ESOTC 2022 Report: Record Loss of Glacier Ice in the European Alps Last Summer

Copernicus Climate Change Service, 20 June 2023

The sixth annual European State of the Climate (ESOTC) Report for 2022 was released June 20 by the European Commission, providing a detailed analysis of the climate this past year and the latest observations on major cryosphere dynamics, with a special focus on the Arctic. The first section of the report offered a snapshot of global glaciers, sea ice, ice sheets and sea level rise; the following section summarized the past year of temperature, precipitation, drought, wildfire and cryosphere trends across Europe; and the final section concluded with the Arctic, highlighting the recent heatwaves in Greenland.

Global: 2022 was the warmest year on record for several regions of the world, including much of western Europe, parts of northwestern Africa, the Horn of Africa, central Asia and China, and much of the south Pacific. Sea surface temperatures rose the fastest in regions such as the Arctic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Black Sea and the tropical Pacific. On land, a large reduction in glacier ice was observed across the globe. Significant glacier retreat was observed in Alaska, the Andes, High Mountain Asia and New Zealand.

Europe: Much of Europe experienced up to three weeks less snow than average during Winter 2021-22, which contributed to widespread drought conditions and increased glacier melt the following summer. Diminished snow cover exposes the vulnerable surface of glaciers to the sun, which accelerated melting in the European Alps during the summer when temperatures reached exceptional highs, setting a record amount of ice lost in a single year, 7% of ice mass (equivalent to more than 3.5 meters of thinning).

Arctic: In 2022, Greenland saw its highest temperatures on record for the month of September, reaching up to 8°C above average. The extreme heat, combined with rainfall during a time of year when precipitation would normally fall as snow, led to record ice sheet melt, with around a quarter of the ice sheet’s surface experiencing melt during the first few days of September. These records were mirrored in other Arctic regions such as Svalbard, which experienced its warmest summer on record in 2022 and reached 2.5°C above average in some areas.

By Amy Imdieke, Global Outreach Director, and Pam Pearson, Director of ICCI.
Published Jun. 26, 2023      Updated Jun. 26, 2023 5:49 pm