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Swiss glaciers melting away at record rate

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Switzerland’s glaciers lost six percent of their total volume this year due to a dry winter and repeated summer heatwaves, shattering previous ice melt records, a report revealed Wednesday.

The study by the Cryospheric Commission (CC) of the Swiss Academy of Sciences laid bare the drastic scale of glacial retreat — which is only set to get worse.

“2022 was a disastrous year for Swiss glaciers: all ice melt records were smashed,” the CC said, adding that a two percent loss in 12 months had previously been considered “extreme”.

Three cubic kilometres of ice — three trillion litres of water — have melted away, the report said.

“It’s not possible to slow down the melting in the short term,” said glaciology professor Matthias Huss, head of Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland, which documents long-term glacier changes in the Alps and is coordinated by the CC.

If carbon dioxide emissions are reduced and the climate protected, “this might save about one third of the total volumes in Switzerland in the best case”, he told AFP.

Otherwise, the country “will be losing almost everything by the end of the century”.

This picture taken on September 2, 2022 above Ulrichen shows glaciologist and head of 'Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland' (GLAMOS) network Matthias Huss (with yellow shirt) during a visit with his team on the Gries glacier to takes readings of measuring equipment. Photo: AFP

This picture taken on September 2, 2022 above Ulrichen shows glaciologist and head of ‘Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland’ (GLAMOS) network Matthias Huss (with yellow shirt) during a visit with his team on the Gries glacier to takes readings of measuring equipment. Photo: AFP

Saharan dust speeds melt

At the start of the year, the snow cover in the Alps was exceptionally light, then a large volume of sand dust blew in from the Sahara Desert between March and May, settling on the surface.

The contaminated snow absorbed more heat and melted faster, depriving the glaciers of their protective snow coating by early in the European summer.

The continuous heat between May and early September therefore ravaged the glacial ice.

By mid-September, the once-thick layer of ice that covered the pass between the Scex Rouge and Tsanfleuron glaciers had completely melted away, exposing bare rock that had been frozen over since at least the Roman era.

And in early July, the collapse of a section of the Marmolada glacier, the biggest in the Italian Alps, killed 11 people and highlighted how serious the situation had become.

According to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in February, the melting of ice and snow is one of the 10 key threats from climate change.

This picture taken on September 2, 2022 above Ulrichen shows glaciologist and head of 'Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland' (GLAMOS) network Matthias Huss during a visit with his team on the Gries glacier to takes readings of measuring equipment. Photo: AFP

This picture taken on September 2, 2022 above Ulrichen shows glaciologist and head of ‘Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland’ (GLAMOS) network Matthias Huss during a visit with his team on the Gries glacier to takes readings of measuring equipment. Photo: AFP

Smallest glaciers hardest hit

“The loss was particularly dramatic for small glaciers,” the CC said.

The Pizol, Vadret dal Corvatsch and Schwarzbachfirn glaciers “have practically disappeared — measurements were discontinued”, the commission said.

In the Engadine and southern Valais regions, both in the south, “a four to six-metre-thick layer of ice at 3,000 metres above sea level vanished,” said the report.

Significant losses were recorded even at the very highest measuring points, including the Jungfraujoch mountain, which peaks at nearly 3,500 metres.

“Observations show that many glacier tongues are disintegrating and patches of rock are rising out of the thin ice in the middle of glaciers. These processes are further accelerating the decline,” said the report.

“The trend also reveals how important glaciers are to the water and energy supply in hot, dry years,” the report stressed — something to consider given that hydroelectricity provides more than 60 percent of Switzerland’s total energy production.

This picture taken on September 2, 2022 above Ulrichen shows glaciologist and head of 'Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland' (GLAMOS) network Matthias Huss (with yellow shirt) during a visit with his team on the Gries glacier to takes readings of measuring equipment. Photo: AFP

This picture taken on September 2, 2022 above Ulrichen shows glaciologist and head of ‘Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland’ (GLAMOS) network Matthias Huss (with yellow shirt) during a visit with his team on the Gries glacier to takes readings of measuring equipment. Photo: AFP

The glacial meltwater in July and August alone would have provided enough water this year to completely fill all the reservoirs in the Swiss Alps.

