Never since records began have Austria’s glaciers retreated as much as in the 2021/22 measurement year. According to the latest Alpine Club’s Glacier Measurement Service report, Austria’s roughly 900 glaciers could be gone in as little as 50 years.
The Schlatenkees in East Tyrol is the glacier most affected by melting, followed by the Pasterze: it retreated 87.4 meters last year, more than twice as much as the year before – read more in Pasterze lost ice the length of the Danube Towe, the Schladminger Glacier in the Dachstein massif also lost more than 20 meters.
Too little snow – too hot summer
The lack of snow last winter and the hotter-than-average summer are the reasons for the rapid glacier shrinkage, says Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer of the Institute of Geography at the University of Graz, which is preparing the report on behalf of the Alpine Club.
He said the snow reserves had already been used up in July, and the glacier ice no longer had any protection. “The ice is the legacy, and the point is that if it were a good winter and a good summer for the glaciers, then much of this legacy would remain – but that was not the case. A lot of that ice has melted away.”
What can be done about it? Currently, very little, according to the scientist. “If there were ten cold winters today, maybe some ice masses would stabilize, but the big glacier tongues, they’re way too inert, they would continue to retreat. So we would really need a dramatic climatic change for the glaciers to recover, and it doesn’t look like that at the moment.”
Dachstein glacier may be history in 15 years.
If current developments continue in the coming years, Austria will be glacier-free by 2075 at the latest, he said; in the case of the Dachstein, it could be even faster: “It may not take that long, and then the Schladming Glacier will also be history. That could be a few decades, but it could also be in 15 years.” Counteracting climate change strongly – that is the only way to delay the glacier’s death at least until the next century, Pirklbauer said.
- source: steiermark.ORF.at/picture: Bild von ????Christel???? auf Pixabay
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