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Swiss pass ice is expected to melt completely within weeks – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

The thick layer of ice that has covered a Swiss mountain pass for centuries will have melted completely within a few weeks, a ski resort said on Thursday.

After a dry winter, the summer heatwaves that hit Europe were catastrophic for Alpine glaciers, which are melting at an accelerated rate.

The pass between the Scex Rouge and Tsanfleuron glaciers has been icy since at least Roman times.

But as both glaciers have retreated, the bare rock of the ridge between the two is beginning to emerge — and will be completely ice-free by the end of summer.

“The pass will be fully open air in a few weeks,” the Glacier 3000 ski resort said in a statement.

While the ice was about 15 meters thick in 2012, the ground underneath “will have fully resurfaced by the end of September”.

– Land unseen for centuries –

Located at 2800 meters in the Glacier 3000 ski area, the ridge practically marks the border between the cantons of Vaud and Valais in western Switzerland.

Skiers could glide across the peak from one glacier to another. But now a strip of rock has appeared between them, on which only the last piece of ice remains.

“No one has set foot here for over 2000 years, that’s very moving,” said Glacier 3000 Managing Director Bernhard Tschannen.

The Scex Rouge glacier is likely to turn into a lake in the next 10 to 15 years. It should be about 10 meters deep and have a volume of 250,000 cubic meters (8.8 million cubic feet).

The ski resort is working on how to adapt to the new reality when people cannot ski between the two glaciers.

“We plan to refresh the facilities in this area in the coming years and one idea would be to move the route of the current chairlift to allow more direct access to the Tsanfleuron glacier,” said Tschannen.

Parts of the Tsanfleuron Glacier at the pass have been covered to protect them from the melting rays of the sun.

Glaciologist Mauro Fischer, a researcher at the University of Bern, said that the loss in thickness of glaciers in the region this year will be, on average, three times what it has been over the past 10 summers.

– Bodies emerge from ice –

The melting of glaciers makes them more unstable, making them less suitable for winter sports and hiking, but it also means things that have been buried in the ice for years – even decades – can resurface.

In the past two weeks, two human skeletons have been found on glaciers in Valais.

Work is underway to identify the remains. According to the Swiss news agency ATS, the Valais police have a list of around 300 people missing since 1925.

In July 2017, the Tsanfleuron Glacier revealed the bodies of a couple who disappeared in 1942.

In June 2012, the bones of three brothers who had died in 1926 were found on the Aletsch Glacier.

And last week, the wreckage of a plane that crashed in the Alps in 1968 was discovered on the Aletsch Glacier.

The bodies of the three people on board were recovered at the time, but the wreckage was not.

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