Neustift im Stubaital (Austria): Glaciologist Andrea Fischer and environmental physicist Pascal Bohleber, both from the Austrian Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, inspect the thickness difference between the part of a glacier that is covered with a special fleece fabric to protect ice from heat and the part that is not covered.—Reuters
Neustift im Stubaital (Austria): Glaciologist Andrea Fischer and environmental physicist Pascal Bohleber, both from the Austrian Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, inspect the thickness difference between the part of a glacier that is covered with a special fleece fabric to protect ice from heat and the part that is not covered.—Reuters

WEISSSEESPITZE: Scientists are racing to read a rapidly melting archive of climate data going back thousands of years — the inside of Austria’s Alpine glaciers.

Mountain glaciers are receding the world over as average global temperatures rise — a phenomenon that will be described in detail in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week.

Glaciers in Austria, on the eastern edge of the Alps, are particularly sensitive to climate change and have been shrinking even more rapidly than most, making it all the more urgent to examine their contents before they disappear, said Andrea Fischer, a scientist conducting the work.

“We are now roughly at 1920. The rest has already been lost — everything from 1920 until now,” Fischer, of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research in Innsbruck, said of her work seeking Austria’s oldest ice at the top of the Weissseespitze, a peak more than 3,500 metres high.

“In the next two years we will lose another 70 years (of ice and data),” she added, describing ice at the top of the glacier.

At the top of this mountain, Fischer and her colleagues have drilled to the bottom of the comparatively undisturbed glacier to extract samples of its ice, which is being analysed for information on the local climate thousands of years ago.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2019