Italian Glaciers Are Melting At Worrying Speed

Italian glaciers are melting at high speed, to the point that they risk disappearing altogether. Over the past 30 years, the great majority of the glaciers in the Alpine divide have continuously lost volume both in size and depth. Now, punctual measurements operated in the last few years are indicating the losses even more precisely. They are reported by Legambiente, the main environmental NGO in Italy, in its “Carovana dei Ghiacciai” (Glaciers Caravan), a specific monitoring report developed to raise awareness about the climate crisis.

“The third edition of Carovana dei Ghiacciai measured again the effects of the climate crisis, now in the midst of its course, of which glaciers are the main sentinel,” said Giorgio Zampetti, national director of Legambiente. “The data unequivocally call for an immediate change in approach. The country must stop chasing the emergency. Instead, we need to accelerate mitigation policies, drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels, and implement a concrete climate change adaptation plan. Today, the responses are too fragmented, moving us further and further away from the goal of achieving zero net emissions in 2040 […]”, he added.

The report found that glaciers in some of the main Alpine mountains are changing drastically: on the notorious Mont Blanc, Italy’s highest peak, the Miage glacier has lost 100 billion liters of water over 14 years (equivalent to 100,000,000 m³ (35,314,666,7 ft³) of ice). On the same mountain, the Pré de Bar glacier has been registering a steady yearly loss of 18 meters (59ft) in extension since 1990. The Monte Rosa massif, which is in the same region of the country, faces a similarly worrying situation: its Indren glacier lost 64m (209 ft) in two years, 40m (131ft) of which in the past year alone. Legambiente reports that this is a worrying sign for a glacier on an altitude above 3,000m (9,800ft). According to the glaciologist Carlo Brabante of the Polar Science Institute (ISP), if in normal conditions the freezing level should be reached at 2,300m (7,500ft) of altitude, currently even at high altitudes up to 10°C (50°F) are registered, while freezing levels are reached only after 4,300-4,500m (14,000ft). “With temperatures above freezing at those altitudes, potentially all the large glaciers in the Alps are in the melt zone,” he stated.

The phenomenon is affecting the entire mountain chain. The Ghiacciaio dei Forni (Forni Glaciers), the second biggest in Italy, lost 400 meters (1,312ft) in surface over the past 10 years, and the Marmolada, which in early July has been the stage of an ice collapse that killed 11 people, could disappear forever in just 15 years, having registered over the last century more than 70% losses in extension and more than 90% in volume. In Legambiente’s report, the only exception is represented by the Montasio Western Glacier (Ghiacciaio Occidentale del Montasio), which despite having lost 75% of its volume over the past 100 years and a reduction in depth of 40 meters (131ft), since 2005 has remained stable.

Last July 3, in the Marmolada complex a part of the glacier collapsed, running over hikers and leaving 11 dead. It has been one of the most serious incidents over the past years. The episode has been indicated by the experts as unsurprising, and a consequence of the climate crisis on Italian mountains.

“The fate of the Italian glaciers is sealed, even if we cut CO2 emissions radically today in order to act on global warming. The Alpine system, and not only that, is completely out of balance, climate models tell us that by the end of the century the glaciers in the Alps below 3600 m may disappear. Some at lower altitudes, such as the Marmolada, even earlier,” said Carlo Brabante to the daily newspaper Repubblica.

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