“The days of glaciers in Bavaria are numbered. And even sooner than expected,” said Thorsten Glauber, environment minister of the southern region, home to Germany’s ice-capped Alps.
“The last Bavarian Alpine glacier could be gone in 10 years.” Scientists had previously estimated the glaciers would be around until the middle of the century.
But the melting has accelerated dramatically over the last years. Located in the Zugspitze area and in the Berchtesgaden Alps, Germany’s five glaciers have lost about two-thirds of their volume in the past decade.
Their surface areas have also shrunk by a third – equivalent to around 36 football fields.
Issuing a stark warning over global warming, Glauber stressed that the glaciers are “not only a monument of Earth’s history in the form of snow and ice”.
“They are thermometers for the state of our climate,” he added.
A global study released Wednesday found nearly all the world’s glaciers are losing mass at an ever increasing pace, contributing to more than a fifth of global sea level rise this century.
An international team of researchers analysing images taken by a NASA satellite said that between 2000-2019, the world’s glaciers lost an average of 267 billion tonnes of ice each year — enough to submerge Switzerland under six metres of water every year.
The report came as meteorologists in Germany said this April has been the coldest in four decades.
Like elsewhere in Europe, Germany has recorded wild weather in recent years. After a winter in which temperatures plunged well below freezing in February, the mercury rose to 25.9 degrees on April 1 before slipping more than 15 degrees for much of the rest of the month.
Environmentalists blame global warming for the shifts and have been urging governments to do more to halt the damaging trend.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement countries aim to keep the global temperature increase to under two degrees Celsius, and ideally closer to 1.5 degrees, by 2050.
Climate activists scored a landmark victory Thursday in a case against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government as the Constitutional Court ruled Berlin’s environment protection plan insufficient.