A team from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor have found evidence that the boom of ski tourism in Europe during the Victorian era led to an acceleration of glacial melt in the Alps.
Mark Flanner of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and his colleagues say soot particles from increased rail transport, the booming tourist industry and coal fires – all brought about by the budding industrial revolution – are to blame, especially from coal burned on the doorstep of the Alps.
Black soot landing on a glacier reduces its reflectivity, causing it to absorb more energy from the sun and melt. The team studied ice cores from the glaciers and found that soot concentrations in the ice increased rapidly around the time the glaciers began retreating. Computer simulations showed these levels were high enough to melt almost a metre extra of glacier each year. “This is a sharp jolt to the system, a very rapid and large increase in soot over a very short period of time,” says Flanner. – newscientist.com
- Since 1850 glaciers have lost 50% of their area and retreated to their minimum extent for 10,000 years.
- Mountain glaciers are retreating three times faster than they were in the 1980s.
- The glaciers in the European Alps are among those shrinking fastest. Since 2000, they have been losing an average of 1 metre every year and have lost 19 metres since 1980. They are now only about 30 metres deep on average.
- Some scientist believe that only the biggest and highest glaciers will survive into 22nd century.