Even while snowpacks are often melting sooner across the world, the recent record established at Mount Sonnblick is startling.
The Austrian Alps are home to the 3,106-meter-tall (10,190-foot) Mount Sonnblick. Over 20 meters (66 feet) of snow fall on average each year. It takes the majority of the summer for it to melt close to the top. A record unlike any other is being reported by the Mount Sonnblick Observatory this year, though.
In addition to defrosting sooner than ever before, this year’s snow also beat the previous record by more than a month. In terms of athletics, that is comparable to someone running a marathon in 90 minutes or a mile in three minutes. And it’s obvious that it didn’t develop spontaneously, just like with sporting deviations like that.
After a convention of the meteorological society determined we didn’t know enough about high-altitude atmospheric conditions, the Mount Sonnblick Observatory was constructed in 1886. One of the few really accessible places in Europe over 3,000 meters (9,840 feet) was thought to be here, and the fact that a nearby community was an early adopter of power didn’t hurt either. Since then, it has been meticulously logging data, now with the addition of cameras with Internet access.
For climatologists, having access to a trustworthy record of temperature, precipitation, and melting over such a protracted time period at such a high altitude has been extremely beneficial. So it came as quite a surprise when the Extreme Temperatures Around The World Twitter account informed other people of what the Observatory’s experts already knew.
Overnight, the snow accumulation at the measuring station decreased to around 3 millimeters (1 inch), before seeing a slight resurgence. Though there was thick cloud cover, the remaining snow became so thin as temperatures increased with the Sun that the sensor began to provide results that were close to random.
Prior to this year, Sonnblick’s June snowfall has never been lower than 120 cm (47 inches), with an average of 307 cm (121 inches) by the end of the month. It measured 39 centimeters this year (15 inches).
Temperatures in the summer and the amount of snow cover in the winter both have an impact on when the thaw will occur. Even things like the quantity of dust coming from the Sahara are important. However, breaking the previous record by over 40 days is undoubtedly an anomaly that, at least during the last few million years, could not have happened under pre-Industrial climate circumstances.
The summer has been very hot over all of Europe, with several nations reporting June temperatures that were nearly the warmest ever recorded. In the Italian Alps, the tragedy has been more obvious and dramatic, with a rapid glacier fall killing at least six people two days ago. Lowland deaths from heatstroke are difficult to detect.
The European Geophysical Union’s Dr. Giovanni Baccolo and Lander Van Tricht had already stated three days prior why the year 2022 would be ideal for Alpine glaciers. The dramatic melting, they say, “raises the possibility that the graphs depicting glacier balances will need to be rescaled.” Snow is melting one to two months sooner than usual over the Alps.
Alpine snowmelt supplies water to the majority of Europe’s major rivers throughout the spring, summer, and fall. If the autumn rains are not especially copious, several of them may run quite low this year.
Of course, it’s not only in Europe. Like other previous years, this one has been defined by a string of extreme heat events that have broken records from pole to pole and in some of the most inhabited areas on Earth.