Heat-trapping fossil fuel pollution has shortened the ski season in the Swiss Alps.
This is not only apparent for regular ski-goers, but also to scientists who, according to a recent study, have discovered a dramatic drop in the amount of snow-filled days in the Swiss Alps since the beginning of the global warming era.
The Swiss Alps, as well as parts of France and Italy, recently experienced the driest December in the last 150 years. The Alps have warmed close to 3.6 degrees F in this period, nearly twice as quickly as the global average.
By the year 2100, Swiss climate scientists have projected that the snow season will be shortened to an additional four to eight weeks.
But what does all of this mean? Despite the shortened ski season, why should the public at large care?
In this article, we will outline what shortened ski seasons really mean and what we can do about it.
Swiss Alps Disappearance of Summer Blankets Mean Melting Glaciers
While snow covering the swiss alps begins to disappear, it’s a disappointment for many people, as well as shocking for a number of reasons.
While melting snow is worrisome, it’s the ice that we should be more worried about as a species.
Glacial ice can be thousands of years old, making it very valuable for climate research. In order to view a long-term climate record, scientists only need to drill into the ice to retrieve cores or ice sheets.
These pieces of research provide information for scientists about the climate in the past. Climate scientists can take specific components of the ice cores and reveal our Earth’s past atmospheric composition, types of vegetation and temperature variations.
However, another clue that these glaciers have been providing is the fact that climate change is happening now and that it’s linked to human activity.
As glaciers melt, the sea begins to rise and a feedback effect begins: less sea ice means more sun rays are able to permeate the water (seeing as ice reflects the sun away from the Earth.) The more the sun’s rays enter the ocean and our Earth, the more our planet warms and causes a wide range of effects.
Swiss Alps Melting Ice Blanket and Snow Means Melting Swiss Glaciers
While glaciers are melting worldwide, Switzerland hasn’t only been experiencing issues with melting snow in its Alps.
Climate change in this reason has reduced significantly over the past couple years. In fact, 1.5 billion cubic meters of ice was lost in the Swiss glaciers only between 2016 and 2017.
So how are they responding?
As crazy as it sounds, it may in fact work. A group of Swiss scientists plans on spending a season making artificial snow to blow onto an artificial glacier.
If this plan works, they are hoping the government will help fund a large-scale project involving 4,000 snow machines to help rebuild Morteratsch glacier.
How does this work?
Snow has an important role in maintaining glacial ice from melting due to its high reflectivity abilities. If snow covers ice, it can reflect as much as 90% of the sun’s harmful rays.
However, warmer seasons result in less snow and so the country has been receiving less snow, or reflective abilities, as the temperature increases.
If the climate stays below the 2 degrees C target instilled by the Paris Agreement, The Alps could lose up to 30% of their snow cover.
If our global temperature rises any more, it could lose over 70%. That being said, even if Swiss scientists continue to blow summer blankets of snow onto their self-made glaciers, the temperature of the Earth won’t allow it to last long at all.
What Can We Do to Help This Increasing Issue?
While snow machines aren’t the first idea scientists have come up with in order to preserve glacial ice (white blankets being the first), there are other ways to save the world’s precious glaciers that may be a bit less technical.
You’ve probably guessed it by now:
Slow global warming by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases – or even better, resort to new, advanced options to go without them entirely.
While the entire world needs to join in on this plan, and the positive effects wouldn’t show themselves immediately, this type of future is possible.
While science can step in to help the situation in the meantime, these machines and ideas are merely band-aids for the heavy problem of climate change.
The real solution lies in us – we just have to decide when to act.