Pyrenees glaciers are continuously losing thickness and surface area

The results of a study, in which various research centres in Spain and France have participated, show that the rate of ice reduction has remained similar since the 1980s. In the last ten years, the thickness of the ice of some glaciers has decreased by an average of 10 metres, exceeding 20 metres in some places, and by up to a fifth of their surface areas.

An international study, led by the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (IPE-CSIC), has analysed the changes in surface area and thickness recorded between 2011 and 2020 of 17 of the 24 glaciers located in the Pyrenees. The results of the study, published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, show that, far from a slowdown being observed in the melting rate of the glaciers, the rate of ice loss has been similar since the 1980s.

During the period studied, the glacier-covered area diminished by 23.2%, while its thickness decreased by an average of 6.3 metres, in some places even exceeding a thickness of 20 metres. An example of these changes are those observed on the Aneto glacier, whose losses are estimated to be 24.3% in terms of its surface area, resulting in an average thickness of 8.5 metres, with decreases of up to 21 metres in some areas. Among the most affected ice masses are the Ossoue glacier in the Vignemale massif, which has sustained a 25.7% reduction in surface area and average losses of thickness of 10 metres; and the Taillon glacier, which has lost an average of 11.6 metres, exceeding 23 metres in its central area.

It is worth pointing out that the Pyrenean glaciers are the largest in southern Europe and their survival is threatened by climate change, so the results obtained in this work provide a foretaste of what may happen in other more northerly European mountain ranges such as the Alps, where glaciers are also displaying a clear retreat.

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