Glaciers will melt at a fast rate and eventually vanish completely if climate change is not halted, scientists have warned.
It comes after glaciologists ventured inside otherworldly ice caves growing beneath Austria‘s doomed glaciers to study why they are dissipating even quicker than expected.
Scientists say the caves are a sign that it is now too late to save the glaciers of the eastern Alps, and they will be completely gone within the next few decades.
The blue caverns beneath them hold clues to how the ice collapsed much faster than expected, and could help communities that depend on glaciers in other parts of the world to better manage their decline.
Glaciologist Andrea Fischer brought a photographer into the caverns beneath the Jamtalferner glacier in the Tyrolean Alps, which towers above the Austrian border with Switzerland.
“We can’t do anything anymore for eastern Alpine glaciers. But here we can see what happens if we do nothing for the other glaciers,” she said.
The Jamtalferner is among the 30 largest glaciers in Austria, as well as one of 10 where scientists take precise measurements every year and document the now irreversible decline.
The hollows are eroding the glaciers from within, as warmer air and meltwater come into contact with ever more of the ice, until it collapses.
Ms Fischer, who is the acting director of the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, added: “These holes are a typical sign of collapse that we observe. It is also a reason it happens so quickly – the ice is completely eroded, and this process is not visible from the surface, then suddenly it all implodes.”
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