SOURCE: Science

DATE: August 5, 2019

SNIP: The sweltering heat wave that roasted much of Europe last month has since moved north, where it’s wreaking havoc on the Greenland ice sheet. But while all eyes are currently trained on the Arctic ice, scientists are finding that Europe’s coldest places have also suffered.

According to initial findings from the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network (GLAMOS), Swiss glaciers experienced unusually high melt rates during the last heat wave, which occurred in late July, and an earlier heat wave that struck the continent in late June.

Matthias Huss, a glaciologist with Swiss University ETH Zurich and head of GLAMOS, tweeted last week that the nation’s glaciers lost about 800 million metric tons of ice during the two heat waves alone.

During the winter, the region received an above-average amount of snowfall, Huss pointed out. So the glaciers actually started the summer with a high level of snow cover and were doing “extraordinarily well” compared to the last few seasons, which have logged particularly strong losses, he noted. Scientists were hopeful that they’d end the season on a better note than the last few years.

But once the first heat wave struck, the snow began to rapidly melt away.

“Now, because of these two heat waves, we have tracked very fast downward,” Huss told E&E News. “And we are now at the average of the last 10 years, or even already a bit below.”

Summers like this one, marked by extraordinary heat waves and high levels of melt, only exacerbate the problem.

“Now we are really seeing almost every year another extreme year,” Huss said. “And this is what is actually a problem.”