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28/05/2013

Climate change is alive and kicking: from Lombardy glaciers another confirmation

The melting of Alpine glaciers, and Lombardy’s ones in particular, is reality. Another confirmation comes from the Italian Glaciers Inventory made by the Department of Glaciology of the University of Milan, in collaboration with EvK2Cnr and A2A.

According to the data, glaciers are on the edge of collapse, making a turnaround extremely unlikely. In 1991-2003 period, 21% of ice has been lost, whereas its average thickness has decreased by about 7 meters. If we make a leap back in time, we find that since 1850 the amount of ice has decreased by 40%.

This ice loss is due to the increase of average temperature (+0.5 ° C), which on Alpine habitats cause effects even more devastating than on other regions, given their peculiar fragility.

 

EFFECTS ON WATER AS A RESOURCE

The Alps are the water and energy reservoir of many regions. From 1991 to 2003 about 0.7 km3 of water have been lost, equal to 7 large reservoirs for hydropower production. According to a model developed by the researchers, the amount of freshwater will decrease by 14% by 2020 and by 33% by 2050. 

Less water means greater competition among water-users, such as farmers, citizens, energy-producers, local communities. Coming to an understanding will be very challenging.

 

EFFECTS ON HYDROGEOLOGY

Glaciers, being hotter, are much more sensitive to the slightest increase in temperature, which causes rapid melting processes and, therefore, floods. In addition, less ice means more debris that make slopes less stable. 

 

EFFECTS ON VEGETATION

Plant species are continuing their upward migration. Ligneous species have ascended by around 300 meters in the last 50 years, while there is a reduction in the amount of permafrost. The colonization of areas no longer covered by ice is faster than observed so far (from 4 to 8 times). The paradox is that the Alps are becoming greener, but this is not good news.