Climate change: Europe's melting glaciers | DW Documentary

the spectacular Alps dazzling ice against a brilliant blue sky Danny Arnold and his friend are extreme Mountaineers here on a quest for the ultimate thrill they’re climbing the pits Pulu a nearly 4000 meter peak you position your ice axe you hear the tension cracks and hisses when it breaks up the ice blocks it’s really cool but an increasing number of scientists are warning that such adventures might soon become impossible global warming is melting the glaciers Danny Arnold can see for himself the effects of climate change the days when you could really go climbing in winter Clayton con 10 years ago there were lots more of them lcx experts say we’re at a turning point there’s less snow less ice and glaciers are retreating it won’t be long before the Alps as we know them no longer exist Sage’s d in spring 2018 the mood in a glacier 3000 ski resort in Switzerland was euphoric even among scientists a team led by Glacia expert matthias who’s from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich visits the mountains twice a year once in spring and again in autumn when the season begins they investigate how much fresh snowfall there was in winter and the thickness of the snow cover over the ice the more snow there’s been the better the condition of the Glacia today the 25th of April 2018 it’s in better shape than it’s been for a while more than five meters of snow fell in winter we’ve measured snow water equivalent at seven glaciers across Switzerland our measurements showed that in 2018 snow cover was well above average there wasn’t quite as much snow depth everywhere in Switzerland as there was here but it does look like there was perhaps as much as 50% more than in a normal year meal Alton Animalia Matthias hosts will be back in autumn there are plenty of people who see the healthy snowfall as proof that climate change is a myth but in Europe’s high mountain ranges the evidence is all around in Italy Switzerland Austria Slovenia and Germany the environmental research station Schnee fauna house is located just beneath the peak of the Turkish pizza it’s the highest altitude research post in Germany for professor Aneta Menzel and her students from the Technical University in Munich it’s the starting point for an Alpine expedition she tells them that they can see the signs of global warming every day high levels of pollen for example that can be potentially life-threatening for people with allergies one result of global warming is that the pollen season starts earlier but doesn’t end earlier there’s a lot of pollen about even in autumn due to invasive species and increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air also raises pollen production the Eco climatology students will meet dozens of experts on the Alpine study trip starting with Mikaela cloud Blatter

a scientist of international renown his area of expertise is permafrost and landslides erosion and natural hazards now the temperature increase means the permafrost in the Alps is starting to melt there is a growing risk of rockfall the mountains are simply not as cold as they used to be car Blatter explains next the group sets off to sea in sight that sucks pizza measuring the thickness of the permafrost is a bit like performing open-heart surgery or inspiring and intense this tunnel is just 50 centimeters high the scientists have to crawl on all forms the permafrost in sight that sucks Pizza is between a couple and a couple of dozen meters thick depending on our side temperatures nowadays it’s possible to measure it precisely the rock is illuminated with countless electrical sensors increasingly less rock inside the mountain is permanently frozen even here at Germany’s highest peak the permafrost is visibly thawing we’ve been observing a clear reduction in the permafrost since February of 2007 so more than a decade ago the occasional cold winter can slow the process slightly but over the years we’ve seen the thought Vance rubble and rock stabilized the ice in the critical areas where the thaw has set in but we have to keep a careful eye on it in case instabilities arise Alpine instability the residents of the small village of bondo in the Swiss canton of graub√ľnden know all too well what that can mean Alvarez alice is saying goodbye to her parents home the house she spent her whole life in it has to be demolished when I see my house dying this slow death it makes me very sad I’m ready to leave now soon before her eyes in summer 2017 a massive landslide at pits cheng gallo brought three million cubic meters of rock crashing down into the valley i suddenly heard this terrible noise i looked up at the mountain and saw huge chunks of rock cascading down the side of it it looked like lava but moving very slowly and soundlessly it was ice water and soil a surveillance camera at a local carpentry business recorded these images eight hikers were killed part of the village was destroyed the landslide was a result of climate change there used to be houses here now there’s just rubble Elvira’s alice’s house was full of boulders and rocks it’s in the prohibited area of the village where people are no longer allowed to live 82 year old Elvira’s Alice had to leave bond oh she moved in with her son in a neighboring village her house was 345 years old her great-grandfather bought it initially I was just very sad I cried a lot I was glad that I was there when it was torn down it’s the same as it is with people you don’t let people die alone I didn’t want my home to die alone I hated a home in this the 200 residents of bondo is still at risk another 3 million cubic meters of rock fall from pits chenge low could hit the village at any time LaMontagne alifair baba the mountain has

