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Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

Switzerland’s glaciers have been shrinking as a result of climate change, but they are now receding faster than before. These are three reasons why this is happening.

Why Switzerland's glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer
Glaciers are melting faster this year. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Glaciers in the Swiss Alps are in steady decline, losing  2 percent of their volume last year alone, according to a study published by the Swiss Academies of Science.

While Alpine glaciers have been melting for decades — mostly due to global warming, scientists say — this phenomenon has intensified in the past several months.

Three factors have contributed to this erosion, according to Matthias Huss, according to glaciologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich:

First heat wave of the year already in May

The early heat wave and the warmest May in many decades has impacted a number of Alpine regions, including the Jungfraujoch and Aletsch glaciers.

Temps exceeded above 0 degrees, reinforcing the melting process of the glaciers.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s May temperatures ‘highest in 150 years’

Sahara dust

A cloud of fine sand from Morocco and Algeria that  covered parts of  Switzerland in March and April was not good for the glaciers.

 “The remarkably strong Sahara dust reinforced the melting of glaciers in the short and longer term,” Huss said.

READ MORE: Dust from the Sahara Desert covers parts of Switzerland

Little snow and lots of sun in winter

The effect of Sahara dust was reinforced by the fact that the winter of 2021/2022 was particularly sunny and snowfall was scarce.

This means “the glaciers somehow ran out of ‘food’ in the form of snow. In addition, the melting started very early this spring”, he noted.

Melting ice has formed 1,200 new lakes in formerly glaciated regions of the Swiss Alps since the middle of the 19th century. Around 1,000 of them still exist today, according to the study published by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag).

READ MORE: Climate change: Glacial melt in Switzerland has created 1,000 new lakes

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Weather: Temperatures in Switzerland set to plummet

Depending on where in Switzerland you live, you might have been enjoying the last of the mild autumn. But those days are likely over, as ‘polar’ weather may be on the way.

Weather: Temperatures in Switzerland set to plummet

Blame it on the low-pressure system called “mega polar vortex,” which has hit parts of the United States in the past days and is now heading towards us from – where else – but Siberia.

“If the polar vortex pushes cold air north, it could reach us as well,” said Roger Perret, a meteorologist at the MeteoNews weather service.

This is what the situation is currently:

How cold could it get?

The temperatures could drop to 0 C, though heavy snowfall is not expected before the beginning of December.

While this is the most likely scenario, weather is, after all, unpredictable.

The current forecast will hold true only if the polar vortex is undisturbed on its path.

But if “it stays in the east and mild air currents arrive in Switzerland from the Atlantic depression, it will be warmer again,” Perret said.

In other words, be prepared for the cold, but hope for the clement weather to continue a little bit longer.

READ MORE: Will the warm autumn affect the ski season in Switzerland?