The Swiss Just Held a Funeral for a Dead Glacier

This is what the Pizol glacier looked like in 2009. RIP.
Photo: AP

With the second mourning ceremony for a melted glacier this year, perhaps 2019 will go down as the year of funerals for glaciers murdered by climate change.

On Sunday, hundreds held a funeral for the Pizol glacier in Switzerland’s Glarus Alps. This is the first glacier in Switzerland to be removed from GLAMOS, the nation’s glacier monitoring service, according to CNN. Some 250 people dressed in black showed up to the funeral procession, hiking about a mile and a half for two hours up a mountain to reach the site of the nearly gone glacier. Since 2006, the glacier has lost up to 90 percent of its volume—and human-caused climate change is to blame.

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“Pizol glacier has disappeared,” said Matthias Huss, a glacier specialist who heads GLAMOS, to CNN. “There will be some snow left, but the glacier is no more.”

Image: Matthias Huss (European Geosciences Union)

As we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, global temperature steadily rises. This warmth carries the most impact in the coldest parts of our globe, especially in Arctic nations. At just 0.02 square miles, the Pizol glacier is the same size as about 80 percent of Switzerland’s total glaciers—what some call “glacierets” because they’re small relative to more massive glaciers such as the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland. That small size makes them especially vulnerable to rising temperatures.

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The record heat wave in Europe this summer contributed to “unusually high melt rates” among Swiss glaciers, according to E&E News. Temperature records were breaking in cities across Europe, and this level of warmth has awful rippling effects for the continent’s northern neighbors. Icelanders held a similar event last month, mourning the death of the Okjökull glacier. This was Iceland’s first glacier to disappear due to climate change.

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Unfortunately, many more glaciers will meet this fate regardless of what action we take on climate change. Even if all our emissions stopped immediately, all glaciers in the Alps will shrink to half what they are now by midcentury, a study earlier this year found.

Glacier news is consistently sad. Funerals, however, might be the saddest of them all.

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

I mostly write about how environmental policy and climate change intersect with race and class though I occasionally write about animals, science, and art, too. We all need an escape, right?

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