a fever they say here was the landslide that devastated bondo a one-off for our such disasters set to become more frequent to answer these questions professor McKee Alucard Blatter has put together a team of scientists today they’re heading to what they believe is one of the most intriguing spots in the entire house the helicopter has hardly any room to land here on the hawk for breath the border between Germany and Austria runs over the summit not far from Oberstdorf in 2014 a crack appeared in the mountain that has since widened there is an acute risk of rock for one of two paths at the top of the mountain has been closed off an aerial view reveals the full extent of the danger several hundreds of thousands of tons of rock could hurtle into the valley collecting data at an altitude of 2,600 meters is a risky undertaking what could happen if the summit collapses doesn’t bear thinking about there’s about two hundred and sixty thousand cubic meters of rock mass we began taking measurements here in 2014 and since then it’s moved 30 centimeters right now it’s moving several millimeters a month the deformations underway are so strong and can change in such a short space of time that it won’t be long now it could all come crashing down this year or next year we can’t rule that out Oh season the Alps are effectively held together by permafrost not just here in Al Gore Germany and bondo Switzerland but everywhere the cracks are showing literally in the Alpine itll today the students are visiting scree slopes it wasn’t long ago that these were covered in snow all year round Europe’s high mountain regions are highly sensitive to climate change they react to the slightest rise in temperature by even a tenth of a degree to any extended period without rain to every interference in nature with dramatic consequences the temperature is rising and then there are a lot of activities which are anyway going to hurt us so basically it’s our deeds that are going to lead us even more worse in the future for example if you are using fossil fuel somewhere on the planet it’s going to affect not only the same country another it’s going to affect Lobley it matters to me because it affects my future the future of my children and the whole ecosystem I love nature I love being outside that’s why I want to learn about all this and find out what the future holds in mountain regions opening bag I have seen things here and then if if I can transfer the technology or the knowledge that I have gained here there then I believe that we can lower the climate no we can mitigate not exactly lower we cannot do any that but adapt to the climate change happening with its all year round snowy caps Germany’s highest mountain is a major tourist attraction that sucks pizzas Glacia is no longer growing it’s melting away by 2040 at the latest it will have retreated completely snow plows scraped together the last of the winter snow it’s stored in snow depots at the start of the new season it will be used to get the beasts ready that way the season can get started as early as possible but the lack of snow is becoming increasingly problematic in

2018 even with snow farming the skiing season couldn’t start in November because the temperatures on the touch Pitzer were just to warm even resorts in high altitudes now rely on artificial snow which is water and energy intensive demand is so great that ski lift operators sometimes buy snow from private suppliers almost every village in the Alps is dependent on tourism and therefore on snow keeping the visitors happy is all that matters whatever the cost no one wants the party to be over [Applause] in summer the cost of all that fun is written into the landscape the resort of Silve rata is located above ishka the slopes are littered with countless snow machines maintaining the resort is a huge financial investment the damage wrought by tourism is substantial hydrologist commander Yong from the University of Strasbourg researches the effects of artificial snow on the Alps even she is taken aback by the extent of the erosion caused by winter sports this channel is very wide almost two metres you can tell from where I’m standing that it’s really deep if the ground is eroding completely there are channels all over the slopes big and small the young wants to establish if the ground can still absorb water she measures the density of the soil the snow cats and the heavy artificial snow have left the soil extremely compacted it’s a struggle to position the measuring rod she’s never seen results like these before this fossil vetti and all the water will just flow off the surface as a result the piste will be completely impermeable the water flowing here doesn’t get absorbed it just runs off the surface and causes widespread erosion and open field so safley this is normally a really pretty meadow with permeable ground that’s able to absorb water enters Vasa our found water yet new snow machines are being installed all over the Alps like here in San Moritz where two kilometres of pipeline are being laid ski feasts are created at ever higher altitudes for many resorts it’s the only way they can survive but costs are exploding and eventually many ski lift operators simply won’t be able to afford to stay in business the winter sports industry is being outstripped by climate change the production of artificial snow calls for vast quantities of water man-made reservoirs are fed with meltwater and mountain streams water that’s needed elsewhere unique landscapes are being altered beyond recognition and gradually destroyed ski resorts are not insured against climate change if there’s a temperature rise of one or two degrees then there’s no guaranteed snow cover here and there’s no proper ski season anymore meet me at Dorking I know she says all the time according to the latest studies we may see a temperature increase of four degrees Celsius by the end of the century for the time being there are 630 ski resorts across the Alps from Slovenia to France by 2080 five 80% will likely have no more guaranteed snow cover and will therefore shut down a study conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich predicts that they’ll only be natural snow cover upwards of an altitude of 2,400 meters but despite this gloomy outlook many ski lift operators of failing to react many jobs depend on the winter sports industry but while they look the other way the unique natural world of the Alps is slowly but surely degrading the fledgling climatologists are now on their way to the lake fashion power plant its waters flow through the pipeline’s 200 meters down the

