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Summer skiing, European glaciers - How much longer?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Not long if my trip up to the Tignes glacier today was anything to go by...

- the Champagny slalom stadium on the Grande Motte glacier at Tignes this morning.

Complete album here - haven't had time to go through and title the images yet.

- the halfpipe - or what's left of it - early this morning.

This short piece on the vanishing Zugspitz glacier, the highest German peak.
post #2 of 23

Tignes summer skiing

PG, I was thinking about skiing Tignes next June. Is it worth spending time doing or is it more of a novelty. We're doing a family trip to France and I was thinking of doing it for the benefit of my sons who will get burned out on charming towns and museums. Thanks
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Maui Steve, bear in mind that the winter season finishes at the end of the first week of May usually, and the summer season doesn't get underway until around June 20th.

It's always a lottery in the summer, you have to check out the conditions pretty much just as you're thinking of going up. We had a heatwave in early June that did a lot of damage, but at least the glacier had some snow reserves from the winter back then. And then we had a cool spell with some snow - more than 18 inches one day early July - which meant that on the whole conditions varied from ok to quite good between June 21st and July 21st.

The first funicular is at 7am, lifts close at 1pm.

An alternative is the 2 Alpes glacier near Grenoble. Well worth checking which has the better snow nearer the time. Approx same opening date, and like Tignes closes around September 2nd/3rd.
post #4 of 23
I ski Hintertux just about every July. In June and early July the skiing can be decent. Look, you can't expect Alta in February, but for summer skiing, it is not bad.
post #5 of 23
It seems that the snow line is very high, around 3300 m, i.e. some snow left only on the top part of the glacier.

Hintertux will have it lower, could be 3000 m with the Gefrorene Wand and Olperer still covered.

Poor conditions everywhere. We´ll be heading into Ski Domes and Snow Worlds.
The biggest project in Europe:
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
What a difference a year and a month makes ...

This was the scene early July of last season on the little-known Chiaupe glacier at La Plagne, a well-guarded secret for skiers in the know in the French Alps!

Full album here
post #7 of 23
Nice photos!

Yeah, last year was a skier´s dream. Early July was still very good everywhere. In the Austrian Alps, this year is at least by 3 weeks worse. Kaunertal closed July 24, last year in mid-August. The last week in July 2004 was still very good with even -7 Celsius in the morning. This year, a week earlier was definitely worse with much less snow.
Too bad. The Alps need as much snow as possible to cover the damage caused by the summer of 2003.
Cf. the thread about covering glaciers.
post #8 of 23
There's been some very good stuff on TV recently on both Discovery and Science about the dwindling glaciers of the Alps. It's happening before our very eyes and not in the far future. Here's a very sound link on global warming: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/home.cfm. I know people who were really disappointed that 9/11 (then the theater attack in Moscow and bombings in Madrid) prevented them from opening up a New England style ski academy in Garmisch-Partenkirchen that they had planned for a number of years. Now that the snow is disappearing, they feel that they were lucky not to get dragged into a location that is quickly losing its traditionally long season. The warmer weather, shrinking glaciers and inconsistent snow seasons means that the ski industry in the Alps is going to have to change locations and genuinely re-think the sport as we now know it.
post #9 of 23
It's indeed a global phenomenom. Out here in the PNW, not having enough snow has never traditionally been a problem. Or even remotely considered to be a problem. And yet the last 2 winters have been a drought! What the heck is going on?

Maybe it's a good thing we're about to run out of oil reserves in the near future. That will force everyone to seriously look at alternatives to fossil fuel based energy sources, which is the primary cause of global warming. Time to trade in that gas guzzling SUV for hybrid or electric?
post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
The latest study by the World Glacier Monitoring Service has just been released. Pretty heavy reading, but I've written a brief summary here, including a link to the original research. It suggests that climate change is taking place "without precedence in the history of the earth" and that "almost complete deglaciation of many mountain ranges could occur within decades"...
post #11 of 23
Nice summary, PG. A good public service on your part.
post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 
Managed to get up to the top via piste basher on Monday (glacier closed otherwise, strong winds). Conditions much nicer between 3200 and 3500 - there's even some snow up there! Plenty of fun (see album) but a sobering meeting with the Tignes piste services director early afternoon... I'll add a report soon.
post #13 of 23
Originally Posted by PG
. It suggests that climate change is taking place "without precedence in the history of the earth" and that "almost complete deglaciation of many mountain ranges could occur within decades"...
I don't think you can say "without precidence" when using geologic time. We have had thousands of warm spells, all poorly understood, and all without man's help. Here's an article suggesting the alps were glacier free 7,000 years ago. only yesterday in Geologic time.


