europe predicted to disappear by 2100 even if global average temperature rise is limited to 2°C, only very stringent mitigation efforts to keep temperatures below 1.5°C can potentially save the remnants of these important water resources and Swiss cultural icons.