‘Visible evidence of climate change in the Alps’: The melting of the glaciers in Switzerland has led to countless new glacial lakes in a decade.
The melting of glaciers in the Alps has created 180 new glacial lakes in Switzerland within ten years alone.
Between 2006 and 2016, the water area grew by around 150,000 square meters (15 hectares) every year – “visible evidence of climate change in the Alps”, as reported by the Swiss Water Research Institute (Eawag).
For the first time, the institute has compiled an inventory of all glacial lakes that have been created since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age around 1850. At that time, the alpine glaciers had their greatest expansion in modern times. According to co-author Nico Mölg, the area of the glacial lakes increased by an average of around 40,000 square meters (4 hectares) per year from 1850 to 2016 – with a strong increase in the recent academic years from 2006 to 2016.
The list includes a total of 1200 lakes, 187 of which have mostly been replenished and disappeared by the sediments that transport the glaciers. In 2016, the area of all existing glacial lakes was around 620 hectares.
‘We were surprised by the sheer number on the one hand and the significantly accelerated training on the other,’ said project manager Daniel Odermatt. The scientists evaluated old records that go back to the mid-19th century and aerial photographs that have existed since the middle of the 20th century.
One of the most famous is the lake at 2800 meters above sea level on the ice of the Plaine Morte Glacier above Lenk in the Bernese Alps, as Odermatt said. In spring it fills with meltwater, which runs off over a stream in late summer. In order to prevent sudden emptying with tidal waves and to protect localities, a canal has now been created there to drain the water.