Warming of Swiss permafrost continues unabated

Higher temperatures are melting permafrost on Corvatsch and other Swiss mountains Keystone

Unremittingly high temperatures are continuing to take their toll on Swiss permafrost and glaciers, according to the latest scientific research. The permanent ice covering on Swiss mountains is melting while rock glaciers are moving several metres a year.

This content was published on February 22, 2016 - 13:17 and agencies

The latest findings from the Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network (PERMOS) reveal that the warming trend of the last seven years continues unabated. This has been ascertained by measuring the temperatures of permafrost at 30 borehole sites.

The permafrost in Corvatsch, near to St Moritz, has increased in temperature from -1.5 degrees Celsius to -1 degrees since 2009. The permanent ice covering on the Stockhorn, in the Bernese Oberland, has now been measured at -2 degrees, compared to -2.5 degrees in 2009.

PERMOS said that the increased ice temperatures were the result of several years of warmer conditions than normal, not just the unusually hot summer of 2015. Researchers also observed higher quantities of pooled ground water, hinting at the permafrost melting.

The speed of movement of rock glaciers increased 20% in 2014-2015 compared to the previous recordings. Such glaciers are now moving at a faster rate than at any time since recordings began in 2000.

The only unlikely silver lining comes in the shape of the late snowfall in Switzerland this winter. This allowed the ground to cool off faster because it did not have such a thick covering of insulating snow, PERMOS said.

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