But Huss said that if the country experienced this year’s meteorological conditions in 50 years’ time, “the impact would be much stronger, because in 50 years, we expect that almost all glaciers are gone and therefore cannot provide water in a hot and dry summer”.

Melt reveals macabre finds

The melting of the glaciers has also had some unexpected consequences.

Hikers are regularly making macabre discoveries as bodies are being freed from the ice they have been encased in for decades or even centuries.

The melting can also be a boon for archaeologists who suddenly have access to objects that are thousands of years old.

Meanwhile the melting of a glacier between Italy and Switzerland has moved the border that ran along the watershed, forcing lengthy diplomatic negotiations.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20220928/swiss-glaciers-melting-away-at-record-rate/69301.html

International

Monkeypox to be renamed mpox: WHO

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Monkeypox is to be renamed mpox, the World Health Organization announced Monday, in a bid to avoid stigmatisation stemming from the existing name.

Monkeypox received its name because the virus was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958, but the disease is found in a number of animals, and most frequently in rodents.

A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May among men who have sex with men, outside the African countries where it has long been endemic.

“When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatising language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

“Following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term ‘mpox’ as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out.”

The disease was first discovered in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the spread among humans since then mainly limited to certain West and Central African nations.

But in May, cases of the disease, which causes fever, muscular aches and large boil-like skin lesions, began spreading rapidly around the world.

The WHO triggered its highest level of alarm on July 24, classifying it as a public health emergency of international concern, alongside COVID-19.

More than 80,000 cases

Some 81,107 confirmed cases and 55 deaths have been reported to the WHO this year, from 110 countries.

Where the given dataset was known, 97 percent were men, with a median age of 34 years old; 85 percent identified as men who had sex with men, according to the WHO’s case dashboard.

The 10 most affected countries globally are: the United States (29,001), Brazil (9,905), Spain (7,405), France (4,107), Colombia (3,803), Britain (3,720), Germany (3,672), Peru (3,444), Mexico (3,292), and Canada (1,449). They account for 86 percent of the global number of cases.

A total of 588 cases were reported last week. Over the past four weeks, 92 percent of cases were reported from the Americas and six percent from Europe.

Seventy-one countries have reported no new cases in the past 21 days.

It is down to the WHO to assign names to diseases, as it did with Covid-19.

The WHO announced in August it was looking for a new name for the virus, seeking suggestions from experts, countries and the public.

According to WHO best practices in disease naming adopted in 2015, names should aim to minimise unnecessary negative impact.

Considerations include scientific appropriateness, pronounceability, and usability in different languages.

“WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimise any ongoing negative impact of the current name,” it said.

The one-year transition is to avoid confusion caused by changing the name in the midst of a global outbreak.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20221129/monkeypox-to-be-renamed-mpox-who/70251.html

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World’s largest volcano erupts in Hawaii

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The world’s largest active volcano burst into life for the first time in 40 years, spewing lava and hot ash Monday in a spectacular display of nature’s fury by Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

Rivers of molten rock could be seen high up on the volcano, venting huge clouds of steam and smoke at the summit on Big Island, and sparking warnings the situation could change rapidly.

Pressure has been building at Mauna Loa for years, according to the United States Geological Survey, which reported the eruption could be seen from 45 miles (72 kilometers) away, in the town of Kona the west coast of Hawaii’s main island.

The eruption, which began shortly before midnight Sunday, was initially contained within the caldera — the concave area at the top of the volcano — but vulcanologists said Monday lava was now escaping from cracks in its side.

“The eruption of Mauna Loa has migrated from the summit to the Northeast Rift Zone where fissures are feeding several lava flows,” the USGS said on its website.

The agency said there was currently no threat to people living below the eruption zone, but warned that the volcano was volatile.

“Based on past events, the early stages of a Mauna Loa rift zone eruption can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly.”

