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Category — Glaciers Melt

Tree find confirms Italian alpine melt

 Tim Radford

Bolzano_alps

The Italian Alps are warming at twice the global rate, and their glaciers are in retreat. Image: Ekharlamov via Wikimedia Commons

Evidence from high in the Italian Alps confirms that they are warming at twice the global rate, with the region’s glaciers in retreat everywhere.

It was only a single, withered conifer needle, but it told a dramatic story of climate change. Glaciologists found it in a set of ice cores drilled through a glacier on top of Mount Ortles, in the Italian Alps.

It lay about 80 metres below the glacial surface, encased in solid ice, and carbon dating confirmed that it had blown from the branches of Larix decidua, the European larch, 2,600 years earlier.

It was found about 30 kilometres from a far more dramatic exposure: the body of Ötzi the Iceman, a mummified Bronze Age corpse revealed  by a melting glacier in 1991.

Both finds deliver the same uncompromising message: for at least 5,000 years – because Ötzi perished around that time – the Italian Alps had continued to stay frozen throughout the year.

And now they are melting. Or, to put it the scientific way, in the words of Paolo Gabrielli, of Ohio State University, who led the project: “Our first results indicate that the current atmospheric warming at high elevation in the Alps is outside the normal cold range held for millennia. This is consistent with the rapid, ongoing shrinking of glaciers at high elevation in this area.” [Read more →]

December 16, 2013   No Comments