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Hot summer melts glaciers
Wednesday August 26, 2009 - Email this article to a friend

The Alpine glaciers are melting at a faster rate than previously predicted. Here's a PlanetSKI report and video from Switzerland.

It is beyond doubt that the alpine glaciers are retreating and the speed of their retreat is increasing sharply.  The hot weather this summer has increased that process.

All over the Alps, glaciers have been shrinking, but what is worrying scientists most is the accelerated thaw that has taken place since the 1980s. During that time, Alpine glaciers have lost around 25% of their surface.

A recent study into glaciers, from the University of Zurich, predicted that if climate change continues at its present rate, Europe's glaciers could be gone by the end of the 21st century.

In Austria it has been the 5th warmest August on record according to the country's Centre for Meteorology and Geodynamics.  It measured snow levels at one point at over 3,000m and saw that the snowpack reduced by 5cm per day due to the warm weather.

See the PlanetSKI video below of how the glacier above Saas-Fee has fared this summer.

The retreating glaciers have, however, revealed some rather strange objects recently.

At the end of July a 40-year old camera and a human bone were discovered on the Gorner glacier high above the Swiss resort of Zermatt.  It has shrunk almost 300 metres in the past 3 years.

The bone made the headlines as it was revealed that human remains are found more often than people think.  

Last year there were 5 cases of human remains being given up by a glacier.

In recent years human remains have been found at Evolene, Sanetsch, Trient and the Grand Combin in the lower Valais region of Switzerland.

Revealing their secretsRevealing their secretsSince 1926 some 30 people have disappeared in the Valais canton and are unaccounted for. 

Many are thought to have fallen into crevasses while climbing, walking or skiing and as the glaciers melt their remains are found.

This summer has been particulalry hot for periods of time.  Earlier in August there was a prolonged heatwave with temperatures reaching 38°C in the valleys and it remained way above freezing on many of the glaciers.

See this related story on PlanetSKI as Swiss villagers petition The Pope to reverse a prayer they have been saying for hundreds of years.

Since the 17th century they have been praying for their glacier to retreat but it seems to have worked too well, and they now want to pray for it to grow.

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