Switzerland's vanishing glaciers threaten Europe's water sup

 
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Switzerland's vanishing glaciers threaten Europe's water supply





Switzerland's glaciers have lost more than half their volume in less than a hundred years, and the long hot summer this year has accelerated the thaw, a new study shows.

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The glaciers support ski resorts and attract climbers and hikers in summer, but are also essential to Europe's water supply. Now, communities across the Alps are worrying about their future.

In Switzerland, at 3,000m (9,800ft) above sea level, you expect to see ice. But above the village of Les Diablerets, where cable car company Glacier 3000 operates, there are now huge areas of bare rock.

Two glaciers, the Tsanfleuron and the Scex Rouge, have split apart, revealing ground not seen for thousands of years. "We're probably the first people walking here," says Bernhard Tschannen, who runs the company.

Mr Tschannen is watching one of Switzerland's top attractions disappear before his eyes.

Visiting tourists can see from the Eiger to the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc. They could also, until recently, walk across miles of pristine blue glacier.

Now the ice is broken up by rock, mud, and puddles. The change is dramatic.

"When we constructed this chairlift we had to dig seven metres into the ice. This was 23 years back," he explains. "Look,"' he points several metres further away, "where the glacier is now".

Scientists have been monitoring the shrinking of Alpine glaciers for years. A joint study by Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology and the Swiss Federal Office for Landscape compared topographic images of glaciers from the 1930s, to those from the last 10 years.
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