CLIMATE change is to blame for the dramatic shrinking of glaciers in the Pyrenees which could all but disappear within two decades, scientists in Spain have warned.
A new study reveals the extent to which the ice mass has melted at a steady but rapid speed since the 1980s.
Three glaciers have all but disappeared since 2011 leaving just stagnant strips of ice behind while in 17 of the remaining ice sheets an average loss of 6.3metres of ice thickness has been recorded.
And in parts of the fasting-melting glaciers, the ice thickness loss was estimated to be up to 20 metres.
Using high-res satellite imagery dating back to 2011 and drone footage collected last summer, a team from the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology, (IPE) mapped ice mass evolution and produced 3D models of the shrinkage.
According to the study, published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed.Geophysical Research Letters, the ice mass of Pyrenean glaciers shrank by over one-fifth on average over the last decade.
The researchers firmly lay the blame for the shrinking glaciers on climate change and specifically the 1.5ºC rise in temperatures in the mountain region over the last century.
Jesus Revuelto, one of the research team said the findings should act as an alarm bell.
“What we are seeing here is an advance warning of what may happen in other mountains, like in the Alps. Their glaciers have much more mass and entity, but we are showing them the way.”
Ixeia Vidaller, a geologist on the research team added that the shrinking ice mass was a ‘tragedy’ for the biodiversity of the mountain region.
“We can argue with confidence that Pyrenean glaciers are in extreme jeopardy and could disappear or become residual ice patches in about two decades,” the scientists concluded.