Experts also cautioned that winds could carry volcanic gas and fine ash downslope, as well as Pele’s Hair — the name given to fine strands of volcanic glass formed when lava skeins cool quickly in the air.

Named after Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, the strands can be very sharp and pose potential danger to skin and eyes.

‘Long Mountain’ 

Authorities in Hawaii have not issued any evacuation orders, although the summit area and several roads in the region were closed, and two shelters have been opened as a precaution.

An ashfall advisory has been issued downwind of the volcano, with a light accumulation of ash expected on ships in ocean waters along the Big Island’s southeast.

Vulcanologist Robin George Andrews said the eruption had originally been contained, but was now spreading.

“Oof. Lava is now erupting from fresh vents on the slopes along Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone, or NERZ. That brings a new hazardous dimension to the eruption,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The fact that it is a hazardous mountain that hasn’t erupted since 1984 — the longest eruptive pause in its recorded history — is why we should all keep an eye on it.”

But Andrews predicted that unless the lava flow rate picks up dramatically, the city of Hilo to the northeast, home to about 44,000 people, “will be okay.”

The largest volcano on Earth by volume, Mauna Loa, whose name means “Long Mountain,” covers half of the Big Island and is larger than the rest of the Hawaiian islands combined.

The volcano’s submarine flanks stretch for miles to an ocean floor that is in turn depressed by Mauna Loa’s great mass — making its summit some 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) above its base, according to the USGS.

One of six active volcanoes on the Hawaiian islands, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843.

Its most recent eruption, in 1984, lasted 22 days and produced lava flows which reached to within about seven kilometers (four miles) of Hilo.

Kilauea, a volcano on the southeastern flank of Mauna Loa, erupted almost continuously between 1983 and 2019, and a minor eruption there has been ongoing for months.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20221129/world-s-largest-volcano-erupts-in-hawaii/70248.html

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Great Barrier Reef risks ‘in danger’ World Heritage listing

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef should be added to a list of “in danger” World Heritage sites, according to UN experts who have warned the fading wonder has been “significantly impacted” by climate change.

A UNESCO-tasked report on Monday said that warming seas and agricultural pollution had put the reef at risk, and that its resilience had been “substantially compromised”.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s premier tourist drawcards, and putting it on the in-danger list could substantially tarnish its international allure.

After intense lobbying, Australia’s previous conservative government managed to keep the reef off the list in the summer of 2021.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said the reef supported 60,000 jobs and generated Aus$6 billion ($4 billion) in revenue every year.

Australia’s Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek conceded the reef was under threat, but said putting it on UNESCO’s “World Heritage in Danger” list would be a step too far.

“We’ll clearly make the point to UNESCO that there is no need to single the Great Barrier Reef out in this way,” she told reporters.

“If this World Heritage Site is in danger, then most World Heritage Sites around the world are in danger from climate change.”

World Wildlife Fund spokesman Richard Leck said the UNESCO recommendations should be accepted by the government.

“These UNESCO recommendations are a reminder it is our choice to give the world’s most iconic reef the best chance of survival.”

The latest report, from experts at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and UNESCO, acknowledged Australia’s commitment to protecting the reef.

But it found that despite the “unparalleled science and management efforts”, the reef still faced “considerable pressures” linked to climate change and pollution from agricultural runoff.

Australia reported in May that 91 percent of the reef’s coral had been damaged by bleaching after a prolonged summer heatwave.

It was the first time on record the reef had suffered bleaching during a La Nina weather cycle, when cooler ocean temperatures would normally be expected.

Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison was voted out earlier this year in favour of a centre-left government promising greener policies and greater climate action.

A UNESCO spokesperson told AFP that “a constructive dialogue is ongoing with the current government”.

To be included on UNESCO’s world heritage list, a site must have “outstanding universal value”.

A spot on the list usually means boosted tourism, and improved access to funds and scientific expertise.

Only three sites have ever been dropped from the heritage list completely.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20221129/great-barrier-reef-risks-in-danger-world-heritage-listing/70239.html

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