Freezing point climbs to a record high over the Swiss Alps

Freezing point climbs to a record high over the Swiss Alps: Weather balloon has to rise 17,008 feet above the mountain range to hit 0°C – following record-breaking heatwaves across Europe

  • Freezing point in Swiss Alps reaches new high, smashing record set 27 years ago
  • Weather balloon had to rise 17,008 feet above mountain range before hitting 0°C
  • It follows record heatwaves being amplified by human-induced climate change
  • Extremely rare for the freezing point to be measured above 16,400ft in Europe

Freezing point in the Swiss Alps has climbed to a new high and broken a 27-year-old record, meteorologists have revealed, as record heatwaves continue to rage across Europe.

A weather balloon had to rise to 17,008 feet (5,184 metres) above the mountain range to hit 0°C, experts said.

That was nearly 230ft (70m) higher than the previous Swiss record of 16,788ft (5,117m), which was measured on July 20, 1995, and 1,230ft (375m) above the summit of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc in the French Alps.

French meteorologists also measured 0°C above16,400ft (5,000m) on Sunday over Bordeaux in the west, before the warm air moved east towards the Alps. 

It is extremely rare for the freezing point to be measured above 16,400ft (5,000m) in Europe.  

Warming: Freezing point in the Swiss Alps has climbed to a new high and broken a 27-year-old record, meteorologists have revealed, as record heatwaves continue to rage across Europe. It is now nearly 230ft (70m) higher than the previous Swiss record, measured in July 1995

A weather balloon had to rise to 17,008 feet above the mountain range to hit 0°C. Insulating foam is pictured covering part of the Rhône Glacier in the Swiss Alps to prevent it from melting

HOW IS GLOBAL WARMING AFFECTING GLACIAL RETREAT? 

Global warming is causing temperatures worldwide to increase. 

This is particularly prominent at latitudes nearer the poles. 

Rising temperatures, permafrost, glaciers and ice sheets are all struggling to stay in tact in the face of the warmer climate.  

As temperatures have risen to more than a degree above pre-industrial levels, ice continues melt.

For example, melting ice on the Greenland ice sheet is producing ‘meltwater lakes’, which then contribute further to the melting. 

Some animal and plant species rely heavily on the cold conditions that the glaciers provide and are migrating to higher altitudes to find suitable habitat. 

This is putting severe strain on the ecosystems as more animals and more species are living in an ever-shrinking region. 

On top of the environmental pressure, the lack of ice on mountains is vastly increasing the risks of landslides and volcanic eruptions.

To date, the only other time it has surpassed this height in the Swiss Alps was in 1995.

This zero degree limit is measured with the help of weather balloons that are launched twice a day from nearby Payerne. 

Swiss glaciologist Matthias Huss said this month that rising temperatures were causing freshwater glaciers to melt faster than ever.

‘Glaciers in the Alps are so completely off from what we’ve seen before. I’m really alarmed by the situation,’ he tweeted. 

‘The measurements collected at Griesgletscher today show that even with respect to the previous record in 2003 we’re one month ahead with melting. 

‘And no relief in sight.’

Some animal and plant species rely heavily on the cold conditions that the glaciers provide and are migrating to higher altitudes to find suitable habitat. 

This is putting severe strain on the ecosystems as more animals and more species are living in an ever-shrinking region.

Meanwhile, up in the Alps the border between Switzerland and Italy has shifted due to a melting glacier, putting the location of an Italian mountain lodge in dispute. 

The Theodul Glacier’s retreat means the borderline has crept towards the Rifugio Guide del Cervino, a refuge for visitors near the 11,417ft (3,480m) Testa Grigia peak —and it is gradually sweeping underneath the building.

Last month, a new study warned that the number of days with snow cover in the Alps will halve without faster action to stop climate change.

Researchers said southern Alpine countries, including parts of France, Italy, and Slovenia, would be especially affected without emissions cuts.

For example, if the planet warms by 7.2-9°F (4-5°C), Slovenia could lose 54 days of snow per year – 68 per cent – at an elevation of 4,920ft (1,500m), while France will lose 116 days of snow at 11,480ft (3,500m), or 34 per cent of snow days. 

But if the Paris Agreement emissions targets were met this would save 80 per cent of the current days with snow cover, the experts said.

They added that the loss of snow would impact the skiing industry, nature, and downstream water use, and also itself cause further warming.

Scientists say the planet has heated 2.16°F (1.2°C) so far due to human activity, and it will take rapid and concerted action to meet the Paris Agreement target of staying ‘well below’ 3.6°F (2°C).

THE PARIS AGREEMENT: A GLOBAL ACCORD TO LIMIT TEMPERATURE RISES THROUGH CARBON EMISSION REDUCTION TARGETS

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

It seems the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research which claims 25 per cent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions. 

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

1)  A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change

3) Governments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries

4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science

Source: European Commission 

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