mountainside to Lake cockle and powers turbines the increasing scarcity of water originating from high-altitude sources is a harbinger of potential desertification in parts of the Alps meltwater is especially in short supply on the edges of the Alps in upper bavaria in the past the water level in lake fashion had to be deliberately reduced there was a risk of flooding due to the vast amount of meltwater in the spring there used to be so much snowmelt here that we had to make room for it in the lake but for a while now there’s been much less the lake can absorb it so we don’t need to reduce the water level they speaking same converging sea of niche Musselwhite up everything here in the Alps is linked power generation and water supply rising temperatures and the increased incidence of rock for the thawing permafrost and the developing aridity for years eco climatologist Aneta men soul has been taking students on study trips to the alps how much has the situation here changed in that time well we definitely need to worry in alpine regions the temperature has already risen two degrees Celsius that’s a bigger increase than in the lowlands and a lot more than the global average forecasts back this up there will be more of a temperature rise here than in surrounding regions and that’s why there are such massive changes in nature from the glaciers to the forest from hydrology to water supply for example all trees require a specific temperature to flourish as temperatures rise ideal tree habitats are now at higher altitudes what that means is to be where the temperature suits them they actually need to be 500 meters higher up the slopes than they are that includes tree species suited to mountain peaks but the problem with that is they can’t be 500 meters higher up because obviously they’re already at the summit so where do they go back to end on there’s no shortage of evidence that the Alpine environment is changing here in Austria teams of specialists work tirelessly to avert landslides disasters are becoming increasingly common not only landslides but also torrential rain and flooding climate change is also causing periods of sustained droughts and heat which leads to forest fires such as here in Piedmont Italy in October 2017 aggravated by strong hot and dry winds wildfires raged across the region for weeks on end some 1000 people were evacuated from their homes including 200 residents of her retirement home Renato Bruno was in charge of dozens of firefighters from across the region who battled the inferno one of the worst hit areas was outside the small town of mom Pantera the flames were up to a hundred meters high recalls Bruno many houses were completely destroyed even iron paths melted in the blaze it was an inferno it was bad enough for the people in the valley you could see it raging but it was worse for the people who were nearer those involved in trying to put it out there were some highly critical moments the situation was dangerous because of the wind you’d think you were safe but then the wind would turn and suddenly you’d be surrounded by flames potentially pressure meds on a leaf yummy the amount of forest destroyed by wildfire in Italy in 2017 was three times greater than in the previous year in periods of extreme heat all it takes is one tiny spark to start a huge conflagration Bruno says that 70% of Mon Pantera was destroyed this forest will never regenerate not with the basalt amend these trees can be salvaged if they’re not deciduous trees that could recover they’re completely charred there’s nothing you can do but chop them down chipulu Luciana shinola but Demento

devastation on this scale is unprecedented in the region but even the older firefighters have ever seen anything like it Sinhala if climate change carries on at this rate and there are no longer dry periods in the summer and less and less snow in the winter then the situation is only going to get worse Laconia Pajar people in n garden in Switzerland are also struggling with drier conditions the centuries local farmers have been relying on melt water to irrigate their fields but meltwater has become a finite resource rate Odense meanwhile relies on rain water between February and August there was hardly any rain his meadow is completely parched as you can see it says dry as hay on the nothing’s grown since May the boxin is tight my the grass should be knee-deep at this time of year and the cows will soon be coming down from the mountain meadows while DQ about from the wrong corner his cows are still grazing in pasture at an elevation of 1,900 meters but they are too the ground is far too dry and the cows aren’t getting enough to drink in the summer of 2018 their supply had almost completely dried up every drop is precious greater dancer checks on the cattle regularly he fears for the future of his alpine pasture I’ve got 90 cows and their calves and the water here isn’t even enough for a single calf if there’s not enough water the cows graze less and then produce less milk clouds are gathering it looks like it might rain but no it’s yet another dry day the farmer has to rely on an alternative source of water right now this is the only way of ensuring a water supply on the meadow the helicopter delivers 700 litres ago and it takes several trips to fill up the well at a cost of one thousand three hundred euros it’s only enough of four to five days for farmers like rato done sir water has become a critical issue there’s not enough for their animals to drink and there’s not enough to keep the meadows green and that means not enough animal feed we aren’t going to have enough animal feed for the coming winter so either we can buy and feed which is very expensive or we reduce our cattle Radio Tulsa had no choice but to slaughter some of his animals this year farmers ski resorts tourists nature everyone and everything needs water and it’s running out hydrologist commander Yong is measuring natural evaporation the results are alarming she says the climate has become as dry as the Sahel region in the Sahara this little rain and large-scale evaporation fair distribution of water will become an increasing challenge in dry alpine valleys authorities will have to do the best they can to confer this padorin does this Eva mayor in pain future there will be more and more bottlenecks there simply won’t be enough water to irrigate all the meadows there have to be stricter partitioning gate like in dry countries in Africa and on in Africa

