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New report finds 2022 'disastrous year' for melting Swiss glaciers

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Glaciologists stand on the Gries Glacier in Switzerland. Photo by M. Huss/GLAMOS
Glaciologists stand on the Gries Glacier in Switzerland. Photo by M. Huss/GLAMOS

Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Glaciers in Switzerland melted at record rates in 2022, according to a report released Wednesday by the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network, which labeled it a "disastrous year."

The new study indicates that about .71 cubic miles of ice has melted, accounting for over 6% of the glacial volume. Before this year, ice loss percentages as small as 2% were considered to be "extreme."

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Multiple factors contributed to the melting, including heatwaves in Europe and light winter snowfall in 2021-22, according to GLAMOS, an organization set up by the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences.

Glaciers are usually protected for part of the year by a layer of snow. But dust blowing from the Sahara Desert could have caused the snow to retain more heat from the sun and thus melt more rapidly this year. The rapid melting of snow cover meant that by summer, Swiss glaciers were exposed to unusually hot and dry weather conditions.

Monitoring stations that are set up to measure snowfall across Switzerland reported dramatically less snowfall this year and in some cases no snowfall. The loss of "ice depth" averaged out to about 10 feet throughout the country.

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Many of the smaller glaciers in Switzerland have all but disappeared.

The previous record for glacial melting in Switzerland was during a heatwave in 2003.

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