This doesn't help our outlook for skiing, but it does show that the climate is never ever stable.
post #14 of 23
newfy, your article "SUGGESTS" that it might have been that way, whereas, what PG is posting is factual.
post #15 of 23
From yesterday's NYT:

August 8, 2005
Melting Mountain Majesties: Warming in Austrian Alps

KAISER-FRANZ-JOSEFS-HÖHE, Austria - The jagged peak of the 11,361-foot mountain known as the Johannisberg looms against the sky at the end of a stunningly beautiful valley here in the Austrian Alps, and the Pasterze, Austria's biggest glacier, extends slowly downward and away from it for five miles.

The glacier is broad and grand, like the river of ice it is, and yet something about it is visibly not right, and you can tell right away what it is from the steep cable car that was built a bit more than 40 years ago to take tourists from the heights above down to the glacier itself.

"When it was built, it went right down to the glacier," recalled Erhard Trojer, owner of the Hotel Lärchenhof in the nearby ski resort village of Heiligenblut.

But now, if you stand at the bottom of the cable car line and look down at the tourists disporting themselves on the glacier, it is as though you are looking at them from an airplane.

"It's going down from four to eight meters a year," or about 13 to 26 feet, said Mr. Trojer, who grew up in this valley. "In the early 1960's, they used to have a ski race every spring from the top of the Grossglockner to the bottom of the glacier." The Grossglockner, which looms above the Pasterze, is, at 12,460 feet, Austria's highest mountain.

"They can't do it anymore," Mr. Trojer said a bit sadly. "It's warmed up, and there isn't enough snow."

Austria's glaciers - there are 925 of them - are shrinking fast, and as they shrink, this part of the world is slowly losing one of its many attractions, those rivers of ice that, figuratively and almost literally, reflect the grandeur of the mountains around them.

This is not happening only in Austria, of course. It's a worldwide phenomenon. One Chinese expert on glaciers, Yao Tandong, director of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has said that the glaciers in the Himalayas shrink annually by an amount equivalent to all the water in the Yellow River, Agence France-Presse has reported.

In Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, some ski resorts - Ischgl, about 100 miles west of here, is one example - are so eager to retain the glaciers that they are covering them with vast sheets of white, sun-reflecting insulation in order to save them.

All kinds of hazards are being predicted as consequences of the glacial shrinkage, among them the possibility that desert towns in China's Xinjiang Province, which depend on seasonal glacial melting, will lose their underground water supplies.

Two European geologists, Andrea Hampel of the University of Bern and Ralf Hetzel of the University of Münster, wrote in the journal Nature earlier this year that the retreat of glaciers could cause an increase in the number of earthquakes.

Other scientists have warned that lakes forming in the back of glaciers because of melting ice could burst through cracks in the glaciers and cause tsunami-like devastation to towns down below.

"The problem is that the permafrost is going away," Hans-Erwin Minor, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, said in a telephone interview. "And there will be instabilities in the mountains, debris flows, mud flows, erosion of loose material."

Mr. Minor and other scientists attribute the speed of Pasterze's slow disappearance to the same global warming that is melting the polar ice caps. But they say that even without the impact of human activity the glacier would probably be shrinking anyway, as glaciers have always done in response to the earth's long cycles of relative warmth and cold.

"If you go back in history, there have been very large temperature changes," Mr. Minor said. "And now we are having a temperature change most likely influenced by man, and that accelerates the shrinkage. It's definitely the case that human action has an influence."

