Melting glaciers in the Swiss Alps have created 1,000 new lakes in the past 10 years, including 180

Climate change has drastically changed the Swiss Alps by transforming glaciers into nearly 1,200 new lakes since 1850 – and 1,000 still exist today.

A team of scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) combined aerial photo data from the massive mountain range and years of data on glaciers in Switzerland to determine the inventory of lakes.

The analysis also found that 180 of the existing lakes had only been created between 2006 and 2016, when 18 new bodies of water appeared each year.

This, Eawag said, is “visible evidence of climate change in the Alps.”

“We were surprised on the one hand by the sheer numbers and on the other by the clear acceleration in formation,” said Daniel Odermatt, head of the Remote Sensing Group at the aquatic research institute Eawag, in a statement. statement:

‘At the start of the project we expected a few hundred glacial lakes. Now there are more than a thousand, and 180 more have been added in the past ten years alone.’

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Climate change has drastically changed the Swiss Alps by transforming glaciers into nearly 1,200 new lakes since 1850 – and 1,000 still exist today. Pictured is Steisee, canton of Bern

The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system located entirely in Europe, stretching approximately 745 miles across eight European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

However, this mighty mountain range has fallen victim to climate change, which has melted massive glaciers into nothing more than pools of water.

According to the scientists, glaciers lost two percent of their volume last year alone.

A quarter of the newly formed lakes have shrunk or completely disappeared.

The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system located entirely in Europe, stretching approximately 745 miles across eight European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland.  Pictured is the Aletsch Glacier above Bettmeralp

The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system located entirely in Europe, stretching approximately 745 miles across eight European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland. Pictured is the Aletsch Glacier above Bettmeralp

The analysis also found that 180 of the existing lakes had only been created between 2006 and 2016, as 18 new bodies of water appeared on average each year.  Pictured is Griesseeli, canton of Uri, between Clariden and Klausenpass

The analysis also found that 180 of the existing lakes had only been created between 2006 and 2016, as 18 new bodies of water appeared on average each year. Pictured is Griesseeli, canton of Uri, between Clariden and Klausenpass

For the study, the team recorded the location, elevation, shape and surface area of ​​the 1,200 lakes at various times, along with the dam type and material, surface drainage and recorded lake development.

The evaluation found that there was a first peak in glacial lake formation in the Swiss Alps between 1946 and 1973, when an average of nearly eight new lakes appeared each year.

From there, a brief decline was observed, but then increased again between 2006 and 2016, when an average of 18 new lakes appeared each year as the water surface swelled by more than 4,300 square feet annually.

Pictured Michael Plüss, technician in Eawag's Surface Waters division, installs a thermistor chain on Lake Stei (Canton of Bern, near the Susten Pass).  Through automatic series of measurements of water temperature at different depths over several years, the researchers gain a better understanding of the general development of high-alpine lakes and their seasonal fluctuations.

Pictured Michael Plüss, technician in Eawag’s Surface Waters division, installs a thermistor chain on Lake Stei (Canton of Bern, near the Susten Pass). Through automatic series of measurements of water temperature at different depths over several years, the researchers gain a better understanding of the general development of high-alpine lakes and their seasonal fluctuations.

The comprehensive inventory has been made possible by large amounts of data collected from the Swiss glaciers since the mid-19th century.

In total, the researchers were able to draw on data from seven periods between 1850 and 2016.

For each of the 1,200 lakes that have formed since 1850, the scientists recorded the lake’s location, elevation, shape and surface area at the different times, as well as the type of dam material and surface drainage.

Scientists warned that the growing number of glacial lakes increases the risk of such eruptions and, with it, the danger of flood waves to the settlements below.  Pictured is Griesseeli, canton of Uri, between Clariden and Klausenpass

Scientists warned that the growing number of glacial lakes increases the risk of such eruptions and, with it, the danger of flood waves to the settlements below. Pictured is Griesseeli, canton of Uri, between Clariden and Klausenpass

Based on this information, researchers can estimate hazards, including the risk of sudden vacancy in the event of a dam burst.

Eawag warned that the growing number of glacial lakes increases the risk of such eruptions and, with it, the danger of flood waves to the settlements below.

“The new inventory is a valuable basis for the calibration and further development of satellite-based remote sensing,” says Odermatt.

“It also provides a good starting point to monitor and analyze the impact of climate change on glacial lakes.”

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