After a long, hot Summer, the pass between the Scex Rouge and Tsanfleuron glaciers in the Swiss Alps has been exposed. The ice has lost thickness three times quicker than the ten previous Summers. The pass has been iced over for more than two thousand years, at least since the Roman era. In 2012, the ice measured 50ft in thickness and now, the ground has resurfaced. To think, the ground has not been walked on for over two thousand years is incredible. As the glaciers melt, their stability is at risk meaning the rock once held together by ice is unstable. There are deeper risks to consider too, the glaciers store winter snow which they release gently over Summer, and provide water for Europe’s rivers and crops.
ESP staff have visited the European Alps and witnessed the incredible glaciers. See below for some pictures caught in 2020. Pictured: Aiguille du Midi, Tsafleuron Glacier and ‘Devil’s Skittle’.
The Alps arose as a result of the collision of the African and European tectonic plates. The mountains are made of limestone, formed from sediments deposited in the ancient Tethys Ocean basin about 200 million years ago.
The Tethys separated the ancient supercontinents Laurasia (which included modern-day Europe) and Gondwana (which included modern-day Africa and Australia) until the African plate began to push northward into the Eurasian plate around 30 million years ago. This closed the Tethys sea and lifted the sea floor up, forming the Alps.