The Pasterze is Austria's best-known glacier, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, who drive, motorcycle or bicycle over the Grossglocknerstrasse, an amazing mountain road open only in summer, that was built in the early 1930's to attract tourists to this region.

On a recent Thursday, there were so many visitors that the immense multistoried parking garage at Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe (Emperor Franz Joseph's Heights) was full, and people in cars on the road below had to wait up to an hour for a space.

Standing at the bottom of the tram and looking across the valley, a visitor can see a sort of divide, perhaps 150 yards above the valley floor, marking the highest point of the glacier's bed. A line demarcates the moss-covered rocky mountain above from a steeply slanted, crumbled moraine below. The swift, stone-colored stream emanating from the glacier's edge flows past.

The glacier records show that Pasterze reached its greatest extent in the middle of the 19th century and has been retreating ever since. At the moment it is 1.5 miles shorter than it was 150 or so years ago. A bit over four decades ago, when the tram was built to bring visitors to the glacier, it was almost 500 feet higher than it is now, which is why the people scrambling around on top of it look so small from the tram bottom now.

"Normally the snow on the glacier should be there until the middle of July," said Bernhard Pichler, who trained as a geologist and now works for the tourist office in Heiligenblut, a few miles away at the end of the Grossglocknerstrasse.

"If there is enough snow," he continued, "the sun can melt some of it without reduction of the glacier, but we used to get five to seven meters of snow each winter and now we only get about three, and now the snow melts away by the beginning to middle of May."
post #16 of 23
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat
newfy, your article "SUGGESTS" that it might have been that way, whereas, what PG is posting is factual.
Lets get fact and theory straight. There is wood melting out of the glaciers. That is a fact. This "suggests" that trees once grew up there.

Statements that today's warming without precedence is a theory, with volumes of evidence to dispute it.

Anthropogenic warming is definitely a theory, with some good physics supporting it.

Procede from there. As Michael Crichton wrote: "I am certain that there is too much certainty in the world."
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
newfydog, don't shoot the messenger! I didn't state an opinion, just confirmed various elements of the study (I'm sure the quotes were faithfully reproduced). I didn't express much of an opinion anywhere, other than to show a bit of disdain for "junk science and interest groups - of all persuasions - intent on pulling the wool over our eyes"...
post #18 of 23
Bush doesn't believe in global warming either, that's why he never signed the Kyoto Accord to reduce gas greenhouse emissions. But then, Bush has been known to make some pretty dumb decisions
post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 
wizard, surely Bush believes in the phenomenon, he just disputes the causes. On Monday on the Tignes glacier in France the pistes services director was pointing out the very big loss of depth over just two decades. Frightening. Whatever the main causes, it's happening. It sure would be a move in the right direction if the world were to take action to ensure that man's influence did not help accelerate the effect!
post #20 of 23
Originally Posted by wizard
Bush doesn't believe in global warming either, that's why he never signed the Kyoto Accord to reduce gas greenhouse emissions. But then, Bush has been known to make some pretty dumb decisions
Or maybe he knows it's true and doesn't care to stop it, figuring such an accord would interfere with his business interests, and as one of the power-elite he'll be able to buy his way out of the effects of it, by controling access to necessities like food and water, and then maybe build a biodome or move to Mars. Hey, maybe he's an alien seeking to terraform the earth into a atmosphere more suitable to his species, like in the movie "The Arrival".:

Oops, there I go being weird again!
post #21 of 23
Originally Posted by PG
wizard, surely Bush believes in the phenomenon, he just disputes the causes.
PG, I think you're giving our fearless leader a little too much credit. I have no idea what he believes in, but to dispute something, you actually have to think about it!
post #22 of 23
Thread Starter 
Gnarlito.... as a respectful limey, no comment

Today's piece in the Guardian makes for particularly depressing reading.
post #23 of 23
Warming hits 'tipping point'

Siberia feels the heat It's a frozen peat bog the size of France and Germany combined, contains billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas and, for the first time since the ice age, it is melting

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Thursday August 11, 2005
The Guardian

A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today. Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

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