Mon, Sep 23, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Swiss climb to mourn disappearing Pizol glacier

AFP, MELS, Switzerland

People look at what is left of Pizol glacier as they take part in a wake on Pizol mountain in Switzerland yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Dozens of people yesterday took part in “funeral march” up a steep Swiss mountainside to mark the disappearance of an Alpine glacier amid growing global alarm over climate change.

The Pizol “has lost so much substance that from a scientific perspective it is no longer a glacier,” said Alessandra Degiacomi, of the Swiss Association for Climate Protection.

The organization said about 100 people made the two-hour “funeral march” up the side of Pizol mountian in northeastern Switzerland to the foot of the steep and rapidly melting ice formation, situated at about 2,700m near the Liechtenstein and Austrian borders.

A chaplain and several scientists gave speeches in remembrance of the glacier, accompanied by the mournful tones of alphorns — a 3.6m pipe-shaped wooden instrument.

A wreath was laid for the Pizol glacier, which has been one of the most studied glaciers in the Alps.

The move comes after Iceland made global headlines last month with a large ceremony and the laying of a bronze plaque to commemorate Okjokull, the nation’s first glacier lost to climate change.

However, unlike Iceland, yesterday’s ceremony did not mark the first disappearance of a glacier from the Swiss Alps.

“Since 1850, we estimate that more than 500 Swiss glaciers have completely disappeared, including 50 that were named,” said Matthias Huss, a glaciologist at the ETH Zurich university.

Pizol might not be the first glacier to vanish in Switzerland, but “you could say it is the first to disappear that has been very thoroughly studied,” Huss said.

The logs kept since scientists began tracking the glacier in 1893 paint a bleak picture of recent rapid changes to the climate.

Pizol has lost 80 to 90 percent of its volume just since 2006, leaving behind just 26,000m2 of ice, or “less than four football fields,” Huss said.

Pizol, which sits at a relatively low altitude, was never very big.

According to Glacier Monitoring Switzerland, it, like nearly 80 percent of Swiss glaciers, has been considered a so-called glacieret.

It has figured among about 4,000 glaciers dotted throughout the Alps, providing seasonal water to millions and forming some of Europe’s most stunning landscapes.

Huss and other ETH scientists recently cautioned that more than 90 percent of the Alpine glaciers could disappear by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reined in.

Regardless of what actions humans take now, the Alps will lose at least half of their ice mass by 2100, according to their study, published in April.

In a subsequent study published earlier this month, the researchers said that the Alps’ largest glacier, the Aletsch, could completely disappear over the next eight decades.

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