sort of alleys descent into the underworld ice climber Danny Arnold is exploring inside the plane Mort glacier in the canton of bern in switzerland deep in the crevasse he finds spectacular rock and ice formations not many people have ever been down here Danny can get to the very bottom only because the ice is solid enough this permafrost is thousands of years old it’s a steep and dangerous climb back out a unique experience it might not be possible to do this in the foreseeable future makes me think if you bear in mind that researchers say that none of this will be here anymore in 90 years time this annoying secure no more glaciers that’s pretty tragic isn’t it this is your new country you can beat rock this yeah the Arledge class here in Valais Switzerland is the largest in the Alps 20 kilometers long and in parts nearly 1 kilometer thick Guillaume Gervais from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich is researching this massive natural wonder will it survive in a close future we can’t really do anything because now all the glacier is reacting to the shift in the climate to the increase of temperatures that we had in from the 90s so it means that even if we don’t what ever happened in the future in terms of climate the glacier will keep retreat by at least 5 kilometers and what would happen if temperatures rose by 4 degrees as experts now predict guillaume j’ouvert has calculated that by the end of the century the alleged glazier will have almost completely disappeared so if we I mean if we assume that this climate scenario is right we don’t cure its most likely that there will be very little ice by 2100 in the edge it’s obvious that here in this landscape there will be no more ice no longer ice at the end of the century the Concordia Alpine heart is situated a few kilometers higher up for the last few years it’s been run by Christoph Sagar and his family today he’s getting it ready for the summer season it can accommodate a hundred and fifty-five guests alpine hikers skiers and glacier enthusiasts from all over the world thanks to its panoramic views the Concordia heart is one of the most popular Alpine hostels in Europe it’s the most beautiful place in the world to work I know other Alpine nuts that are lovely but to me this is just the most amazing place in the world to work in but it’s under threat half way down steep metal steps Christoph saga points out the evidence that the aaalac is

dying the hut was originally built on this spot in 1877 back then the glacier reached roughly the point we’re standing at so in the course of 140 years everything beyond that point has melted it’s retreated about 150 meters 150 meters in 140 years about a metre a year the ice is melting faster sometimes 2 sometimes 3 meters a year the Arlette gracias days are numbered tourism in the Alps needs to change and become more gentle and sustainable in some regions this shift is already happening in Slovenia for example rafting in the picturesque Logan Valley [Applause] the countryside here is a Dilek Slovenia hasn’t always been on the tourist map but its popularity is growing as a destination for Alpine tourists who respect the environment Jennifer and Josh come from Alaska this is their third vacation in Slovenia they love its unspoiled nature still and then also water think on the far side we tend to look for someplace that’s off the beaten path that just is the the type of I think people we are and so we just a little bit of research and we decided that this sounded like a good place to perhaps explore three years ago and we came and we were delighted there’s this country it’s small but it seems to have almost anything you would want to find anywhere in the rest of Europe [Applause] like Jennifer and Josh a growing number of tourists are looking for landscapes off the beaten path that flourish naturally places that don’t need snow machines in winter and a left barren in summer Slovenia is exactly what they’re after fly fishing in the crystal-clear waters of Lake sylvania 400 kilometers northwest in a wrist Bock Tirol on the border to upper bavaria this is where the climatology students four day excursion ends they’re not really here to learn how to catch fish but about how increasingly warm waters are affecting fish stocks many species can’t survive the impact of climate change in the Alps is impossible to overlook what I find especially worrying is that many people don’t seem to want to believe it’s happening or they don’t care even though it’s visible all around without glaciers anymore in the Alps we won’t have as much water flowing downstream and feeding rivers like this one right here so there will be many many environmental impacts with without melting glaciers over the summer time things don’t look good but there’s no point being pessimistic it’s more constructive to be optimistic and to take the lessons we’ve learned here and use them personally and professionally to do what we can and to fight climate

change as much as we can and to try to stop it there has always been human intervention in the Alps it’s been farmed paths and roads have been built on the slopes villages in the valleys have grown sometimes on spots that are now high-risk the people who live here will have to adapt to drier hotter conditions and a future without glaciers in mid-september Glacia expert Mateus horse and his team pay another visit to Glacia 3000 their findings in April were positive how are things looking now the ground crackles and hisses as the researchers make their way to their measuring kits that’s not a good sign the glaze here their crossing is dying all the snow that should be covering it is gone in the space of just a few months we’re here in April there was an incredible snow cover five meters deep the snow was thick and compact just think about it five meters of snow 3,000 meters above sea level has melted in the course of a summer wouldn’t have thought that was possible five meters of snow and 1.3 meters of Glacia [Applause] the melting of the glaciers is irreversible mattias horse is watching his beloved glaciers die it’s nothing less than a tragedy you